Doing is learning. We strive to increase the hands on, outdoor, project based learning experiences for all of our children. Natural outdoor experiences that are not controlled by adults are optimal spaces for children to develop creativity, problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking and much more! Our children experience active learning not only in classrooms, but also in our Blocks and Science Labs. Both places include choice activities for children that encourage learning through play. 

Play Based Learning

The play-based approach


Children are naturally motivated to play. A play-based program builds on this motivation, using play as a context for learning. In this context, children can explore, experiment, discover and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways.

A play-based approach involves both child-initiated and teacher-supported learning. The teacher encourages children’s learning and inquiry through interactions that aim to stretch their thinking to higher levels. Teachers take an active role in guiding children’s interactions in the play. Children are supported in developing social skills such as cooperation, sharing and responding to ideas, negotiating, and resolving conflicts.

Play also supports positive attitudes to learning. These include imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm, and persistence. The type of learning processes and skills fostered in play cannot be replicated through rote learning, where there is an emphasis on remembering facts.

The skilled early childhood teacher highly values and nurtures the child’s fundamental creative and imaginative nature with countless opportunities and environments for exploration and play. Play can provide children with the opportunity to develop social, emotional, physical and creative skills in addition to cognitive ones. Preschool and kindergarten programs that strike a healthy balance between stimulating work and engaging play prepare the child for success in primary school and beyond. They empower these individuals to go beyond functioning in a competitive world to making valuable changes in that world.


Play-based learning includes the following elements:

  • Self chosen: A child voluntary chooses to play, how they’ll play, and for how long. An adult may initiate play insofar as he or she invites or suggests play but the child determines the rest.
  • Enjoyable: Play is enjoyable for the child. This emotional aspect is important. There may be some frustrations or disagreements during play but overall it’s pleasurable.
  • Unstructured: A child has ample time to explore and discover during play. They’re directed by their own interests, not by any prescribed rules or plans.
  • Process-oriented: There is no end or learning goal. Instead, it’s the process of play that’s important.
  • Make believe: Play often involves imagination, ‘make believe’, or ‘playing pretend’.

Click to read 40 Reasons Play is Crucial for Brain Development

Click to read 29 Reasons Why Play is So Important During Times of Crisis and Stress

Social Emotional Learning

We are committed to provide an early childhood experience that recognizes that the foundation of child development rests on a transformative belief that children require a positive and brain smart environment. Austin ISD has a strong and lasting partnership with CASEL. We are committed to SEL as ... "a process through which children and adults understand and mangage emotions, set and acheive positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and main positive relationships and make responsible decisions" - Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

Uphaus is in it's 3rd year of being an A.I.S.D. SEL Seed Campus - a leader in the field. The purpose of the Seed Model Campus Cohort Program is to create a community of practice for campuses in their journey of goal-oriented, intentional, campus-wide integration of social and emotional learning (SEL) into school culture and systems. At Uphaus we focus our SEL efforts on the foundation of Conscious Discipline through our learning about the work of Dr. Becky Bailey. 

Research on proactive SEL practices shows many positive effects for students, including higher academic performance, more positive attitudes about the self and others, increased prosocial behavior, and reduced conduct problems and emotional distress (Mahoney et al., 2019). AISD has supported the district-wide acquisition and development of students’ SEL skills since the 2011–2012 school year. During that time, program leaders have verified the essential contribution of campus-led SEL initiatives. Campus leaders know the strengths and weaknesses of their school communities and are best positioned to set up, lead, and reflect on strategic SEL goals. 

Dual Language Education

We believe that proficiency in more than one language is an essential skill for all communities of learners. Dual Language education is a research based and effective model to promote the speaking, listening, reading and writing of languages. We promote dual language by educating our parents so that they 'opt in' to this model at the earliest age possible. We work with district leaders to ensure that children have the choice to continue their bilingual journeys through high school in Austin ISD. Bilingual learners not only excel academically but also develop a deep pride in their own and others' cultures and languages. We have 8 teachers in PK4 trained and offering dual language education to our learners. Our classrooms include language instruction in English for Math & English Language Development and Spanish Science, Social Studies and Language Arts. Spanish and English languages are fluid and embrassed in all centers. Our two way dual language PK3 & PK4 programs focus on the children exploring and discovering learning in order to become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural.

Dual Language Schools

Uphaus Dual Language 101

Reading Milestones


Infancy (Up to Age 1)

Kids usually begin to:

  • learn that gestures and sounds communicate meaning
  • respond when spoken to
  • direct their attention to a person or object
  • understand 50 words or more
  • reach for books and turn the pages with help
  • respond to stories and pictures by vocalizing and patting the pictures

Toddlers (Ages 1–3)

Kids usually begin to:

  • answer questions about and identify objects in books — such as "Where's the cow?" or "What does the cow say?"
  • name familiar pictures
  • use pointing to identify named objects
  • pretend to read books
  • finish sentences in books they know well
  • scribble on paper
  • know names of books and identify them by the picture on the cover
  • turn pages of board books
  • have a favorite book and request it to be read often

Early Preschool (Age 3)

Kids usually begin to:

  • explore books independently
  • listen to longer books that are read aloud
  • retell a familiar story
  • sing the alphabet song with prompting and cues
  • make symbols that resemble writing
  • recognize the first letter in their name
  • learn that writing is different from drawing a picture
  • imitate the action of reading a book aloud

Late Preschool (Age 4)

Kids usually begin to:

  • recognize familiar signs and labels, especially on signs and containers
  • recognize words that rhyme
  • name some of the letters of the alphabet (a good goal to strive for is 15–18 uppercase letters)
  • recognize the letters in their names
  • write their names
  • name beginning letters or sounds of words
  • match some letters to their sounds
  • develop awareness of syllables
  • use familiar letters to try writing words
  • understand that print is read from left to right, top to bottom
  • retell stories that have been read to them

Kindergarten (Age 5)

Kids usually begin to:

  • produce words that rhyme
  • match some spoken and written words
  • write some letters, numbers, and words
  • recognize some familiar words in print
  • predict what will happen next in a story
  • identify initial, final, and medial (middle) sounds in short words
  • identify and manipulate increasingly smaller sounds in speech
  • understand concrete definitions of some words
  • read simple words in isolation (the word with definition) and in context (using the word in a sentence)
  • retell the main idea, identify details (who, what, when, where, why, how), and arrange story events in sequence

Children's Math Development by Age

From PBS Learning Media 

Cutting Skills by Age