Click this logo to return to The Gathering Place homepage.

The Creative Curriculum:

The Gathering Place: Child Learning Center adopted The Creative Curriculum, the country’s leading scientifically based curriculum that promotes exploration and discovery as a way of learning, enabling children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills. For nearly two decades, The Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers & Twos has supported teachers and caregivers as they create responsive daily routines and meaningful learning experiences for the youngest learners. We believe that our child learning center should be integrated with high-quality assessment, professional development, and family connection resources to create a well-rounded program that addresses the needs of early childhood education professionals, children, and their families.

There are many different “studies,” that our classrooms participate in throughout the year focusing on different topics that are developmentally appropriate – promoting children’s social-emotional development, and learning in the core areas of literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. This includes: Beginning the Year Study, Clothing Study, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Study, Block Study, and more. Throughout the investigation into each of these different topics, we focus on all areas of development including, social emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, math, science and technology, social studies, and the arts.

We can only begin to imagine the future careers that today’s children will take on, which is why it’s so important that we provide them with a strong foundation. Research shows that a whole child approach to education – one where children develop not only math and literacy skills but also the social-emotional, physical, and cognitive skills necessary to communicate, think both critically and creatively, and solve complex problems – is developmentally appropriate and better prepares children for life well beyond their time in a classroom.

The physical environment of our classrooms has a profound effect on individual children, the group as a whole, and the teachers. We want to provide a physical setting that is safe, attractive, comfortable, and well designed to help children engage in the activities we offer each child. The Creative Curriculum, includes interest areas, which are ideal for children to explore, make things, experiment, and pursue their interests. The Creative Curriculum classroom has defined interest areas for dramatic play, block building, toys and games, art, looking at books and writing, sand and water play, and discovery table, cooking activities, musical instruments, and computers.

Our lesson plans for these studies are created to follow our daily activities, meal times, and individualization of the children. With our curriculum we have an online program called Teaching Strategies Gold. Our teachers continually observe and enter documentation on children’s development based on these lessons, our teachers complete checkpoints four times a year which are the same time that we have our parent-teacher conferences or home visits.

121 S. Willson Ave.,
Bozeman, MT 59715
Current Study:
Our Philosophy

The Gathering Place is a child learning center that is play-based and child-centered. In a play-based program, children are given the autonomy to choose activities based on their current interests. They can have the freedom to choose what is out for them to play with, then you base your curriculum around what they are interested in.

We believe that children learn best through play in a safe and nurturing environment. The play-based preschool philosophy is designed to enrich the whole child, including social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and creative development. We also include emergent learning which ties into their play through curriculum that is closely connected to what they are interested in and follows the Montana Early Learning Standards and Head Start Program Performance Standards. It is a term used to describe a flexible pedagogical approach that relies on the children’s interests and the circumstances of the day to dictate the learning content.
One of our other main priorities is to have open communication with families and their caregivers, to be a team and to build relationships with one another.
The Gathering Place: A Child Learning Center is owned and operated by Bozeman United Methodist Church but is a secular preschool, open to all and prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or age.
Gathering Place Staff
Katie Estes,
Hello! My name is Katie Estes and I am new to Montana, just moving here this past January 2019 from Ellensburg, Washington. I graduated in 2018 from Central Washington University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Education hoping to start my Master’s program in the fall of 2019 in Educational Leadership online through WGU. When I am not working with children, in my free time I love to go fly fishing, hike, read and be anywhere outside with friends. I absolutely love to be around children and have always wanted to provide a safe learning environment for children to grow as learners and set them up for success. I am passionate about education and believe that every child should have access to high quality education and be taught by exceptional teachers who love what they do. This is what I hope to help provide here in Bozeman at The Gathering Place: A Child Learning Center at the Bozeman United Methodist Church.
Samantha Stith,
Assistant Director
My name is Samantha Stith. Together, my husband and I have five children, aged between 0-13 years.  My family and I moved to Bozeman about 10 years ago and that’s when I began working in early childhood.  I graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education from University of Montana Western and I am currently attending school, to further my degree.  My favorite food is ice cream and in my spare time, I love spending time with my family, watching my children’s sporting events, and anything Harry Potter or Star Wars.
Two’s Teacher:
Shelby Lowell

 My name is Shelby Lowell, I am a Midwest transplant to Bozeman to live with my Husband Michael. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Iowa State University in Liberal Studies and experience working with children through multiple avenues. In my spare time I love to play with my dog Astor, watching movies, going to rodeos/ ropings, watching movies and spending time with friends and family.

Two’s Teacher:
Milani Burke
Hi! My name is Milani Burke, I enjoy running, playing basketball, and hanging out with friends and family. I have been working in the early childhood field for the past five years. I am planning on going back to school next year majoring in Elementary Education.
Family Advocate:
Courtney Klutz
Hi! My name is Courtney, I just recently moved to Bozeman this August from Washington State! I have a bachelors in Family and Child Life and a bachelors in Psychology. I studied dynamics within the family unit, parenting styles, developmental psychology and attachment theory. In my spare time I like to play with my kitty, Chandler, watch movies or Netflix, and go on adventures with my friends!
Two’s Teacher:
Megan Strong

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) fishing and farming with my family. I moved to Bozeman about three years ago for college. I’ve been in early childhood education programs for the past five years as a lead teacher, assistant teacher and classroom aide. I am going to school online for a degree and license in Special Education teaching. I love baseball, coffee, Pop-Tarts and hiking! I have a dog named Stella, who will even come visit our classroom every once in awhile! She is a very good girl who also likes hiking and Pop-Tarts

Preschool Teacher:
Keeley Petrock
Hi! My name is Keeley, and I am originally from Barre, Vermont but moved to Bozeman in August 2017. I have been teaching in a preschool setting for 4 years now and have loved every second of it! Working with children is my passion and it is my goal to make a difference in all my students’ lives. Things I enjoy outside of work are live music, being outside, animals and traveling!
Assistant Teacher:
Ann Rockwell
Hello! I newly arrived in Bozeman, I went to college in the Bay Area, California. Locally, I have been a substitute, teaching assistant and have worked at Sourdough Montessori. I have experience with RIE training, I have tutoried in reading, math and art with children. I have taught children in different settings and on different topics: living with wildlife in their communities, at community events and nature walks. I am a teacher, artist and a background in architecture, film, visual and computer arts.
Infant Teacher:
Maggie Breen
Hey all! I’m Maggie. I am a Montana native born and raised here in Bozeman. I am a mom to a 7 year old and we love spending our days at the river. I have been working with children for the past 10 years I love learning with kids of all ages. I am currently working towards my associate’s degree in child development and I am looking further into nutrition courses.
Assistant Teacher:
Tana Babb
Hello! My name is Tana Babb and I am currently a sophomore at Montana State University studying psychology. I grew up in the small town of Absarokee, Montana where I graduated as Valedictorian. In my free time I enjoy playing my guitar, saxophone, and singing as well as skiing, camping, rafting, and spending time with friends.
Assistant Teacher:
Amelia Tugman
My name is Amelia Tugman and I am currently studying Human Development and Family Science at Montana State University. I recently transferred from Central Washington University to help start a collegiate church at MSU! The past few years I have worked in various daycares, mainly with infants and toddlers. Some of my passions include reading, petting dogs, drinking coffee and people’s stories. My favorite food changes often but currently it’s spicy nugs from Wendy’s and a vanilla blonde flat white (but not together).
CaitlinHenryAssistant Teacher: Caitlin Henry
Greetings! My name is Caitlin. I am a Montana native born and raised in Bozeman. I am attending school at MSU Gallatin college working on my degree as a Medical Assistant and Surgical Technician. I have two children Alexa and Roman they are 2 and 4 years in age and I have a wonderful partner his name is Elliott. We enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, fishing and hiking as well as family game nights. We love to be involved with the community and events. I look forward to working with families and getting to know your children.
Twos Teacher: Jamie Dunn
Assistant Teacher: ShyAnna Notley
Assistant Teacher:
Emma Robinson
Hi Everybody! My name’s Emma, I’m from Vail, Colorado and I just moved here to start a new college career at MSU. My goal is to get a degree in Psychology and to hopefully pursue a career in the Mental Health field. My favorite things to do are skiing, camping, and going on adventures with my dog Sage Grace and of course binge watching Netflix!
Infant Teacher 101: Anna Good
My name is Anna Good, and I was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado. I have two older brothers and I love spending time with family and friends. I moved to Bozeman three years ago and I am studying psychology at Montana State University. I have worked with children for five years now and have loved every minute! Kids have taught me a lot of patience, given me motivation, and continue to inspire me every day. I have worked in all kinds of childcare settings and I have learned so much from each of them. I love to be creative in my spare time, I like to color, draw, paint, sew, and make fairy gardens. I love being outside, I like to climb, ski, camp, hike, you name it and I am there!
Toddler Teacher:
Katie Miklavic
Hello! My name is Katie and I am a graduate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and recently moved to Montana in January. I am a certified early educator (PreK-4) and special educator (PreK-8) and believe that teaching children through real world experience and meeting the needs of each individual child are crucial aspects for success. My favorite thing to do in my free time is lay on the couch with my heated blanket.
Kitchen Staff: Whitney Truett
Hello my name is Whitney. I moved to Bozeman back in 2016, and I am originally from Oregon. I am a mother to three beautiful children. My hobbies include long back road drives with my family, I like being outdoors camping, and enjoying Montana’s fresh air, I also enjoy being home and spending time with my children in the long winter months.
Kitchen Staff: Chelsea Arnold
Assistant Teacher: Hannah Temple
Hi my name is Hannah, and I am originally from Portland, OR. I moved to Bozeman for school where I study Psychology! I love all animals, ice cream and the tv show Friends. I spend a lot of my free time learning new things and exploring the Bozeman area.
Infant Teacher: Becky Kim
Assistant Teacher: ReAnna Gavert
Assistant Teacher: Jezel Dougherty
Assistant Teacher: Payton Whipple