Creative Montessori Learning Center (CMLC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community agency where we celebrate diversity. CMLC welcomes children age 2-6 from all backgrounds to work, play, and learn together.

Founded in 1967, CMLC is the oldest and largest independent childcare center in East Palo Alto. It provides preschool and daycare in a warm, nurturing environment for its children.

CMLC is greatly respected in the community for the academic success of its graduates. It has received awards for its food program, which includes breakfast, lunch, and two snacks.


Creative Montessori Learning Center (CMLC) was built in 1967 by the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, through the efforts of Sister Christina Trudeau, head of the Montessori Teacher Training Center at College of Notre Dame in Belmont, California.

Helen Bunje, a student of Sister Christina, facilitated the licensing and opening of the school, then called St. Francis of Assisi Montessori School. Helen Bunje and Sita de Leeuw, graduates of the Notre Dame Teacher Training Program, served as teachers.

The classes included a racial and socio-economic cross-section of children from East Palo Alto as well as surrounding communities such as Stanford and Palo Alto. In the fall of 1976, St Francis of Assisi Church withdrew their financial support and the school was incorporated as the CMLC, a non-profit corporation. Sita became Director and Head Teacher. She continued to enroll students from the surrounding communities.

In the fall of 1978, CMLC accepted funding through the State Department of Education, Office of Child Development to provide subsidies for eligible families. The school now provides full day child care and high quality pre-school education. There are now six classes.


  • Sensorial

    Activities in which children learn to use their five senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste) to perceive and understand the world round them. Materials include concrete materials such as cylinder blocks, pink tower, color tablets, etc.

  • Practical Life

    Activities designed to teach self-confidence, independence, order and coordination. Children do exercises related to daily life, such as pouring, sweeping, and cleaning.

  • Social Studies

    Activities that introduce children to the community of man and its needs. Children gain interest and respect for different groups by learning about differences in language, food, clothing and social customs. Materials include books, dolls, and cultural artifacts.

  • Science

    Designed to make the child aware of law, order and beauty in nature. Children observe, classify natural phenomena such as flowers, birds, trees, and stars.

  • Math

    Activities designed to teach children to order their environment. Materials include number rods, spindle boxes, ten boards and golden bead material.

  • Art

    Activities that encourage the child to express her own ideas through various media. Develop cutting, drawing, painting and construction skills heighten awareness of color, texture, form, space, size and line.

  • Geography

    Children develop knowledge of landforms, location of countries and regions. Materials include maps made of puzzles, paper, and models such as globes.

  • Physical Education

    Although physical education does not have an assigned area in the classroom.