Our Story

A black and white drawing depicting the building Amazon Family Co-op from 1978 to 1996

Who we are

The Co-op Family Center is a nonprofit organization that has served University of Oregon (UO) student families, faculty, and community members in Eugene, Oregon for the past forty years.  Our school’s educational philosophy has evolved over the forty years of our existence and continues to evolve as we learn from each other, our children, our families and from our research.

We are a Reggio Emilia inspired school, based on an Italian child-centered philosophy. Based on our philosophy, we always put the child’s experience and discovery at the center of our theoretical thinking and work.

Our Philosophy

The Co-op Family Center’s philosophy has evolved over the 37 years of its existence and continues to evolve as we learn from each other, our children, our families and from our research. The Co-op has always put the child’s experience and discovery at the center of its philosophy. In 1996, our philosophy was given new life and clarity when our staff learned of the innovative work being done in the Infant/Toddler centers and Preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. The ideas coming out of Reggio were a natural fit with the Co-op Family Center and we continue to look to them for inspiration and wisdom as we continually seek to create a school that meets both the needs and dreams of children and their parents. Following are some of the fundamentals of our Reggio-inspired philosophy that explain how the Co-op does school.

Image of the child

The Co-op’s philosophy is built upon an image of children as curious, creative and capable citizens. We believe childhood is a precious and vital period of life that has value in and of itself, not a prologue to “real life” that will somehow begin later in life. This belief that children are whole and important from day one when they start their journey influences many of our decisions as a school.

Honoring the rights of children

Our strong image of childhood leads us to acknowledge and honor the rights of children as members of our society. Among the many rights of children we recognize are the rights to have a voice, to be heard, to feel, to try/fail/and try again, to develop relationships, to have some ownership over themselves and the right to be in a caring supportive environment. We believe these rights are inherent in children and not something we are “giving” them.

Constructivism: How children build knowledge

The learning we strive for in our students is not an objective collection of facts that exist independently of the child. We seek to develop knowledge that is uniquely constructed by the child as they strive to build understanding through connections of experience, thought, suggestion and invention. We know that meaningful knowledge cannot simply be told to children and memorized. Memorization is an example of learning, but without understanding the underlying complex relationships and systems that make up an idea, the child cannot have true knowledge of the idea, just the ability to repeat it. We facilitate children’s organic learning process acknowledging that meaningful learning must come from internal motivation and curiosity and is built upon prior learning and understanding. In relation with the Reggio Emilia philosophy the Co-op provides exposure and opportunity to real materials such as but not limiting to clay, nature items and glass. It is learning this process of inquiry and the great joy of discovering something new we are trying to encourage in children. Children get great pleasure and satisfaction when they are pursuing their natural curiosities and constructing a fuller understanding of the world and themselves in it. We want our students to stay connected to the joy of being the authors of their own learning. We believe this is one of the greatest ways we can support children’s development as humans and as lifelong learners.

The Project Approach

We develop the thinking of our students by building projects around their interests and curiosities. We closely observe the life in our classrooms looking for opportunities to build from the ideas coming from children’s self-initiated explorations. We take children’s natural desire to learn and facilitate this process, not by giving answers, but by encouraging questioning and investigation. We approach projects in a variety of ways using various artistic medium, firsthand experiences and material provocations to offer a more holistic investigation and therefore understanding of their curiosities. We are not looking for right answers or perfect products. Our projects are intended to build our student’s ability to develop and communicate their thinking, which is a lifelong journey.


We recognize that no child develops in isolation and that successful schools operate as a system of relationships. The Co-op is a community full of vibrant relationships that provide children with a strong trusting model of social inclusion and participation. It is important for children to realize they are connected, important part of the Co-op family. The Co-op tries to help meet that need for learning and growing through strong relationships providing Continuum Care for our children and families. Lead Teachers work with a group of children and their families for two to three years. This minimizes the stress of transitions for the children by providing a secure, loving and consistent environment. Relationships between caregivers and parents are strengthened through continuum care with a priority being placed on meaningful dialogues and ongoing communication. This continuum cycle ensures that every child and family will have the benefit of consistent relationships that grow and develop with them.

Parents as Partners

Established by parents in 1978, the Co-op Family Center continues in its grassroots tradition of building on the power and presence of family within the daily life of the center. We know that many parents need to spend a significant part of their day away from their children and we intend to make that as much of a positive in their child’s lives as possible. We recognize parents as the child’s first and most important teacher and seek their advice, collaboration and participation as we facilitate their child’s education. Parents are part of all aspects of life at the Co-op from cleaning to teaching to being on the board of directors.

What does all of this mean?

All of the theoretical intentions and thought that we put into this school boils down to this: We are creating a different type of school than the standard American daycare. We are a place for families to come together as part of a community and for children to have a safe and supportive environment to immerse themselves in the joys of childhood. On a daily basis our students play, create, experiment, get dirty, problem solve and have fun. This is life’s lesson plan for young children and we are here to help guide them through this magical time in their lives.

Mission Statement

The Co-op Family Center provides affordable high quality education for children. Our community is a cooperative effort between families and center staff to raise happy, healthy and socially confident children.


The primary objectives of the Family Center are to:

  1. Provide affordable quality childcare;
  2. Involve parents in the care and education of their children;
  3. Improve parenting skills through Center-provided resources;
  4. Provide a model for the University, employers, and other interested groups as to the benefits of co-operative childcare; and
  5. Emphasize the family as the focus of childcare.


  1. Recognize that each child is a capable protagonist in their learning
  2. Cultivate a community that is built on consistent, supportive relationships.
  3. Involve parents in the daily care and education of their children.
  4. Empower children to express themselves fully through many different mediums.
  5. Foster in children an awareness and appreciation of nature.


A black and white drawing depicting the building Amazon Family Co-op from 1978 to 1996

The Co-op Family Center is a nonprofit organization that has served University of Oregon (UO) student families, faculty, and community members in Eugene, Oregon for the past forty years. Our school’s educational philosophy has evolved over the forty years of our existence and continues to evolve as we learn from each other, our children, our families and from our research. We are a Reggio Emilia inspired school, based on an Italian child-centered philosophy. Based on our philosophy, we always put the child’s experience and discovery at the center of our theoretical thinking and work.

In 1978, the Co-op Family Center (formerly known as Amazon Co-op) started as a true cooperative in which UO student families traded time in order to support their childcare needs. There were ten families involved with the Amazon Co-op during that first year. In 1984, Amazon Co-op hired a director and a full-time teacher. As this time, the Amazon Co-op was one classroom of twenty-four children between the ages of two to five years old. Parents worked extensively in the classroom and in the kitchen. Co-oping was not mandatory, but parents received a tuition credit for time spent in the classroom.

In 1994, the Amazon Co-op grew to include kindergarten and school-age classrooms, and later that year, we included an infant/toddler program. The Amazon Co-op had a center director, five full-time teachers, and many work-study students from the University of Oregon working in the classroom. In 1996, the Amazon Co-op moved into a new building in Spencer View Student Housing and became the Co-op Family Center.

The Co-op Family Center has continued to grow and now provides childcare in six classrooms between infant and school age, serving more than 100 children. The Co-op Family Center currently employs a full-time Executive Director, Pedagogical Coordinator, Business Manager, Kitchen Coordinator, 11 Lead teachers, 2 part-time teachers providing extra coverage as needed, and 45-50 University of Oregon students. Since the spring of 2001 the Co-op Family Center has been a contracted program with the University of Oregon to continue its mission of providing early childhood education for University of Oregon students, faculty and staff.

A black and white drawing depicting the front of the Co-op family center from 1996-present

Relationship with the University of Oregon

The Co-op Family Center has been associated with the University of Oregon for its entire 40-year history. As a UO affiliated childcare program, we strive to meet the needs of all children by providing an environment where children are encouraged to be actively involved in the learning process, to experience a variety of developmentally appropriate activities and materials without limitations or biases, and to pursue their own interests in the context of life in their community and the world.

As a UO affiliated childcare program, we continue to ensure and provide a learning environment that fosters respect for the responsiveness to the individual culture and beliefs of all families in the programs and the
community. We have adopted the Standards for Childcare Services guidelines. The guidelines were established by the UO Committee on Child Care and Family Support, Policies, and Procedures for operation of childcare services serving the UO community. The services guidelines include, but are not limited to, accessibility to campus, fee schedules, hours of operation, the annual operating calendar, and is commitment to continue and demonstrate responsiveness to these needs, as described by the “UO-Affiliated Child-Care Programs Statement of Philosophy.”

The Co-op Family Center has also fostered relationships with Moss Street Children’s Center and Vivian Olum Child Development Center. The three center directors meet regularly to discuss and support current childcare needs. We intend to maintain and develop this relationship with other childcare centers on campus and the parenting community at large. The Co-op Family Center’s Executive Director is affiliated with the University of Oregon Family Alliance Directors committee and collaborates on various initiatives associated with the well-being of UO student families.


Enrollment Priority

Enrollment shall give priority in the following order: matriculated students of the University of Oregon who reside in Spencer View Family Housing, students at large of the University of Oregon, faculty and staff of the University of Oregon and community members if space is available.

Process for Concerns

It is our intention always to communicate with parents in a respectful manner.  This respect also includes maintaining professional confidentiality for information parents share with staff.

We hope that parents feel comfortable sharing information about their family that may impact a child’s emotions or behavior. Staff will avoid discussing private information when others are present. We also hope that parents will similarly discuss sensitive issues outside of classroom times. Gossiping in the classrooms or center creates a negative atmosphere that affects everyone. We would like to work together to create a positive environment for families and staff.

1.    If you have a concern about your child, please address the concern with your child’s teacher first. Conferences can be arranged at any time during the year.
2.   If you have a concern about enrollment or billing, please address your concern to the Administrative Coordinator, Tami Brown. tami@coopfamilycenter.org
3.   If you have other concerns, please contact the Executive Director, Rachel Jefferson. rachel@coopfamilycenter.org
4.    If you are not satisfied, please contact the Board of Directors.

Sick Policy

An ill child will not be allowed to attend the Co-op during the duration of his/her illness. Colds, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or other illness jeopardizes the health of the child, or other children and staff.

Children with runny noses or lingering cold symptoms will be accepted at the discretion of the Executive Director. If your child becomes ill while at the center, you will be notified first. If parents cannot be reached, we will contact people from your emergency list. If a child is sent home from the Co-op, they will need to stay at home the full following day.  Children cannot return to the Co-op until they have been free of symptoms for 24 hours without the aid of fever reducing medication such as Tylenol or Motrin.  

Definition of illness (required by the Child Care Division’s regulations book)

A center shall not admit or retain in care, except with the written approval of the local health officer, who has treated the child within the past twenty-four hours, a child who:

Is diagnosed as having or being a carrier of a child care-restrictable disease, as defined in Health Division administrative rule, OAR 333-019-0010*, OR
Has one of the following symptoms, or combination of symptoms, of illness:
  • Fever over 100 degrees F taken under the arm or 101 with the ear or forehead thermometer
  • Diarrhea (more than one abnormally loose, runny, watery, or bloody stool)
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Severe cough
  • Unusual yellow color to skin or eyes
  • Skin or eye lesions or rashes that are severe, weeping, or pus-filled
  • Difficult breathing or abnormal wheezing
  • Complaints of severe pain
  • Live lice or nits
  • Stiff neck and headache with one or more of the symptoms listed above
  • Too tired or too sick to participate in daily activities

*A child will not be able to attend the Co-op Family Center during the time they are diagnosed with a restrict-able disease such as diphtheria, measles, Salmonella, Typhi infection, shigellosis, Shiga-toxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC)infection, hepatitis A, tuberculosis, chickenpox, pertussis, rubella, scabies, covid-19 and any open or draining skin lesions infected with Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes.

Withdrawing from the Co-op

Withdrawing from the program requires a 30-day signed written notice.  Until we receive a 30-day notice, we will assume you are enrolled in the Co-op on a continuing basis.