Our Story

In the beginning, the study of children’s behavior was anything but commonplace. Nevertheless, interest in child study and parent education led representatives of eight organizations to obtain a three-year grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial to begin what was then known as Washington Child Research Center. When the grant ended in 1931, parents were faced with losing their children’s school. With more determination than funds, they came together to purchase a home at NCRC’s current campus establishing itself as an independent preschool and leader in early education.

Today, NCRC continues to be inspired and tempered by the wisdom and experience of almost 90 years, sharing its long-standing model of a play-based preschool program with others. The school’s early mission remains almost identical to that of today: a curriculum rooted in early child development; parent education; outstanding faculty; inclusion of children with special needs; and an implementation of appropriate, cutting-edge research.

This year, National Child Research Center enters its 90th year. As the oldest continuously operating preschool in the District of Columbia, we are proud to continue to give all children an experience that lasts a lifetime.

Explore NCRC's history by viewing our timeline


For years, families have felt right at home in our iconic house on the hill where we provide the best possible environment for our children.

The Schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse is the main building of the school. The classic Georgian Revival architecture was built as a private residence in 1905 in the Cleveland Park Historic District. In 2008, the century-old mansion underwent an interior makeover along with the addition of a new wing.

Inside you will find:

  • Six classrooms equipped with developmentally appropriate equipment such as light tables and sensory tables, and plenty of open space to allow room for free play and exploration.
  • The motor room provides open space for enrichment programs, all school assemblies, and active indoor play in the case of inclement weather.

The Playhouse

Built sometime after the main schoolhouse and possibly as a “carriage” house, the Playhouse is located by the Ordway Street entrance to the playground.

It houses the school library, before and after-school programs, and the Mi Casa Uno Spanish immersion program.

The second floor is used by our Child Development Team for small group therapy work with children, as well as for treatment space for visiting occupational and speech/language therapists.

The Playground

NCRC’s buildings and grounds occupy over an acre of land. Most of the grounds, exclusive of the buildings, are available for outdoor play. The playground is designed to provide multiple types of play opportunities for children ranging from 2-½ through 12 years of age and is open to the community after school hours.

The playground includes three sandbox areas, climbing apparatus, swings, bike paths, a ball court, and garden spaces. In progress this year are farm-to-table planters for a new snack initiative and outdoor learning centers that will highlight science and math through play.

Whether children want to run, climb, slide, swing, dig, play make-believe, collect leaves and twigs, play ball, or simply take a quiet respite in the Tranquility Garden, it is all possible on the playground.