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CDE Minnows

Ages 4-6 | Day program


It’s never too early to become a global citizen. As the youngest members of CDE, Minnows spend their day immersed in language learning through structured and open-ended play with children from all over the world. Students quickly become a tight-knit community of diverse learners. Talented teachers create a warm and inviting environment where learning is fun, interactive, and student-centered. Parents are invited to experience this first-hand at our Open House.

Children enroll in either English or French class. Classes meet formally for approximately one hour per day, focusing on spoken language and basic vocabulary. We ensure a balance of modeled, teacher-led lessons and open-ended, hands-on activities. Our goal is to nourish each child’s natural curiosity for language learning and see them excited to continue to pursue it in the future!


On campus, Minnows enjoy choice time in our exploration rooms. After students learn key vocabulary in their classes, they enter spaces that are set up with multiple learning areas that encourage authentic peer-to-peer communication. Students choose which areas they wish to explore each day. Areas incorporate many facets of STEAM and may include experimenting, singing, cooking, constructing, role-playing, counting, writing, and drawing. This open-ended exploration allows teachers the opportunity to work individually with students to reinforce their usage of English or French in meaningful ways.

Off-campus, Minnows explore the local area alongside our nurturing staff. Favorite field trips have included making cheese at an Alpine dairy farm, going on a nature walk in the Montagnola woods, touring downtown Lugano, and visiting Swissminiatur Park. Minnows also take a day trip to a mountainside campsite, where they picnic, sing camp songs, hike, and make their own S'mores!

Minnows have the opportunity to explore as either a partial-day student (4–6-year-olds) or a full-day student (6-year-olds only). Students in both pathways enroll in a language course, engage in age-appropriate music and art exploration, and partake in weekly morning field trips.

Partial-Day (ages 3–6)
Our partial-day Minnows program is from Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 15:00 in our beautiful Early Learning Center, Al Focolare. Just 200 meters down the hill from the main TASIS campus, Focolare is a spacious and inviting location for learning.

Full-Day (age 6 only)
Our full-day Minnows program is from Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 18:00. After the partial-day Minnows depart at 15:00, our full-day Minnows move up to the main campus for the afternoon. They cool off with a swim and then join the older CDE children for our performing arts and visual arts courses and singing with our CDE counselors and DPAT team.


In the Minnows program, play and creativity are the key ingredients in our recipe for success. Both ingredients encourage interaction, problem-solving, teachable moments, experimentation, innovation, and, of course, laughter. Above all, play bonds children and enhances verbal and non-verbal communication. 

Students have the opportunity for open-ended play during choice time, where they are encouraged to choose from a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. Outdoor choices focus on gross motor skills and may include playground play, sandbox construction, or kicking a soccer ball with a friend. Indoor choices focus on fine motor skills and are typically teacher-directed sensory and art experiences.


It never ceases to amaze us just how much a young child can change and grow in only a few weeks. The children learn about each other and create their own community in which each child is valued and supported by one another. We look forward to welcoming you and your children to the Minnows!