The Nature Explore Classroom at
Fredrickson Family Early Childhood Center
The Fredrickson Family Early Childhood Center at California Lutheran University is continuously evaluating their outdoor environment and making minor adjustments, and at times, substantial changes.
This past year, the Toddler staff asked about adding an open-air playhouse to their yard. Elaine Davis, Director, approached one of the fathers that owns his own construction company and together with the toddler staff, they designed the playhouse. After receiving the necessary approval from the University, construction took place over several week-ends. The site chosen for the new playhouse was over the existing sandbox. The sandbox was relocated to another area of the yard that had some natural shade. The garden area was moved to the other side of the storage shed so the plants could receive some much needed sunshine. There was also an abundance of mud and dirt, so a mud pit was created in an underused area of the preschool yard.
Sand is always being added to the Nature Explore Classroom. An email is usually sent out to all the parents asking for donations of bags of sand and the response is always overwhelming. Once a year, fibar (wood chips) are added to all the outside areas to maintain the needed depth for safety. The garden boxes are used primarily for seasonal vegetables, but since the children are involve in the decision making, these plants may be changed out every year.
The link for their Nature Explore classroom is now a part of their school's website. This web site is always changing with new pictures being added. Most, if not all, of the prospective families that come to tour the facility, comment that the website and the pictures of the outdoor environment have played a big part in their desire to find a home for their child with the program.
A number of family events are hosted throughout the school year in the outdoor classroom. The school year kicks off with the Parent's Meeting with an explanation of the philosophy of engaging children's leaning through meaningful experiences in and with nature. Other fun events held outside include Grandparent's Days, Mommy's Night, Daddy's Night, and our very popular Spring Sing and Family Picnic.
Periodically, emails are sent out to parents with interesting articles from the Nature Explore website, including the blog about Fredrickson Family ECC and the relocation of the bees. Herbs and vegetables from their garden are sent home often with recipe ideas. An open invitation is extended to parents and grandparents to volunteer at the center, either in an ongoing basis, or for special events.
Continuing professional development this year included Director, Elaine Davis and Outdoor Specialist Charlene Vausbinder attending the educator, track two course of the Leadership Institute held in July this year at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center.,
All of the staff, including three subs, participated in an in-service at the preschool to kick off the school year. This gathering included a segment brought back from attending the Leadership Institute. Elaine and Charlene also attended the Preschool Food and Healthy Habits Initiative in Santa Barbara in April and September.