The College of the Canyons Center for Early Childhood Education (ECE) has been awarded a $300,000 grant from Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) to help fund the Center’s Outdoor Classroom project. Set to be complete by September 30, the Outdoor Classroom project will engage children with learning activities that raise awareness and appreciation for nature by integrating experiential learning into the curriculum.
Presented by representatives from Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich’s office, the state-funded grant will go toward the addition of three new climbing structures, bike paths, a sensory materials area, water tables, music, play and movement areas, as well as outdoor site improvements.
“We are very grateful to Supervisor Antonovich and the Commission for Los Angeles Universal Preschool for providing us with this funding opportunity,” said Diane Stewart, Dean of Canyons Extension, Continuing and Community Education. “This will allow us to complete our vision for creating a state-of-the-art outdoor learning environment.”
LAUP is a non-profit organization that works to support holistic child development, strengthen family engagement, and cultivate a diverse workforce. Committed to making early childhood education accessible to all, LAUP has prepared more than 115,000 children for kindergarten and has funded preschool programs throughout L.A. County.
Since 2001, the Center for Early Childhood Education has been making gradual changes to become a Nature Explore Demonstration Site through the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom Certification Program, a nationwide initiative that recognizes schools that are committed to creating outdoor classrooms that integrate the natural world into learning. There are currently 20 certified Outdoor Classrooms in California.
“Living in California gives us the opportunity to utilize the outdoors as a learning environment,” added Stewart. “Our Outdoor Classroom will allow the ECE teachers to connect the outdoors with sustainability, nutrition, and an early respect for the environment.”
The LAUP grant will also be used to update the ECE center at the college’s Canyon Country campus, which opened in 2009. Plans include a garden expansion and the installation of a camera system that will allow student observation for parents and teachers.
Opened in 1982, the Center for Early Childhood Education at COC has provided care and education to pre-Kindergarten age children as young as 12 months old. In the spring, total enrollment at the Valencia and Canyon Country ECE centers was 177 students. The Center also provides training and practicum study opportunities to COC students who are working toward careers related to early childhood education.
“Outdoor play is an important part of childhood learning,” said Monica Marshall, ECE program director. “We are very excited to offer an Outdoor Classroom that will arouse discovery and meaningful learning experiences and instill the connection to nature with children, parents, students, educators, and the community. It will further strengthen the sense of wonder and build values of inclusion and respect.”