From the beginning, Aliso State Preschool offered a beautiful, natural, welcoming entryway.

From the beginning, Aliso State Preschool offered a beautiful, natural, welcoming entryway.

(Part1: Getting Started)

By Eric Nelson

There are over 150 child care centers in Santa Barbara County.  Each is unique and each has special stories of challenges and successes.  Tucked away in a far corner of the Aliso Elementary School Campus in Carpinteria, California, the Aliso State Preschool occupies just one portable classroom. Like many of its sister State Preschools, it serves a small number of children (24) on what has seemed like an ever-shrinking budget.

View of the outdoor asphalt area prior to development of the Outdoor Classroom.

View of the outdoor asphalt area prior to development of the Outdoor Classroom.

Over the past 4 ½ years, through the initiative and leadership of director Sara Bautista and the active participation of her staff, the teaching team has embarked on an inspiring climb to excellence that has transformed the program and the environment.  Today, Sara’s program is actively involved in the Preschool Food and Healthy Habits Initiative, has achieved Outdoor Classroom Recognized Site status and has just received a very successful validation visit for accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the widely recognized gold standard of quality for the early childhood field.

Sara’s journey of leadership illustrates several keys to the successful transformation of programs to higher levels of quality.  Those keys include: intention, commitment, follow-through, and persistence by program leaders.  They also require many small steps and experiments along the way.

Sara once commented that she thought her center was too small to be accredited.  She felt her single indoor classroom was too crowded. Participating in Orfalea’s Outdoor Classroom Project changed her viewpoint.

Initiating an Outdoor Classroom negated the issue of her overcrowded indoor classroom.  Her next step was to raise the standard of her Outdoor Classroom to that of her indoor classroom.  In succeeding installments we’ll look at some of the key actions Sara took to bring her Outdoor Classroom to recognized status and her overall program to the standards for NAEYC Accreditation.

Alyssa Gonzalez and Aliso State Preschool Director Sara Bautista.

Alyssa Gonzalez and Aliso State Preschool Director Sara Bautista.

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About Early Childhood Education

Since the year 2000, the Orfalea Foundation has been committed to improving the life outcomes for young children through high quality early education. In Santa Barbara County, there are more than 170 early education centers in which thousands of young children spend 6-12 hours a day. These centers hold a key to the healthy development of our children. READ MORE

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