A once empty ashphalt area is now a fully developed outdoor classroom.

A once vacant ashphalt area is now a fully developed outdoor classroom.

(Part 3: Securing Long Term Change)

By Eric Nelson.

In our previous segments we saw how Sara Bautista’s leadership and commitment to personal growth drove changes at her Aliso State Preschool.  However, Aliso stands out most for taking those initial steps and turning them into a complete transformation of the center.  Its achievements illustrate three interconnected keys to successful program enhancement – focus, consistency and persistence.  The enhancement effort at Aliso worked toward two clear objectives: Outdoor Classroom “Recognized” status, and NAEYC Accreditation.

Clear targets are essential because they focus activity and serve as inspiration for moving forward, especially when the going gets challenging.  Aliso also benefitted from having one goal that supported getting to another.  Becoming an Outdoor Classroom Recognized center provided a physical foundation for applying for accreditation.  More significantly, it demonstrated to Aliso’s staff that they were capable of taking on a complex, long-term project and completing it with great success.

The fir tree is now home to a nature-based reading center.

The fir tree is now home to a nature-based reading center.

Sara successfully completed one small step at a time, and then took the next small step, always ensuring those steps led toward her ultimate goal.  NAEYC accreditation reviews 10 evaluation areas with over 400 evaluation points. Outdoor Classroom evaluation covers 5 areas and a possible 47 points.  She relied on center-site consulting services to help her review her Outdoor Classroom changes and plan for new ones.  Each time the consultant visited, she was careful to show him what she had done and have him evaluate it. Mostly, the changes were positive, so there was little “course-correction.”  Importantly, she would always ask for advice on what to do next and how to do it.  In this way, she took advantage of available expertise to guide her next set of moves.  Soliciting a steady flow of feedback helped to keep her focused and on track.

Another notable quality was Sara’s persistence.  On his most recent visit, the consultant noted that Sara had followed through with every suggestion and idea for yard renovation during the 4 ½ years of working together.  A recently upgraded sandbox stands proudly in the yard. Along several hundred feet of chain link fence next to the creek inlet, plantings established every few feet form the beginning of a “green screen.”  Around the Noble Fir in the far corner, the reading circle awaits another visit from the children.

Walking back from that corner to the classroom, Sara stays true to form, ready for the next step, even beyond her recent solid achievements.  Looking at a couple of play houses placed somewhat indiscriminately in the yard, she asked the Outdoor Classroom consultant, “Well, what should I do with these?”  And so, she and Aliso continue, climbing ever higher on an inspiring path of quality enhancement.

The robust garden is a perfect reflection of Aliso's robust Outdoor Classroom and soon-to-be nationally accredited status.

The robust garden is a perfect reflection of Aliso’s robust Outdoor Classroom and soon-to-be nationally accredited status.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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

Subscribe to WholeChildAction

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.