Parents and children visiting the Orfalea Foundation’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) exhibit at Santa Barbara’s Earth Day Festival got a closer look at some of the innovative programs influencing the area’s preschools.
Through its Director Retreats, Outdoor Classroom Project, and Preschool Food & Healthy Habits Initiative, the Orfalea Foundation has been working with local preschools and child centers for over a decade, ensuring that young children have access to quality early education that addresses the needs of the whole child.
Visitors to the Earth Day Festival got first-hand experience of the wonders of the outdoor classroom concept, whose ongoing research demonstrates that anything that can be taught indoors can also be taught outdoors. Moreover, time outdoors teaches children not to fear the natural world – children who spend too much time indoors, particularly those who spend that time staring at glowing rectangles of the computer or television, can enter adulthood fearful and unable to feel at ease in nature. Yet we know that babies do not start out that way – whole child education builds on children’s natural strengths.
Parents and parents-to-be left the ECE exhibit with new tools for selecting a high quality preschool: one that takes great care to serve only healthy food, that ensures children get plenty of physical activity and hydration throughout the day, provides outdoor time for play and learning, and shows children where food comes from through an active, year-around garden. These areas are not the end-all and be-all of early childhood education, but provide clues to which centers are focused on meeting the needs of the whole child.