A little dirt, a little water, and a whole lot of joyous learning.

A little dirt, a little water, and a whole lot of joyous learning.

The Santa Barbara based Orfalea Fund, which will sunset at the end of 2015 and has invested over $30 million in early childhood education (ECE), has released a third-party summative evaluation investigating the organization’s impact in Santa Barbara County ECE centers, which now achieve national quality accreditation at eight times the state average.

Focusing on the fund’s three primary ECE initiatives – the Outdoor Classroom Project, Preschool Food & Healthy Habits, and Accreditation Support – the report catalogs center outcomes, staff outcomes, child outcomes, and family outcomes.  As noted in the Executive Summary, the fund’s “…efforts to support Santa Barbara County’s young children by supporting improvements in ECE quality and programming had substantial value and impact.”

The findings of the study indicate that the initiatives impacted stakeholders in many ways:

  • Systematized CENTER PRACTICES related to creating an environment of healthy eating, extending the learning environment beyond the classroom, and adhering to principles of quality practice. These practices and principles are now “practice as usual.”
  • Validated PRACTITIONERS’ implicit theories of practice and helped them to…articulate the purpose, principles, and potential impacts of the programs.
  • Helped CHILDREN in their physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development by positioning them to embrace nature, consume healthier foods, be more active, self-regulate their behavior, and learn by doing.
  • Assisted FAMILIES in gaining awareness and information related to healthy eating and the value of outdoor time, and, in some instances, in identifying ways to incorporate this new information into their at-home practices.

The full report, available for download on the Orfalea Foundation website, was prepared by Evaluation Specialists, which conducts qualitative and quantitative evaluation of prevention, health promotion, education, and social service programs.

According to Orfalea Foundation President Lois Mitchell, “Third-party evaluations like this one are an essential component of our goals as we wind down The Orfalea Fund. Our leadership team is committed to sharing the lessons of our fifteen years in philanthropy, warts and all, with other aspiring change-makers. When others wonder how to improve ECE or school food or disaster readiness, they can look at Santa Barbara County to see how one community achieved those improvements.”

About the Orfalea Family Foundation and Orfalea Fund: 

Founded in 2000 and sunsetting in 2015, the Orfalea Family Foundation funded and conducted innovative programs, bringing together dedicated partners to execute best practices, and helping the community’s families, educators, and policy-makers raise their expectations for what is possible. Seeking systemic change rather than perpetual charity, the limited-life Orfalea Fund was designed to achieve ambitious goals and sustainable results in a concentrated timeframe.

Across its range of focus areas, including early childhood education, school food reform, scholarships, university partnerships, fellowships, in-school support, learning differences, youth development, critical community needs, and community enrichment, the foundation leveraged its founders’ and coworkers’ entrepreneurial experience to strengthen communities by empowering individuals. To learn more, visit www.OrfaleaFoundation.org.

About Evaluation Specialists

Evaluation Specialists is a woman-owned small business that specializes in evaluation of prevention, health promotion, education, and social service programs. Their experienced, highly skilled team provides methodological, substantive and clinical expertise that enables clients to apply a wide range of cutting edge methods to answer real world questions in community settings. Evaluation Specialists partners with clients to design and implement research and evaluation plans that provide timely, accurate, actionable results that benefit the communities served. For more information on Evaluation Specialists, please visit www.EvaluationSpecialists.com

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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