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Friday, December 14 , 2018, 1:46 pm | Fair 63º


Orfalea Foundation Awards Allan Hancock College With Early Childhood Education Grant

A serenity garden and other features will be added to the state-of-the-art outdoor classroom at Allan Hancock College’s Children’s Center Lab School thanks to a $785,000 grant awarded by the Orfalea Foundation.

Children and future educators in the community will benefit greatly from a 5-year, $785,000 grant awarded by the Orfalea Foundation to Allan Hancock College’s early childhood studies (ECS) program and the Children’s Center Lab School to provide innovative classrooms and curriculum.

“This is evidence of the impact our ECS faculty and staff have on our community,” said Superintendent and President of Allan Hancock College Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D. “The Orfalea Foundation continues to make it possible for Hancock, the Children’s Center and ECS to be cutting edge, innovative and a model for the state when it comes to education.”

Founded in 2000, the Orfalea Foundation has contributed to the well-being of Santa Barbara County’s children by improving the quality of early childhood education.

The foundation focused on three ECE initiatives: the outdoor classroom project, healthy food and healthy habits initiative and the accreditation support program. The grant will ensure all three initiatives will continue to be embedded in core ECS curriculum for future teachers.

“We know children need physical activity, healthy food practices and time in nature to be healthy and happy,” said Adrianna Foss, the foundation’s director of early childhood education. “The foundation has always been focused on addressing the needs of the whole child, not just the academic, and really embracing the social and emotional development.”

This grant will allow the college to hire an early childhood studies teacher for the next five years. The mentor will work with the ECS program coordinator, faculty and children’s center director to ensure the foundation’s initiatives are infused into the curriculum.

The college’s preschool nutrition credit class will also be updated. Hands-on culinary workshops and lectures will be created and offered as credit and non-credit classes for parents and childcare professionals, as well as students in the ECS, food science nutrition and culinary programs.

A serenity garden, interactive musical expression center and kinesthetic mud center will be added to the center’s state-of-the-art outdoor classroom.

The foundation provided a $150,000 grant in 2013 to allow the college to complete the lab and install a water wall and creek that simulate a natural setting by circulating water throughout the day.

“The grant allows us to improve experiences our children and students have every day,” said Yvon Frazier, Children’s Center Lab School director. “The college will also install observation cameras and a sound system in the outdoor classroom to provide our ECS students more opportunities for quality observation of children interacting in natural settings without interruption.”

Research indicates that children in high-quality care environments develop more advanced language skills, have fewer behavioral problems, do better in school and have improved social skills.

Research also demonstrates that teachers with bachelor’s degrees and specialized training in child development provide young children with the best preparation to succeed in school. 

“Our ECS students represent the next generation of teachers in our community and the early childhood work force,” said Judith Dal Porto, ECS program coordinator. “Orfalea support helps them have the instruction and hands-on experience with the latest and most innovative practices.”

The Children’s Center Lab School will be renamed the Orfalea Children’s Center Lab School at Allan Hancock College, representing the college and foundation’s partnership and shared vision for quality early childhood education and care. 

“Hancock will be proud to be the only educational facility in Northern Santa Barbara County to have the Orfalea name,” added Ardis Neilsen, academic dean. “The change will guarantee the foundation’s legacy and practices live on for years to come to the benefit of our children and students at Hancock.”

“The foundation’s vision is a community that is successful at raising all of its children to be healthy, happy, ready for school and ready for life,” stated Orfalea Foundation President Lois Mitchell. “We believe this grant will contribute to making that dream become a reality and are proud to be forever linked with Allan Hancock College.”

The college plans to hold the renaming ceremony in spring 2016.

Gina Herlihy is a public affairs and publications technician for Allan Hancock College.


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