The Allan Hancock College Children’s Center Lab School is in the midst of a major transformation. Now, with completion of its new facility just around the corner, the Children’s Center Lab has received $150,000 from the Orfalea Foundation that will allow the staff to put the finishing touches on their new building and outdoor classroom.
“We thank the Orfalea Foundation for its outstanding support in these challenging economic times,” said Ardis Neilsen, dean, academic affairs. “Their donation enables the college to complete the Children’s Center Lab as originally planned, and with the goal of being a model for the entire state.”
The grant will provide the funds needed for audiovisual equipment for two observation rooms used by early childhood education students, to complete aspects of the playground’s outdoor classroom features and to help equip the center’s kitchen.
The playground and kitchen are of particular interest to the Orfalea Foundation, which created the Outdoor Classroom Project and the School Foods Initiative as part of the foundation’s overall focus on whole child development.
“The Orfalea Foundation helped us in the design of our new outdoor classroom,” said Thesa Roepke, program director and early childhood studies instructor. “The foundation really is an amazing advocate for early childhood education and health.”
The Children’s Center Lab became the first Outdoor Classroom Project demonstration site in Santa Maria in 2010. The new playground is modeled on the project’s philosophies and based on research that shows that children can benefit greatly from structured play activities in a natural environment. The grant is providing the funds for a pivotal part of the new outdoor space, a water wall and creek that simulates a natural setting, circulating water throughout the day.
“This water wall and creek bed is the only one of its kind throughout the state in a child care setting,” Roepke said.
The Orfalea School Foods Initiative has also been a resource for the Children’s Center Lab, Roepke said, stepping in to help assess the functionality of the center’s new kitchen and review their inventory. New kitchen equipment will be purchased based on the group’s assessment.
The center’s kitchen staff had the opportunity to create a meal service with the School Food Initiative chef instructors, working with some of the new equipment and tools already in place.
“The Orfalea Foundation has truly been a lifesaver, and we’re so grateful for their assistance,” Roepke said.
The Allan Hancock Children’s Center Lab School is open Monday-Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. The new playground and facilities are expected to be finished in March, with a grand opening scheduled for April 2013.
Founded in 2000, the Orfalea Foundation supports high-quality, non-profit programs that promote healthy development and build skills for success in learning and in life. Across its range of focus areas, including education, youth development, and community enrichment, the foundation works through collaborative initiatives and entrepreneurial partnerships to strengthen communities by empowering individuals. More information is available at www.orfaleafoundation.org.