As a department of the University we are pleased when we can promote the research and teaching mission through cooperation with various academic departments, especially as it relates to the field of child development and early education.
Parents sign an informed consent agreement at the time of enrollment giving permission for their child to be observed in the classroom. Observations in the classroom do not involve any intentional interaction between the observer and children. Children are not identified by name in the student's observational reports.
When research activities involve interactions with the children parents are asked for permission for their child to participate in the specific interactive research project. Prior to asking for your participation, projects are reviewed to make certain they are compatible with our daily program and to ensure that there is minimal impact to the classrooms. The classroom teachers supervise researchers working with children at all times.
A selection of roughly 30 native plants from the CCBER nursery were brought into the preschool and students were introduced to 3 or 4 species. Plants of various shapes, textures, colors, and growth patterns were selected and shown to the students to demonstrate diversity found within the plant kingdom. Students were asked to touch, smell, and look closely at the plants and asked to make their own observations and comparisons. The concept of habitat was introduced and students were told they would have the opportunity to plant some of our native plants and create habitat.
On the trail
Students were introduced to more native plants growing in the wild such as California Sagebrush, Lemonade Berry, and California Bush Sunflower. Students were invited to pick small pieces of leaves, but taught not to take too much or else it might be harmful to the plants.
Students were led into the salt marsh where they encountered and learned about more native plants such as Pickleweed and Saltgrass. Borrowing and adapting from the "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of" exploration routine, students were asked to use their senses once again and encouraged to make observations, ask questions, and draw connections. The group guided exploration often turned into freeform exploration as the students' curiosity was allowed to guide them with staff and interns helping to facilitate. In preparation for planting, students then divided into two groups - each one circling up around a trip leader. A small trowel was passed around and the students worked together to dig a hole, cheering each other on. Once deep enough the trip leader removed the plant from the pot, and after showing students the extensive root systems, place it into the hole. Students then took turns backfilling the hole with soil and watering their freshly planted plant. If students remained engaged, a second or even third plant was planted. Lastly, students were gathered around for a song titled "My Roots Go Down" that teaches about parts of the plant and has students enact the growth patterns and movements of plants. In the first verse, legs represent roots going down into the ground and in the second verse, hands represent leaves reaching "high to the sky" to capture sunlight. In the final verse, we sang "I am Pickleweed waving in the wind," with the whole body representing the above ground plant swaying back and fourth in the breeze.
Using laminated pictures, students were introduced to some of the interesting insect species found locally (i.e. the Spotted Cucumber Beetle). Students were shown a picture of an adult Ladybird Beetle which they were able to correctly identify. Then they were shown a picture of it's larval form and taught that it was also a Ladybug and that insects can have different forms during different life stages. A laminate displaying pictures of 15 different local Ladybug species was shown to demonstrate the diversity within a given type of bug and also, how shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns can help us identify a species. Students were then shown displays of pinned insects from the CCBER Kinds in Nature collection and taught that scientists collect bugs to study them and to better understand the environment.
On the trail
Students were split into two groups and told that they were going to be collecting and studying the insects just like scientists do. Plastic containers and lids were passed out to each of the students, as were instructions about safety and being gentle with the insects. Under the direction of the trip leaders, students explored the surrounding habitat (either the nearby community garden or a scrub-grassland mosaic) capturing and observing the insects they found. Students were shown laminates with pictures of common insects and invertebrates (ladybugs, grasshoppers, slugs, etc.) and asked if what they had caught matched with any of the pictures. After 10 to 15 minutes, groups were brought back together and asked to share what they had caught with each other. The bugs were then released back to where they were found.
Upon reaching the slough, students were asked if they remembered planting plants there the last time they had visited, and were encouraged to see if they could find it. If the plant could be located, students were asked if they could notice any changes (Was it taller? Wider? Did it have flowers now?). Containers were passed out once again and students surveyed the salt marsh habitat. After another 10 to 15 minutes students returned with their findings and asked to compare bugs found in the two different habitats they had explored . Students were shown pictures of the Western Pygmy Butterfly and taught how certain salt marsh plants are important food sources for the caterpillars. Lucky groups were able to observe live specimens fluttery around the slough.
Students were asked to remember the definition of habitat and told that we would be observing birds in different habitats today (scrub-grassland mosaic and salt marsh). As we had found with the bugs from the previous field trip, students were taught that we would expect to see different species in the different habitats but also some crossover of species. Pictures and specimens in plastic tubes were shown to the students of the species we might expect to see passing through the scrub-grassland habitat (hummingbirds, Scrub Jay, Red-tailed Hawk). Students were promoted to make observations about the colors, shape, sizes, etc. of various species as they were passed around. We then showed the students pictures and specimens of birds we might see at the Devereux Slough, highlighting features such as long legs for wading in the water or long bills for probing in the mud/picking small invertebrates from the water.
On the trail
We first stopped right across from the OFCC entrance, where a small colony of Cliff Swallows was building and tending nests. As we approached, students were asked "what did birds build their nests of?" receiving answers such as sticks, leaves, feathers. Once below the nests, students were asked what the swallows had built their nests out of (mud) and where they had possibly collected the mud to build their nest (Devereux Slough). Students were introduced to various techniques to aid in nature awareness and observation as we made our way to NCOS. If we saw a perched bird that we wanted to get a closer look at, the students were taught how to "Fox Walk," stepping very softly and slowly as we approached. Students were reminded that moving too quickly or loudly would scare the birds away and we wouldn't be able to observe them any longer. In the grassland habitat, students were introduced to "Owl Eyes," in which we use our vision to scan the entire landscape and then focus in on any movements or shapes. In this way, we are able to see birds that we would normally just pass by. Students were taught that we can also study birds by the sounds they make. By cupping our hands around our ears to give us "Deer Ears," we can capture soundwaves and hear the calls and songs of birds near and far.
Students were encouraged to use Owl Eyes to scan the slough for all of the bird species that they could see. Most trips, groups were able to observe a long-legged bird wading in the water and students were asked "how might having long skinny legs help these birds?" Swimming birds (Ducks, Geese) were also observed and students were taught about the webbed feet that make them excellent swimmers.
Inside, Outside and Beyond
Unique collaboration of UCSB's Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, Edible Campus Project and Orfalea Family Children's Center seeds sustainability in preschoolers
Given proper care and attention, a single seed can grow into something that flowers for generations. And that's the hope - both literally and figuratively - of a unique new collaboration at UC Santa Barbara.
The university's Gevirtz Graduate School of Education (GGSE), Early Childhood Care and Education Services and Edible Campus Project have partnered to teach preschoolers about gardening and, by extension, to root in children an early awareness of sustainability and an appreciation of nature.
"If we want to be more sustainable as a campus, we need to start from the ground up," said Jolie Colby, a Gevirtz School doctoral student who developed the garden-centered curriculum and is overseeing a small corps of volunteers - all education minors - to help teach it. "The earlier you start the earlier you can include healthy behaviors. Imagine a society where all children learn early about sustainable methods of living, healthy food production and healthy eating. Imagine if all children care for the planet and want to spend their life helping earth be safer for humans to live on."
The collaboration emerged from the construction of a new communal garden and greenhouse in the newly renovated outdoor play spaces at UCSB's Orfalea Family Children's Center. With funding from the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, already a supporter of the Edible Campus Project, the gardening education effort launched in fall 2016. It will continue through the 2016-17 academic year.
The first round of the project saw kids aged 3 to 5 years old introduced to soil, decomposers and compost. Next up is a unit on seeds and plants, and the final session will resolve around food production and preparation.
This story can be found online, with images, at https://www.news.ucsb.edu/2017/017505/inside-outside-and-beyond
Altogether, seven groups of preschools will get a three-session mini-course that begins with one indoor class, followed by a lesson in the children's center garden and culminating with a visit to the campus greenhouse and garden to see the curriculum in practice.
Adapted from an existing framework for nature instruction, the concept is known as "inside, outside and beyond," and it's meant to instill in the children a sense of place and to emphasize connections between school, community and the environment, according to Tamara Thompson, preschool coordinator at the children's center.
"The benefits of school gardens are numerous, including positive social and interpersonal skills, healthy eating and nutrition, science achievement and attitudes toward learning, design skills and environmental stewardship," Thompson said. "As well, a garden provides a platform for natural open-ended play, developing a child's sense of wonder and imagination."
"The immediate impacts are the smiles of joy you see on the children's faces as they interact and engage in the garden activities," she continued. "That's what matters most. Over time the teachers will be able to track and measure specific learning outcomes. The vision is to develop a sustainable model that can be carried through by our teaching staff."
The approach, noted Colby - whose own focus is on environmental education, environmental justice, food literacy and critical pedagogy - has in other places proven to be extremely successful. And she anticipates similar results at UCSB.
"I look at garden curriculum as a way to teach all the important things at once," Colby said. "Gardening fulfills the administrative concern of standards on nearly all levels. It is a STEM field, too. You can cover soil science, biology, botany, ecology, chemistry, entomology. It is inclusive of socio-cultural backgrounds - growing food and non-edibles gives teachers the chance to honor myriad cultures. It also takes kids outside, which is extremely beneficial."
"A Child given the skill to grow and prepare food at an early age is food literate and thereby set up to make decisions that lead to a healthy body and a healthy planet," she added. "It is much broader than just gardening."
UCSB Marine Science Institute - The Research Experience and Education Facility (The REEF)
Through the generous support of the Betty Wells-Eling Ocean Initiative, The REEF and MSI (NOAA CIMEC Cooperative Agreement), UCSB's Early Childhood Care & Education Services is happy to announce the debut of the Mobil REEF Interactive Aquarium. This interactive exhibit is designed to teach about the importance of "this" place-The Temperate Kelp Forests of Santa Barbara. It will host an array of changing critters and algae, with specially developed info for OFCC visitors to learn more about. In addition, the MSI/OFCC Marine and Coastal Environment Education Collaboration will work with UCSB educators, ECCES teachers and the children by developing curriculum and exploring appropriate teaching strategies in the context of marine education.
UCSB Early Childhood Care & Education Services
We promote and support the social-emotional well-being of young children in our community. The goals of the program reflect an abiding sense of respect for all children, their unique cultures and individual development.
Koegel Autism Center
The Koegel Autism Center is internationally recognized for it's innovative autism research and clinical training. The center strives to develop and disseminate high-impact, strength-based autism interventions and services; build collaborative partnerships with local and global communities; be culturally sensitive and responsive; provide ongoing outreach and education to families and professionals; support the diverse needs of individuals with ASD across the lifespan; and serve as a model for excellence in autism research and training. More information here: https://education.ucsb.edu/autism
James S. Bower Foundation
The James S. Bower Foundation provides support for the positive social and cultural evolution of our world. The Foundation helps to create a better future by making grants to partners who share the belief that a healthier world can be fostered through compassionate action and social change. More information here: https://www.jsbowerfoundation.org/