Orange Coast College
Early Childhood Lab School

An integral component of the Lab School’s philosophy is to support children’s social-emotional development and positive self-esteem, through intentional teaching of self-regulation tools. This year the OCC Lab School was awarded a Peace Place Center, through the Orange County Department of Education and Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) program.

The intent of a Peace Place Center is to provide a safe space for children to support self-regulation skills, build resiliency, and nurture the mental health and well-being of young children. The Peace Place has been embedded into a part of the garden space to create an even more welcoming and calming space for children to have their individual time and space as needed. Children contributed to the development of the area by pulling weeds, refreshing the soil, and planting aromatic plants including lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, and basil. The grant included start-up materials such as furniture, books, a variety of soft and calming play materials (e.g. weighted stuffed animals, liquid motion toys, puzzles, etc.)

The big yard’s Magical Garden is also an area that supports the children’s social and emotional development. This area is intentionally set up to provide children with emotional literacy, the materials to talk about their emotions, and the space to listen to scripted stories and engage in social group activities. Teachers model friendship skills by using visual prompts, puppets for role playing, and flannel board stories.

The addition of the Peace Place into our outdoor environment has added a new level of excitement and sparked interest and curiosity. Preschool aged children experience big emotions, and as early child educators, we recognize the importance of teaching children how to appropriately express and manage their feelings. Our goal is to continue to develop a safe space for children to utilize when needing time to themselves to self-regulate and nurture their wellbeing.

Physical development activities also occur regularly in the big yard. New additions include a complete wooden climbing set, a river stone balance set, a basket hoop, and a teeter totter. Engagement with these materials has contributed to children practicing and mastering physical skills such as spatial and body awareness, strength, endurance, locomotor, and non-locomotor skills.

The Young Preschool class has been exploring motion, gravity, and velocity in their outdoor environment. Seldomly used pipes and pipe fittings were attached to a wall, which gave them and the whole area new life! Ping pong balls, sand, water, pinecones, rocks, and sometimes small toys are dropped into a pipe and hopefully caught at the other end. Friends work together to retrieve balls or problem solve how to remove stuck items to get things moving again. The children’s love of physical science naturally drew them towards the bird seed combined with recycled boxes and packing pieces. Children quickly discovered that changing the angle of these ramps changes the movement and the wonderful sound of the seeds as it moved through.

The Lab School is grateful for the outdoor environment children have access to and the learning they engage in daily!