Innovative concept creates outdoor early childhood learning environments focused on sustainability and supporting early brain development
(NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.) February 16, 2018 — Construction starts on a new nature-based preschool facility for the Environmental Nature Center (ENC), designed to create a hands-on, outdoor learning environment and demonstrate sustainable values for preschool students.
Designed by Irvine, California-based LPA, the 8,000-square-foot, three-classroom preschool is an extension of the ENC’s mission to promote nature-centered education. Nature-based preschools, which are growing in popularity around the country, have been shown to support early brain development, healthy living and social skills in early childhood.
LPA’s design creates spaces designed to foster a connection to the outdoors, where students will spend most of their time. Outdoor spaces will serve as teaching centers, from a stone abacus to a landscape of drought-tolerant plants, which will provide a living lesson in sustainability. Boulders, logs and tree stumps will be used for seating. An organic garden will provide teaching opportunities and food supplies for students.
“The preschool is designed to be a living laboratory and educational tool for conservation,” says LPA Principal Rick D’Amato.
“In an effort to increase environmental awareness and appreciation, the ENC Preschool will provide natural exploration and meet developmental needs or early childhood,” says ENC Director Bo Glover. “We already have more than 500 who have shown interest for enrollment when the school opens.”
The number of nature-based early childhood education environments in the United States has grown by 66 percent since 2016, according to the Natural Start Alliance. Natural learning environments support creativity and problem-solving skills, increase physical activity, and improve nutrition, eyesight and social relationships in the most critical phase of development for children, according to industry studies.
The ENC preschool, projected to be complete in 2019, is designed to meet LEED Platinum, Net Zero qualifications and complement the existing ENC facility. The ENC was the first LEED Platinum building in Orange County.
Founded in 1965, LPA specializes in creating innovative environments that work better, do more with less and improve people’s lives. An integrated design firm with six locations in California and Texas, LPA’s team includes more than 450 in-house architects, master planners, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects and research analysts, working across a wide array of sectors. For more information, visit http://www.lpadesignstudios.com.