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 Chula Vista Preschool Creates Wildlife Habitat

​​Young children at Hilltop Child Development Center in Chula Vista now have a wildlife habitat to learn in thanks to volunteers and grant money.

The “Habitat gARTen” is a large section of the campus that includes homes for birds and insects, water, and plants that will attract a variety of wildlife. There are also different outdoor learning stations where teachers will focus on reconnecting children with nature and the outdoors by extending the classroom environment. The outdoor classroom will integrate art, science, nature, and gardening.

“We believe these are key elements that will aid in natural exploration and will help us promote and support healthier and happier children,” said Rosalva Sepulveda, business services and community outreach manager for Child Development Associates, Inc., which operates the preschool. “It’s almost like an extension of the classroom.”

Nearly 200 parents, children and community members came together at the school Nov. 15 and 16 to build and plant the garden with materials that were purchased with a $40,820 grant the school got as part of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program of the County Board of Supervisors. A group of local artists and designers who call themselves the “gARTeners” also volunteered time and expertise to help design and build the project.

“This turned out even better than we expected it to,” said Susan Holley, Early Childhood Program Coordinator with Child Development Associates, Inc. “It was just so gratifying to know that parents really wanted to take a part in this.”

There are more than 100 children age 3- and 4-years-old at Hilltop Child Development Center, which is part of First 5 San Diego's Quality Preschool Initiative.

The initiative is a partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education and First 5 San Diego that works to ensure there are high-quality early education programs in high-need areas. It supports programs that serve more than 13,000 students in more than 200 locations across the county.

Through the effort, SDCOE employees work with early education teachers and administrators to help insure high-quality education that helps build important school-readiness and social skills. By focusing on regions with lower incomes and test scores, the goal is to raise student achievement and close the achievement gap by enhancing existing programs.