Orange Coast College Early Childhood Education students teamed up with art non-profit Low Tide Aliens and OCC alumni and sustainability advocate Jill Soloway to create a sand mandala at Newport Beach, part of the department’s effort to support sustainable, child-directed play.
The field trip began with students walking the shore to college natural trinkets, such as shells, sticks and rocks, reinforcing a “Loose Parts” concept that is currently part of their curriculum. “Loose Parts” was first introduced in early childhood education in 1971 by Simon Nicholson, who believed that materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, taken apart, and put back together facilitate creative responses in children that may not occur otherwise.
OCC students later added their findings to the mandala, which was created in partnership with non-profit Low Tide Aliens.
“OCC ECE students have been learning how to plan engaging activities for children based on children’s interests and needs. Children learn through play,” says ECE instructor Jenny Chaiyakal. “When children are trusted to explore natural environments without synthetic materials, they can dive deeply into authentic learning experiences.”
The students also were joined by alum Soloway, who works to raise awareness about the harmful effect of plastic toys left at the beach. Earlier in the semester, Soloway visited Chaiyakal’s class to speak to students about the importance of trusting children to find ways to play and learn at the beach without the use of single-use plastic beach toys.
“We, as adults need to trust that children will find creative, meaningful ways to play at the beach, without the need for a 12-piece plastic toy set whose pieces are often left behind and harm the ocean and its marine life,” says Soloway. “Eleven million tourists visit Newport Beach each year. Our future teachers have a responsibility to help children connect with this beautiful place, so they can help protect it.”
According to Chaiyakal, the experience made a significant impact on the students who attended.
“The students were quiet on the bus ride home; reflecting and perhaps physically tired. However, when we got back to the classroom, several of them shared that they were beyond grateful for the day,” she says. “Some students admitted that initially they were not excited for the field trip. For them, this event just seemed like one more thing to check off of their busy end-of-the-semester to-do list. They went on to say that this day will remain as one of their most cherished memories at OCC. They said they could feel the stress melt off of them as they colored in the mandala and walked along the beach. Some shared that they had strong emotional responses as they participated in the event. They all said that they were so thankful for the opportunity and that it will definitely impact their future teaching.”
About Orange Coast College
Orange Coast College, founded in 1947, is one of the nation’s top transfer schools. With a student population of 25,000, OCC provides exemplary programs leading to Associate degrees and 130 career programs. The college’s 164-acre campus is located in the heart of Costa Mesa.
The article and photo above were submitted on behalf of Orange Coast College.