Child Educational Center Co-Founder Receives Leadership Award

Submitted by Child Education Center

Eric-Nelson1Eric Nelson, co-founder of the Child Educational Center (CEC) in La Cañada, director of The Outdoor Classroom Project, and author of “Cultivating Outdoor Classrooms,” was recognized in November by Exchange magazine as a Master Leader in the field of early care and education. Master Leaders were chosen based on their leadership, impactful roles, knowledge base, spirit and experience in the field of early childhood education.

An Early Childhood Education (ECE) professional since 1974, Nelson has delivered decades of service to the field through his leadership of the CEC and development of its outreach services, in the areas of building and playground design and renovation, ECE program feasibility studies and development, employer-related child care and outdoor classroom philosophy and practice. As a college professor for 30 years, he most recently served as an adjunct professor of child development at Pasadena City College.

Nelson established the Outdoor Classroom Project in 2003 as an initiative of the Child Educational Center. It is dedicated to increasing the quantity, quality and benefit of outdoor experiences for children in early care and education programs through providing educational and consulting services on the value and design of outdoor learning environments and program practices. The recipient of $3.5 million in funding from First 5 Los Angeles and the Orfalea Foundation, the Outdoor Classroom Project has provided on-site programming and playground design consultation for hundreds of childcare centers as well as professional training for thousands of ECE teachers throughout California. Today it continues its work and participates in the Learning Naturally online initiative in collaboration with Nature Explore.

For more than 30 years, Exchange magazine has supported early-childhood professionals worldwide in their efforts to craft environments where adults and children thrive. In 2014, Exchange launched the Exchange Leadership Initiative, with the intention of exploring strategies for making leadership more visible in the field of early care and education, growing an understanding of effective leadership, and supporting and inspiring the development of such innovators. These leaders are invaluable in plotting ideas and future initiatives in conjunction with Exchange.

The Child Educational Center, part of the JPL and Caltech communities, provides early care and education with a pioneering focus on heart-centered, progressive education and outdoor learning at seven sites in La Cañada and Pasadena. The CEC offers full- and part-time programs for children up to age 5 at its La Cañada site, the Cooperative Preschool at Caltech, as well as the after-school programs and summer camps for children in grades K – 6. The CEC’s Infant-Toddler and Preschool program is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Visit the CEC online at and on Facebook at

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