Eric M. Nelson

Eric Nelson is the founder and Director of Child Care Planning Associates (CCPA), the consulting and training division of the Child Educational Center, Caltech/JPL Community (CEC), which he established, along with his wife, Elyssa, in 1979. A child development professional since 1974, Mr. Nelson's consulting specialties include building and playground design and renovation, child care needs assessments and feasibility studies, development of employer-related child care, and staff training and development.

Mr. Nelson's facility design and construction experience includes over 40 projects requiring equipment, play yard, and building analysis, design, renovation and construction. His most recent project was the first LEED Gold-rated child care center in California. With 30 years of child care center administrative experience, Mr. Nelson has taught courses for California community colleges, Pacific Oaks College, and UCLA Extension. He currently teaches introductory, staff supervision, and outdoor environment courses in Child Development at Pasadena City College. The unique outdoor environment course was designed by Mr. Nelson, and focuses on the Outdoor Classroom.

As the founder of the Child Educational Center, Mr. Nelson was instrumental in cultivating the philosophy and practice of the Outdoor Classroom. In 2003 Mr. Nelson obtained a $1M, 5-year grant from First 5 LA to articulate and share this model throughout Los Angeles County. Via 9 teacher training conferences, more than 600 programs have been reached. Over 100 centers have received on- site program and playground design consultation. Through the project, Mr. Nelson is documenting the condition the outdoor programs and environments of hundreds of centers.

In 2006 he helped initiate the organizing committee of an international conference, “Connecting the World’s Children With Nature”. This innovative conference for the first time brought professionals from the design and environment community together with early childhood educators to discuss outdoor programs and environments for young children. In the fall of 2007 he designed and produced a child care center design symposium, co-sponsored by the AIA, in Santa Barbara County, California. This innovative event provided a hands-on training for building and landscape architects, early childhood educators, contractors and other decision-makers in the complexities of designing environments for programs of early care and education. Eric was the lead author of the 60 page Outdoor Classroom Program Development Guide and the editor of the 500 page Outdoor Classroom Resource Supplement. He is currently completing a contract to write a book on the Outdoor Classroom for Redleaf Press.

Outdoor Classroom Project