Orange County’s Newest STEM Inspired Preschool

August 9, 2015

By Mom Magazine

The Gratitude Garden Preschool is Orange County’s newest Reggio and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) inspired preschool. Being the only preschool in California founded by a Pepperdine professor, its proprietary curriculum and philosophy set it apart from other early childhood programs. Dr. Dustine Rey teaches in The Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University. She designed the school for her daughter and all the children of our new generation. The school reflects the best of research and practice, combining an educator’s eye for learning and the love of a mother.

Children are naturally little scientists, curious about how the natural world works and why. Preschool is the perfect time to connect young curiosity to the foundations of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in a fun and playful way” says Dr. Rey. “STEM is a perspective of connecting what children learn to an invitation to explore materials that foster investigation, observation, inquiry, and creation. This is why the outdoor classroom is one of the greatest settings for learning.”

The school’s design utilizes the rich teaching opportunities and discoveries of nature. The classrooms are both indoors and outdoors, allowing students to explore, play, and apply hands-on concepts in math, engineering, physics, science, art, and ecology.  Students participate in martial arts, cooking, world languages, dance, and various forms of artistic expression. The curriculum is designed to instill a love for learning by allowing curiosity, creativity, and meaningful play to drive the process.

As its name suggests, The Gratitude Garden Preschool places great emphasis on gratitude. “We know that children are at their best when they are given opportunities to be kind, experience appreciation for things and feel gratitude toward others,” says Dr. Giacomo Bono, psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and co-author of Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character. “With habits of gratitude and kindness children not only experience better moods, they engage their minds and senses more in activities, cooperate better with others and make greater use of their character strengths and imagination. Quite simply, they start growing a motivation to do more for the world and themselves. It is in this kind of supportive community where children learn better to bounce back from adversity and grow their natural capacity to connect more strongly with school and family.”

“The development of gratitude and generosity are priorities at our school,” says Dr. Rey. “Through the use of art, stories, songs and theater, students here learn to appreciate the world and people around them, and we take every opportunity to nurture such positive motivations and character strengths in our students.” Dr. Rey conducted her doctoral research on the relationship of gratitude and well-being to academic success; she has since incorporated her findings into an age appropriate curriculum and teaching philosophy for the formative years of children’s development.

“We aim to increase the well-being of our students, their families and the community,” says Rey. “Our program extends into the whole family unit through our wellness workshops, family nature trips, and monthly Kids-night-out program. This integrated approach reflects the best in current research and practice and is precisely what is needed to create conditions for families to thrive.”

 Families are invited to explore, play, and create at the upcoming  free community playdate on:

When: Saturday, August 22nd

Time: 10:00am through 1:00pm

Where: The Gratitude Garden Preschool

92 Avenida La Pata, San Clemente, CA 92673

(949) 572-4453


The playdate will include rock art, gardening, water pumps, magnetic wall building, music and more. Snacks, beverages, and school tours will be provided. Activities are directed for children ages two through seven.

The Gratitude Garden Preschool is currently enrolling children ages two through six with half-day and full-day options. Please view for more details.