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Children’s services at “The Beach” began with a vision. Recognizing the need for affordable, quality childcare, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) at Long Beach State University (LBSU) aimed to establish a program specifically for preschool children. It was unanimously decided that this would be a program where children’s needs were paramount, far exceeding mere babysitting.


CSULB President Stephen Horn and Isabel Patterson with an early model of the Child Development Center during the signing ceremony March 14, 1973


IPCDC teacher reading to students in front of the birdcage (1986)

Initially, preschool programs were structured with strict schedules:; children would perform activities, including art, naptime, outdoor play, ABC’s practice and even synchronized bathroom breaks. Dissatisfied with this approach, our staff drew on professional experience and well-respected research, advocating for a model that respects each child’s individual needs, temperament and development. We envisioned a program that prioritized the child’s perspective, emphasizing the importance of play, choice, creativity and self-concept . The curriculum we designed offers varied activities throughout the day, allowing children to engage in what interests them most, covering all areas necessary to prepare them for public kindergarten. This flexible approach not only meets the diverse developmental needs of our preschoolers but also accommodates their parents' varying schedules, keeping costs affordable while maximizing family participation.

Moreover, this arrangement was the best way to meet the needs of a developmentally diverse group of preschoolers attending on different schedules tailored to the childcare needs of their parents. It helped to keep the cost down for parents and made it possible to accommodate more families. This model also meant that parents could enroll their children with the assurance that a range of meaningful activities would be available regardless their child's attendance schedule.


Preschool aged children spending time with feathered friends at the pond in the play area (1986)


Children in one of the outdoor playhouses (1986)

While many good programs now offer children flexibility in daily routine and choice of activities, the focus is often too much on the activities. Our main concern is on process, not product, and the staff maintains that it is the interactions and relationships with adults and other children that should be the heart of the program.

The Center officially opened in fall 1970 at the Los Altos YMCA with 42 preschool children. In 1971, the Center moved to the Soroptimist House at LBSU, and by 1975, it relocated to its current permanent facility, now with a capacity of 100 children, and was renamed the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center, or IPCDC.

Isabel Patterson was an educator, real estate agent, and philanthropist. She was a member of the class of 1951, the first graduating class of then brand new Long Beach State College. She conceived the school nickname, the 49ers. She began her career as an elementary school teacher but then switched to real estate in the Belmont Shore area. Financially successful, Isabel became a major donor to CSULB, Long Beach City College, and other institutions serving children and young adults. Proudly named in her honor, Isabel's generosity made our vision a reality. Isabel passed away in 1995 at the age of 88.

The biggest challenge created by the move to the new facility was to develop an effective staff-development program. While at the YMCA and Soroptimist House, a small number of staff worked closely together. Student assistant teachers learned a great deal through observation and discussions at weekly staff meetings. The new building and increased child capacity required a staff at least three times larger than the old. Working in a much larger area, the staff could not as easily observe and learn from more experienced people. Turn over became a major concern since 10 or more student assistants needed to be hired each semester

By drawing on the all the information, techniques and ideas that had already proven to be successful, and by organizing them into a coherent system, the staff created a staff-development program for student assistant teachers that conveyed the skills necessary to interact appropriately with children. The program is extensive, perhaps unmatched, as it has such an organized and conscious methodology of working with children.


The original facility opened in 1975 and was made possible by the generous donation of Isabel Patterson, a former Long Beach teacher and CSULB alumna.


Children posing for a photo outside The Dome (1986)

The IPCDC is nameds after Isabel Patterson, a LBSU alumna and philanthropist, whose generous donations and vision greatly supported the establishment and expansion of our facilities, including the construction of “The Dome” for school-aged children in 1986 and later the infant and toddler center in 1994.

As the facility grew throughout the years, challenges like developing an effective staff-development program became prominent. The program now boasts a comprehensive, organized methodology for training student assistants, ensuring they acquire the necessary skills to interact appropriately with children. And over the decades, our commitment has remained unchanged – supporting children’s growth and learning, aiding them in becoming happy, confident and successful in school and life. The collaborative effort of staff, parents, ASI, LBSU and the children themselves has fostered a dynamic environment of continuous improvement and dedication. Nevertheless, our commitment remains virtually unchanged from the beginning: to help children grow, learn and become happy, confident and successful individuals in school and in life.


Children playing inside the IPCDC (1986)

Look into the past

“A Child Centered Environment” circa 1970