(Posted August 23, 2012)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- You can never start too early when it comes to studying science, and last year Juniata College's Early Childhood Education Center focused in improving science activities for its preschool students.

Using part of the funds provided by a $16,700 grant from Keystone STARS, an initiative from Pennsylvania Department of Education's Office of Child Development and Early Learning, the center incorporated new learning materials, experiments and science-themed presentations into the curriculum.

Christine Breene, director of the Early Childhood Center, points out that President Obama and most educators have emphasized bringing science to students early in their educational experience. "We were able to bring in presentations from Juniata College faculty, students and from others in the area that showcases science in a fascinating way," she says.

For example, Jay Hosler, professor of biology, visited the center and made a presentation about insects. He also showed the students several of his insect collections. Kathy Jones, associate professor of education had students majoring in education create lesson plans and activities centered on science, including such subjects as gravity, magnets, nature and the state of matter.

Another presentation focused on reptiles as Marty Bowen, director of Serpents and Claws Reptile Rescue, based in Lewistown, Pa., brought snakes, lizards and even a baby alligator to the classroom.

The center also used the Keystone STARS grant to purchase needed equipment such as a new outside shade structure, a basketball hoop and umbrellas to provide a more comfortable outdoor environment for play and lessons. The center also purchased new furniture and classroom materials that focus on a natural learning environment.

In addition the families and students also remained involved in the center's activities by volunteering and participating in family events such as Fall Fest, Winter Carnival, the annual St. Jude's Trke-a-thon and Spring into Health.

For further information on the center or to check on enrollment questions, please call 814-641-3401. The center is an inclusive environment that serves children from the Juniata College Program and Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 Early Intervention Program.

Juniata's Early Childhood Education Center has a Keystone Star 4 rating, the highest quality rating awarded by the state. The center is accredited by the National Association for the Education Of Young Children. The center is in the fourth year of a five-year accreditation cycle.

The center offers two half-day programs Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. There also is a full-day option from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday (children who attend all day pack their lunches).

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.