ROCKFORD (WIFR) – The Discovery Center Museum announced Tuesday that it has received a $30,000, three-year grant from the PNC Foundation. The grant provides at-risk preschool children attending the Rockford Public School District #205 (RPSD) Early Childhood Program opportunities to participate in hands-on science, math and arts activities both in school and at Discovery Center Museum. These activities will support several early childhood objectives found in the RPSD strategic plan, Visualize 2015.
The announcement signifies the second major grant PNC has made in the Rockford area through its signature philanthropic initiative, Grow Up Great, a multi-year, $350 million bilingual program to improve early childhood education. Through the initiative, which serves children from birth to age 5 - with a focus on underserved children - PNC provides the leadership, advocacy, funding, tools, and volunteers to help educate parents, caregivers, and communities on how to prepare young children for success in school and life. To date, the program has served more than 1.5 million children.
The collaboration between the Discovery Center and RPSD will provide direct services to RPSD early childhood children through field trips to the museum. Discovery Center will also provide hands–on teacher workshops to the educators in the Rockford Early Childhood program. The purpose of the workshops is to give teachers the tools they need to incorporate hands–on science activities in the classroom.
“The Rockford Early Childhood program is very excited to partner with the Discovery Center,” explains Kim Nelson, executive director of Early Childhood at RPSD. “Without this PNC grant, our program would be unable to provide field trips to this fantastic facility. Our teachers are looking forward to bringing their students to the Discovery Center for a fun day of hands–on learning.”
During the 2012-2013 school year, the Rockford Early Childhood program is serving approximately 2,600 children between the ages of 3-5 in center-based programs. RPSD 205 has 80 early childhood classes located in three early childhood centers, eight elementary schools and two daycare centers. Another 200 children age birth to three, are served in a home visiting program. Approximately 94% of the students enrolled are considered at-risk for academic failure, 86% of the students live in families at or below the poverty level, and 20% of the students in the program are eligible for special education services.
“All children benefit from hands–on learning experiences and Discovery Center Museum provides a variety of these experiences at the museum,” says Sarah Wolf, executive director of Discovery Center. This grant provides Discovery Center with another way to collaborate with the RPSD beyond their partnership with the after school program. Discovery Center has been working in the schools for many years, but this is the first time it will be able to impact Early Childhood students directly.
Many of the at-risk students who attend RPSD Early Childhood programs are unable to experience hands–on science and math activities that Discovery Center offers. Hands–on learning during math and science activities provide the foundational experiences needed to be successful in learning key concepts in both disciplines. Through hands–on experiences, young children develop prior knowledge needed for participation in the school curriculum, language/vocabulary, inquiry, and other skills that better prepare the children for higher level thinking and problem solving skills.
Through this combination of hands–on field trips to the museum and teacher workshops, Discovery Center and RPSD believe they will help early childhood students become prepared for success when they enter kindergarten.
“Our support of the Discovery Center is a strategic investment to improve school readiness in the Rockford area,” said Joe Gregoire, PNC Bank state chairman for Illinois, speaking on behalf of the PNC Foundation. “Research has shown that children who are ready for kindergarten are more likely to graduate from high school, strive toward higher vocational aspirations and contribute to society later in life.”
In April 2011, PNC announced a three-year, $75,000 grant to the City of Rockford Head Start program to enhance music, science and history appreciation for Rockford’s preschoolers. The initiative uses the programs and resources of the Music Academy of Rockford College, the Burpee Museum of Natural History and the Discovery Center Museum to develop special activities and curriculum materials to serve more than 500 children.