2008-11-20 / Local & State

Head Start Students Explore Nature

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Malachi Gress and Elijak Ebersole, students at the Fulton County Head Start classroom, closely examine a wolf spider in the science center of their classroom. Malachi Gress and Elijak Ebersole, students at the Fulton County Head Start classroom, closely examine a wolf spider in the science center of their classroom. Students in the Bedford/Fulton Head Start classroom in Fulton County learn firsthand about nature through the science center in their classroom.

With two hermit crabs, a wolf spider, garden spider and praying mantis, the science center most recently focused on bug exploration. The children have been learning about the animals' eating habits and where they live.

In one activity, the children observed the differences between the wolf spider and the hermit crab, discussing hard and soft shells and the differences in the eyes of the two animals.

"It is important that children learn to respect and care for their environment and the animals within that environment," explains Stacey Feaster, Head Start child development manager. "This activity developed the children's curiosity and taught them about taking responsibility for their class pets."

The Fulton County classroom is a collaboration of Bedford/Fulton Head Start, which is operated by Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries, and the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit II. Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries (ALSM) is a not-for-profit faith-based organization affiliated with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Allegheny Synod. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, ALSM employs more than 500 staff and serves an eight-county area in Pennsylvania, including Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clearfield, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties.

Fulton County Head Start students Mireya McGaha-Eastep and Laci Kellerman observe a hermit crab in the science center of their classroom.e Fulton County Head Start students Mireya McGaha-Eastep and Laci Kellerman observe a hermit crab in the science center of their classroom.e ALSM operates retirement living communities, in-home personal care services, Senior Daily Living Centers, counseling, Growing Years Early Learning Centers, Kid Stop before-and-after school care programs, Head Start, Early Head Start and Family Centers of Bedford County.

Head Start and Early Head Start provide families many opportunities to learn and interact together. Free educational, health, nutritional and family services are available to qualifying families. Programs are available to incomeeligible families/children, and children with identified special needs may also be considered, regardless of income.

"Head Start allows children an opportunity for quality learning, allowing children to enter school ready to learn and prepared to achieve," reports Tonya Carson, Head Start director. "Studies show that this window of opportunity is brief; by age five, 90 percent of the brain is developed. If a child enters kindergarten behind, he or she will most likely stay behind."

In Bedford County, the Head Start program has numerous partnerships, including the Tussey Mountain, Chestnut Ridge and Northern Bedford school districts for preschool programming. In addition to a partnership with the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit II in Fulton County, Bedford/Fulton County Head Start also partnerships with the Southern Fulton School District to provide preschool programming. Federal and state funds make these partnerships possible.

Early Head Start programming is also available in Bedford County. This family-focused program offers free educational, health, nutritional and family services to help children have a better start on life through home visits and parentchild opportunities. The program is available for pregnant parents and parents of children ages birth through three years.

For more information about Bedford Fulton County Head Start or Bedford County Early Head Start, call 814-623-3200 or 1- 877-257-6543.

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