PNC Grow Up Great with Science @ California University of PA

Project Information


This webpage provides early childhood educators with information and resources developed by California University of Pennsylvania and partners with grant funding from PNC Financial Services Group. There is more information about the PNC Grow UP Great with Science project at Cal U on this webpage. Follow the links below to access science activities and resources for early childhood science education.

Science Activity Ideas for Early Childhood Learners

These science activity and resource wepages are organized by Pennsylvania's Early Childhood Learning Standards (2009 rev). The activities were developed and presented by Cal U faculty, students, project partner staff and invited experts at the teacher workshops or family field trips. These workshops and field trips covered specific themes so not all EC standards will have activity suggestions. Some activities are ready to use while others will require some adapation in materials or procedures for your specific circumstances.

Life Science

Environment & Ecology Science

Physical Science

Earth Science

Science Inquiry

Designing a Solution to an Everyday Problem (Technology & Engineering Design)

Science Teaching Strategies for Early Childhood Learners

These science teaching strategy wepagse provide research-based, best practice suggestions on how to teach early childhood learners science. They are organized by the science teaching strategy.

What Should Teachers Do When They Teach Science?

What Should Children Do When They "Do Science?"


Project Information

PNC Bank Foundation - Grow Up Great with Science


"Founded by The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., PNC Grow Up Great and PNC Crezca con Éxito form a bilingual, $350 million, multi-year initiative that began in 2004 to help prepare children – particularly underserved children – from birth to age five for success in school and life. Through Grow Up Great, PNC emphasizes the importance of the first five years of life, which research has shown is critical to long-term achievement, by helping families, educators and community partners provide innovative opportunities that enhance learning and development in a child's early years. PNC offers leadership, advocacy, funding, volunteers and educational resources because we believe that an investment in our children now makes good economic sense and plants the seeds for the dynamic workforce of tomorrow" (PNC Grow Up Great website, 6/2/13).

Grow Up Great with Science @ California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania is proud to be the recipient of a PNC Bank Foundation Grow Up Great with Science Grant. This project provided professional development support to early childhood teachers across the southwestern Pennsylvania region, focusing on headstart teachers and teacher's aides in Fayette County. The project supported headstart children and families through the development of school readiness skills using low-cost science activities. The project consists of four partners working together for the benefit of headstart children, their families and their teachers.

logo California University of Pennsylvania

logo Private Industry Council of Westmoreland Fayette County, Inc. Headstart Programs

logo Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children

logo Ohiopyle State Park - Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation - Friends of Ohiopyle State Park

The initial grant (2009-2011) provided funding over two years to conduct 8 science education workshops with early childhood teachers and 4 field trips for Headstart children and their families to Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County, PA. These events were organized into professional development learning cycles with an initial teacher workshop at the beginning of the season. Then Fayette County Headstart teachers implemented science teaching strategies and activities in their classrooms. The family field trips were held at Ohiopyle State Park and were attended by Headstart children and their families. Each field trip had over 20 science activities taught mainly by Cal U students enrolled in the early childhood teacher certification program. At the end of each professional development cycle Headstart teachers came together again at a workshop to share success stories about teaching science in their classrooms and participate in more science activities.

There were four science themes that provided a focus for the development of early childhood activities and resources. These themes were:

Science where you live: Observing Plants and Trees - Fall 2009

Science where you live: Exploring Rocks and Dirt - Winter/Spring 2010

Science where you live: Explaining Air and Water - Fall 2010

Science where you live: Sharing Animals and Me - Winter/Spring 2011

Additional funding (2011-2013) provided the opportunity to develop a course for early childhood educators in science teaching strategies. In this project, Intermediate Unit #1 joined as a partner. The science activities and teacher resources from these projects are organized by early learning standard for the early childhood community.

Grow Up Great with Science Project Vision

Early childhood science learning should: 
  • originate from children’s own explanations and questions.
  • center on authentic, experiential learning within the context of family life.
  • extend from children’s naturalistic play.
  • focus on developing age appropriate science process skills such as observing, exploring and explaining.
  • use local places such as school grounds, forests, fields, wetlands and human communities as locations for learning science and also as the focus of science learning.
  • integrate instruction that blurs the traditional academic boundaries between science, math, literacy, social studies, art and physical wellness.

Grow Up Great with Science @ Cal U Project Goals & Objectives

Goal 1 – Develop the capacity of early childhood educators to design, deliver and integrate science instruction throughout the pre-school learning environment.  Early childhood educators will be able to:

Objective 1a – describe the characteristics of the nature of science. (i.e inquiry-oriented; empirical evidence; repeatability; testable, peer-reviewed, intuitive, diverse methods etc.).
Objective 1b – demonstrate the ability to engage in scientific inquiry that arises from their own questions, focuses on detailed observations, explores phenomena and proposes explanations based on their observations. 
Objective 1c – demonstrate the ability to search, select and evaluate age-appropriate science activities for use in their teaching context.
Objective 1d – demonstrate the ability to create, innovate and acquire easily accessible, low cost science teaching materials for use in a classroom science center.
Objective 1e – demonstrate the ability to deliver science instruction integrated throughout their curriculum.
Objective 1f –  demonstrate research-based science instructional strategies such as: phrasing questions, designing investigations and formative verbal assessment.
Objective 1g – evaluate children’s literature for use in facilitating science learning. 
Objective 1h – articulate an increased confidence in their ability to design, deliver and integrate science instruction.

Goal 2 – Develop the capacity of parents to engage their children in science learning
experiences.  Parents will be able to:

Objective 2a – describe successful strategies for searching, selecting and participating in age appropriate science learning experiences for their family.

Objective 2b – describe strategies for enhancing the science learning of their children.

Selected Evidence of Project's Impact

The following article was released to area news organizations.
PNC Grow Up Great With Science
By Cindy Cusic Micco

Four-year-old Jessiah Lewis smiled broadly as he held up the milk carton filled with dirt and a garlic bulb he had planted. Next he opened his student science journal to the picture he had drawn to illustrate his idea of what the garlic would look like in 10 days.

Jessiah and his mother, Marie, were among  approximately 400 Head Start families from Fayette County who came to Ohiopyle State Park on Sept. 26 for a family field trip organized by a partnership between Cal U, Private Industry Council Head Start Programs, Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children and Ohiopyle State Park."

The event was made possible by a grant from PNC’s Grow Up Great With Science, an initiative to encourage preschoolers to learn about science. Cal U was awarded a $379,198 grant in July that it will use over the next two years to fund training for early childhood educators and provide hands-on outdoor activities for preschoolers and their parents.

The Ohiopyle State Park Education Center bustled with activity as preschoolers with their moms, dads, grandparents and siblings moved from station to station to learn nature activities that could easily be replicated at home.

 “A big old apple came from little seeds like that,” a barefoot Johnny Appleseed (portrayed by environmental education specialist Clyde Trout) told children as he held a large apple aloft and stretched out his other hand with seeds in it. His station was near the “All About Apples” exhibit where children could taste red, yellow and green apples and vote for their favorite apple color.

Outside, a press turned apples into cider at the “From Solid to Liquid” station.

The children carried their science journals to each station and were encouraged to write or draw something for each one they visited to enhance their abilities to make observations, pose scientific questions, and explain things they see.

 An accompanying guide for parents listed activities the family could do at home that would help the youngsters continue learning about plants, trees, dried fruits and nuts, grains, cows and goats.

“There is a tremendous need to enhance science learning in early childhood learners and teachers,” said  Dr. J. William Hug, an assistant professor of education in Cal U’s Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

Faculty and students from Cal U staffed the 17 stations along with Head Start teachers and PNC volunteers.

The preschoolers and their families were not the only ones who were learning. Cal U students who are studying to become teachers practiced their teaching skills at the family field trip event.  In addition, early childhood teachers gained new science teaching strategies through workshops and support thanks to the PNC Grow Up Great with Science grant project.

A few stations offered unique opportunities – that’s how four-year-old Legend Wells learned to milk a goat. Legend’s mother, Sabrina, said her daughter is used to being around animals because she takes her to zoos all the time.

“Anything we can do to help them grow and learn,” Sabrina Wells said. “Education is the key and it starts at home.”

Email message received from Cal U Early Childhood Education Major who taught at the Family Field Trip event.

10/2/09 - Saturday's event was so very fun and successful.  The children I interacted with were so ready to learn.  The parents seemed to enjoy themselves too.  They were able to put aside the outside world and watch the glimmer of learning grow in their child's eyes.  The experience will surely stay with them for many months to come.  I had a great reassurance of this fact on Sunday afternoon.

My husband and I, along with another couple were at a restaurant on Sunday for lunch.  I was making my way to the restroom when I saw two little girls wearing leaf-print shirts sitting with their family.  I was so excited to see those shirts which were made at one of the many stations on Saturday.  I stopped to talk with the family and wanted to share what was told to me.  The two little girls were so excited I recognized their shirts and happily talked about seeing the "great big cow" and making the t-shirts, as well as "squuuushing lemons."  I spoke to their mother and she told me that Saturday was the best day she has had with her children in a long time.  She was thrilled to see them learning so many new things and meeting so many new people.  It gave her great inspiration to repeat some of the activities at home.  She told me it was all she could do to make her little girls wait until Sunday to wear their t-shirts.  She told them they had to wait until they were dry and those little girls checked the shirts every ten minutes!  They wore them to church and were planning on wearing them to bed too.  The entire family told me they looked forward to the next event, and hoped for good weather!

Adrienne Day

Email message received from Cal U Faculty member who taught at the Family Field Trip event and observed Cal U Early Childhood majors in her classes use what they had learned from their involvement during their field placements in elementary schools around Southwestern Pennsylvania.

As you know, 30 or so early childhood/elementary teacher candidates from my classes volunteered to conduct activities with Head Start children and families at the GUGWS Family Field Trip at Ohiopyle State Park in September. I wanted to let you know that of the MANY of these beginning teachers have, since that time, been engaged in writing lesson plans and learning activities with young children that involve science concepts—particularly centering on plants and trees and observation using the 5 senses, which was the theme for the cycle this Fall.  It is so exciting that these teacher candidates are going out into the field feeling comfortable and inspired about teaching science—and doing hands-on activities with children in the schools!
Thanks for the experience you have provided these young people.
Clover Wright

Private Industry Council, Headstart of Fayette County Parent Newsletters

Parent Newsletter November 2009 Describes PNC Grow Up Great With Science grant and science activities for families.

Private Industry Council Headstart of Fayette County receives PA Center of Excellence Recognition.

Hearald Standard, December 16, 2009 by Angie Oravec

Local elected officials and representatives of social service agencies gathered Tuesday to congratulate Head Start/Early Head Start of Fayette County as a “Center of Excellence” on the state level.

Gov. Ed Rendell nominated the local program, thereby placing it in the running for $1 million in federal funds if among 10 Head Start agencies to be chosen at the national level.

The local Head Start/Early Head Start was one of five agencies chosen from across the state.

Rendell wrote in a Nov. 23 letter to Sandra Hall, director of Head Start/Early Head Start of Fayette County, that the nomination was awarded based on the program’s “innovative practices in delivering early education services as well as the ongoing partnership with the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning” in the required areas of quality improvement practices, sound partnerships, comprehensive programming, staff competency and participation in collaborative oversight systems through the Early Learning Council and its committees.

Hall said the work toward achieving a quality program began in 1994 when the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, which administers the Head Start/Early Head Start program, took over the program and made two major changes: requiring teachers to have a college degree and making sure facilities were not substandard. These changes helped to improve the quality of the program, said Hall.

According to Hall, if chosen at the national level, the local Head Start would receive $200,000 every year for up to five years. The money would help service families and children in Fayette County, she said.

Hall said being recognized for innovative practices in early education thrills her heart.

“We have tried to stay ahead of the curve and try anything new that comes down the pike,” she said, noting that the nomination also recognizes the Head Start facilities’ technology, including computer labs and Smart Boards, and parent involvement and safety practices.

Hall said the agency was among 15 finalists who competed for the governor’s award for excellence in safety, something unheard of for a first-year applicant in the Centers of Excellence program.

“Each one of these (recognitions) is a result of teamwork. …Each person fulfilling his or her own role, which includes planning and implementing …and ends with evaluating and revising,” Hall said.

Fayette County Commissioner Vince Zapotosky said Rendell “should be applauded for recognizing the excellence we have with PIC, Head Start and its partners.


“They’re advancing a generation… so this county will continue to grow and prosper,” Zapotosky said.

Fayette County Commissioner Vincent Vicites said PIC and Head Start have done “a fantastic job over the years. They’ve grown this program and deserve the respect… and they have gotten it.

“Children are the most important thing we have in our county and their early learning is paramount,” Vicites said. “It starts right here at this early level. … Continue to push forward because the end result is making a child’s life better on some level.”

Tim Yurcisin, president and chief executive officer of PIC, said he is “proud and humbled” that Rendell nominated the Head Start for the national award, a sign that he recognizes the high quality of the program.

“For years, we have felt that our Head Start program is one of the best kept secrets of Fayette County. Now, I think the governor just let the cat out of the bag,” Yurcisin said. “…We are hopeful to be one of the 10 programs to be selected at the federal level and appreciate the continued support of the state and local elected officials and the Fayette County community at large.”

Near the end of the program, Neal Christopher, legislative aide to state Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-South Union Township, presented Yurcisin with a citation from the state House of Representatives in recognition of the achievement and Head Start/Early Head Start’s “commitment to children and families in the area.”

PIC has administered the Head Start program since 1994 and the Early Head Start program since 1997. Head Start accommodates preschool-age children and Early Head Start serves pregnant women and children from birth up to three years of age. The program has 21 classrooms in 10 locations throughout the county and offers home-based services for pregnant women or families with young children.

Yurcisin said the recognition was possible through the work of a team and the support of a community.

Local social service agencies, post-secondary institutions, PNC Bank through its “Grow Up Great” initiative, local school districts and parents partnered with the program, he said.

“These relationships is what this recognition is all about,” Yurcisin said.




Last updated: June 7, 2013

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