AUBURN UNIVERSITY – A unique science-based learning module for infants and toddlers will be the focus of an upcoming conference held by Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences thanks to a gift from the PNC Foundation.
The learning module to provide training in science education will be launched at the annual Focus on Family Child Care conference, June 13-14, at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center in Auburn. The conference is part of Auburn’s Family Child Care Partnerships program, which trains Alabama’s licensed family child care providers.
In 2013, PNC became a presenting sponsor of the conference, increasing attendance by awarding scholarships to participants to defer the costs of travel, attendance and educational materials. PNC’s support also led to the implementation of new curriculum modules in science, math, art and music for more than 230 child care providers and parents.
This year nearly 700 infants and toddlers are expected to benefit from the $30,000 gift from the foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group Inc.
“PNC has a long history of investing in early childhood education through Grow Up Great, PNC’s $350 million program to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life,” said Jim Hansen, PNC regional president for Northern Alabama. “Our support for Auburn University’s Family Child Care Partnerships will help deliver access to high quality early learning for the underserved, which is at the heart of our mission. Investing in young children, their families and teachers is simply the right thing to do for our communities and for the economic health of our region.”
Since its inception in 2000, the Family Child Care Partnerships program has trained family child care providers to foster the healthy growth and development of the infants, toddlers and preschoolers in their care. The program utilizes an experienced corps of full-time mentors to work directly with family child care providers in the home setting during normal operating hours. Family Child Care Partnerships has focused especially on providing its services in underserved areas of the state. These providers typically reside in geographically isolated communities distant from traditional training locations.
To date, program mentors have provided services to 693 licensed providers and 475 family child care and group home assistants.
Executive Director Ellen Abell and Managing Director Ellaine Miller say it’s crucial for family child care providers to have the knowledge and skills to adequately promote a child’s education at the critical stage of brain development between birth and 3 years of age. “A sub-standard experience can inhibit brain development and delay a child’s readiness for school,” Miller said.
Science education and infant development are subjects in which few providers are well-informed, Miller said. To address the deficit in Alabama, Abell and Miller sought external funding to enhance its training opportunities.
As a result of participating in the project, providers will be able to see infants as “scientists” and subsequently offer new and/or improved science-based learning experiences for the children in their care. Experiences will include promoting inquiry, curiosity, problem-solving, critical thinking, trial and error, and research at developmentally appropriate levels. A companion “Science of the Brain” training series for mentors will be developed to equip them to provide professional, advanced-level support to providers who care for infants and toddlers.
Family Child Care Partnerships is the only training organization in the state that targets family child care exclusively. Family child care settings are privately owned, state-licensed enterprises offering paid caregiving services for children in the service provider’s own home. Through participation in FCCP, providers are also supported in achieving national accreditation through the National Association for Family Child Care. Currently 5 percent of family child care providers in Alabama are accredited, more than double the national average.
The program is externally funded through a competitive grant process by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. To learn more about the FCCP program and get updates about the 2014 conference, go to www.humsci.auburn.edu/fccp and like the group on Facebook.