PHILADELPHIA — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera and Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell participated in the grand opening of the first Head Start center in Philadelphia to use agriculture and environmental lessons for teaching science, technology, engineering and math concepts to young children.
The School District of Philadelphia welcomed Wolf Administration officials, local leaders and families to celebrate the opening of the Agricultural and Environmental Learning Center with Outdoor Engagement Learning Gardens. The Pratt Head Start Center facility, which serves 150 pre-school children, will become a model for the district’s other 100 Head Start facilities.
“Agriculture is the perfect medium to teach STEM skills. The school garden becomes a living laboratory, literally sowing the seeds for students to pursue careers ranging from food scientists to equipment service technicians to drone pilots,” Secretary Redding said. “Even if they don’t enter a STEM-related career, these children will have greater agricultural literacy and appreciation for the people who produce the food they eat.”
Researchers project that the agriculture and food industry will need more than 75,000 new workers to fill job openings during the next 10 years. The Outdoor Engagement Learning Gardens uses project-based, hands-on curriculum that provides 3- to 5-year-olds with basic concepts to apply in school and in life.
“At DEP, we believe that it’s never too early to show people how their choices can help — or hurt — our shared environment,” Secretary McDonnell said. “Young children will carry these lessons with them, act on them, and impart them to others. That’s why the Agricultural and Environmental Learning Center is such an important investment in the future of Philadelphia and across the commonwealth.”
Since Gov. Tom Wolf took office in 2015, more than $90 million have been invested in early childhood education. Earlier this year, Gov. Wolf announced that more than 3,100 additional Pennsylvania families will have access to high-quality early learning programs through the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program Grant Funding.
“Early childhood education programs provide the essential building blocks for Pennsylvania’s youngest learners to develop a passion for life-long learning, and prepares them for future academic success,” said Secretary Rivera. “Allowing students to participate in fun and interesting learning opportunities now, keeping them engaged and excited to learn, will only build on that future success.”
Pratt Head Start received a $20,000 grant through the Keep America Beautiful program, which is funded by Lowe’s Community Partners Grant Program. Since 2011, Lowe’s has supported Keep America Beautiful and its network of more than 620 state and community-based affiliates with more than $5.4 million in contributions and the support of Lowe’s Heroes employee volunteers. DEP is a supporter of the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful affiliate.
— Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture