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Verbatim: PNC Foundation grant aids preschool science education

Statement issued Tuesday:

FORT WAYNE, Indiana, June 29, 2010 – The PNC Foundation announced today a $50,000, two-year grant to Science Central to enhance science education for Fort Wayne’s preschoolers. The grant is part of a $100,000 commitment by the PNC Foundation, which receives its primary funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, to four local organizations to support school readiness through increased interest in science, literacy and nature appreciation.

The program signifies the first major investment the PNC Foundation has made in the Fort Wayne area through its signature philanthropic initiative, Grow Up Great, a 10-year, $100 million bilingual initiative to improve early childhood education.

Speaking on behalf of the PNC Foundation, Mike Eikenberry, PNC’s regional president for northeast Indiana said, “Research has shown that children who are ready for kindergarten are far more likely to experience greater educational achievements, strive toward higher vocational aspirations and contribute to society later in life. The investment in Science Central programs will help establish a needed foundation in science for local children.”

The new initiative will introduce Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS), developed by University of California, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, to approximately 577 children in 36 Community Action of Northeast Indiana (CANI) Head Start sites. It will also enable teacher development training in inquiry-based techniques that promote cognitive and behavioral learning. Finally, parents and guardians will be encouraged to participate in their children’s science learning both at home and through Family Memberships for each student to Science Central.

“Today we’ve got the kids participating in our GEMS activities around Science Central, some of the same ones they’ll be doing in their classrooms,” said Martin Fisher, executive director of Science Central. “I’ve seen these programs make learning about science contagious.”

As a part of the $100,000 PNC Grow Up Great initiative, other grant recipients include:

  • Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, which will receive a $20,000 two-year grant to deliver programming to 700 students at CANI Head Start and Martin Luther King Montessori School. Zoo staff will visit classrooms with live animals and conduct hands-on activities, as well as provide teacher training for programs developed by the Council for Environmental Education and the American Forest Foundation. Children will take part in field trips to the zoo, where families also will be invited to annual education events.
  • Early Childhood Alliance, which will receive $20,000 for the Book Buddies program for Burmese families with young children. The program helps parents learn how to promote their child’s growth in early literacy through hands-on activities, gifts of books and strategies they can use at home. Fort Wayne has the largest Burmese population in the U.S. with 5,000 refugees settled in the city.
  • Martin Luther King Montessori School, which will receive $10,000 to develop the Wonderful World of Science project, which introduces students to science in the areas of botany, zoology and earth sciences.

Jim Anderson, executive director, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo; Madeliene Baker, executive director of Early Childhood Alliance; and Bobbie Golani, executive director of Martin Luther King Montessori Schools joined Fisher and Eikenberry for today’s announcement at the Science Central, where the executives, PNC employees and 20 local preschool children experienced the new Science Central programming firsthand. Approximately 1,000 children and their families enrolled in Head Start programs throughout Fort Wayne and Martin Luther King Montessori Schools are expected to be served by the program.

As part of today’s program, Eikenberry presented a gift of 1,000 “Happy, Healthy, Ready for School – Learning Is Everywhere” kits to the Martin Luther King Montessori School, Early Childhood Alliance, and CANI Head Start for each child in their pre-k programs. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, created the bilingual, multimedia kits for PNC Grow Up Great as part of a continuing partnership. The kits include a magazine for parents and caregivers, a children’s activity book and cards, along with an original Sesame Street DVD.

Learning is Everywhere materials are available at no charge at all PNC Bank branches, pncgrowupgreat.com, and sesameworkshop.org. The video is available free of charge on Learn Along with Sesame on iTunes (www.iTunes.com) and Amazon VOD.

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (NYSE: PNC), actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through its signature cause, Grow Up Great, PNC has created a 10-year, $100 million initiative to enhance early childhood education and school readiness.

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