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Early Childhood Programs

Pennsylvania Early Childhood Education Healthy & Green Initiative 

MISSION

The mission of the PA ECE Healthy & Green Initiative is to promote environmental health improvements in Pennsylvania early learning programs, making facilities and programs healthier and less likely to negatively affect the health of children and early learning program staff. 

Find out more about the initiative.

PRIORITIES

The top priority of the initiative is to reduce the presence of environmental hazards and toxins that may be found indoors and/or on the grounds of early learning programs. 

The second priority of the initiative is to introduce developmentally appropriate early childhood education curricula in the areas of environment and ecology. 

Lastly, the initiative addresses conservation techniques that both promote environmental health and provide cost-saving opportunities for programs.

PROGRAM FUNDING

The PA ECE Healthy & Green Initiative is funded by the Heinz Endowments’ Children, Youth & Families (CY&F) program. The Heinz Endowments has a long-standing commitment to the quality care and education of young children in Pennsylvania. This initiative builds on an ongoing public-private partnership that will assist Pennsylvania early learning programs to become the nation’s environmentally healthiest early childhood programs. 

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

The first priority of the PA ECE Healthy & Green Initiative is to assist early childhood education programs in reducing and/or eliminating environmental health hazards that may exist in their facilities. Healthy childhood development is at the core of OCDEL’s mission; a child’s physical environment plays a critical role in that growth.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, young children have unique vulnerabilities to environmental hazards that may be found in their physical environments, including child care. A child’s exposure to certain environmental hazards has been shown to be the cause of, or be associated with, illness, disease, and cognitive and other developmental delays. 

Many of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' (DHS) Child Care Licensing Regulations address environmental health concerns in facilities by provider type: Centers, Group Homes, and Family Child Care Homes. However, in many instances the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics go beyond what is required by PA DHS. 

The PA ECE Healthy & Green Initiative encourages early learning programs in Pennsylvania to go beyond what is required by regulation and to implement additional research-based, best practices to further assure the health and safety of Pennsylvania’s children.

Environmental health is an emerging field and new information is released every day. The Eco-Healthy Child Care© program of the Children’s Environmental Health Network has been chosen as the primary tool for Pennsylvania early learning programs to use while making environmental health improvements in their programs. Eco-Healthy Child Care© is backed by the country’s leading experts in pediatric environmental health. It organizes the environmental health content into 16 easy-to-understand Fact Sheets (categories) and also offers a simple checklist programs can use to gauge their own progress towards becoming “eco-healthy”.

OCDEL has developed companion PA Reference Pages for Eco-Healthy Child Care to assist programs in understanding what is required by Pennsylvania child care regulations for each of the 16 Eco-Healthy Child Care© environmental health categories. These reference pages also offer a summary of the Caring for Our Children: National Health & Safety Performance Standards (3rd Edition) that relate to each environmental health category.

ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY EDUCATION

The second priority of the PA ECE Healthy & Green Initiative is to assist early childhood education programs in educating children about the natural world around them. Teaching young children about the environment is important because it helps children understand that by caring for and understanding their surroundings, they are also caring for themselves and understanding their place in this big world.

Pennsylvania early learning programs have expressed a strong interest in implementing quality, age-appropriate pre-K environmental education into their programming. Growing Up WILD and Project Learning Tree (PLT) have been selected as two supportive curriculum models as part of the PA ECE Healthy & Green Initiative for their age-appropriateness and the ease with which the lessons are aligned with the PA Early Learning Standards.

CONSERVATION

In an era of scarce resources, Pennsylvania early learning programs work very hard to maintain their commitment to quality care and education within tight budgetary restraints. Programs can save annual operating dollars through water and energy conservation and attention to the volume of disposable materials that are used every year. By conserving resources, child care programs can save precious operating dollars and at the same time positively impact the environment in Pennsylvania.

Throughout 2013, OCDEL will be examining several conservation methods which can be encouraged within Pennsylvania’s early learning programs.  Information will be released within the coming year.

 

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