Monday, November 23, 2009

Pittsburgh-Area Preschool Readies Children for a Diverse World; Staff Researching Conflict Management in Chinese, U.S. Classrooms

A growing preschool in the Pittsburgh region is preparing youngsters to live and learn in a global society. The Heart Prints Center for Early Education in Cranberry emphasizes cultural awareness and conflict management in a program designed to ready children for a lifetime of learning.

Heart Prints, located in the Regional Learning Alliance in the Cranberry Woods Office Park, stands apart from other early childhood education programs in that it embraces and celebrates diversity each and every day -- diversity in race and nationality; in special needs; and in the individual talents and interests of the children.

Teachers support each child’s individuality while also introducing the class to art techniques from around the world, music and literature of different cultures, foreign language and other experiences from the world beyond their front doors.

"At Heart Prints, we focus on more than the requirements for Kindergarten," says Heart Prints Executive Director Ellen Homitsky. "We believe in creating lifelong learners who enjoy learning, who are supported as they begin to learn how to express their needs and ideas while respecting the needs and ideas of others."

In support of their mission to support cultural awareness and conflict management, the Heart Prints staff are involved in an ongoing research project in conjunction with Carlow University and the All-China Women’s Federation to study conflict management in early childhood settings in the United States and China.

The All-China Women’s Federation is an organization that educates and serves women and families throughout China. Homitsky, who is an Adjunct Professor of Early Education at Carlow University, says researchers are preparing the study’s findings for publication and hope they will lead to a greater understanding of how to help children prepare to manage conflict as adults, especially conflicts between people of different cultures.

The Heart Prints staff traveled to China in October 2008 to visit schools and meet with their Chinese counterparts involved in the study. Students are already benefitting from what their teachers learned about China, through classroom explorations of art, language, music and literature. The research trip also supported a week-long summer camp where children studied several traditional forms of Chinese art and learned Chinese words and children’s games.

The Heart Prints school promotes early literacy and numeracy learning as well as the social and emotional aspects of early childhood development. The program incorporates several highly respected approaches to early childhood education that support and encourage creativity, imagination and problem-solving through the arts, sensory experiences and large and small motor activities.

Heart Prints opened in 2005 and quickly grew to its present enrollment of over 60 students. The school expanded into new space for the 2009-10 school year and is now offering a new K-Plus class for Kindergarten age students to enrich more traditional curriculum, as well as a Come Play With Me class for toddlers and their caregivers. Heart Prints offers full and half-day preschool, after-school enrichment classes and summer camps for children ages 3 to 6.

An open house and curriculum night are scheduled for Wednesday Dec. 2, 6-9 p.m. at the school, 850 Cranberry Woods Drive, Suite 1227, Cranberry Township, PA 16066. More information is available by calling 724-741-1008 or visiting www.cranberryheartprints.com.

- Kimberly Capozzi

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