Creative Garden, a Keystone STARS STAR 4 child care center in Punxsutawney, has been selected to receive a Keystone STARS “Bright Star” Award for the second quarter of the 2014-15 state fiscal year.
Erin Cameron, owner-director of the Star 4 Creative Garden Child Care Center with Christine Koss, her Stars manager.
The award will be presented at the center at 10 am, Feb. 27 by Elana Como, executive director of Northwest Regional Key to Quality Early Learning, through the Northwest Institute of Research, and Dr. Jocelyn Smrekar, from the Early Childhood Education faculty at Clarion University, co-sponsors of the award. Also invited were officials from the Punxsutawney Area School District, and staff and children at the center.
Owned and operated by Erin Cameron, Creative Garden was nominated for its appreciation and stewardship of the natural environment, based on its extensive outdoor play area. The area includes a vegetable garden where children learn about the importance of gardening, nurturing the environment and planting seedlings to produce food. It was also nominated for being a supportive, nurturing, child-friendly community, and for providing children and young people an opportunity to participate in community life.
Cameron, staff and children at the center have been involved in the Punxsutawney Area School District and with community activities. They do two fundraisers a year to cover the cost of “family days” which bring all their families and children together. They also support the Punxsutawney Community Center and the Salvation Army. If there is money left over from their “family days,” they then purchase new items for Creative Garden. The staff and children also walk six times a year to nearby Bell Township Elementary School to sit in on kindergarten classes, and have attended programs put on by the elementary students.
Creative Garden, a Star 4 child care center in Punxsutawney (Jefferson), was the recipient of the Bright Star award of excellence for the quarter two of the 2014-15 fiscal year. Participating in the award ceremony at the Feb. 27 presentation were (front, l-r): Christine Koss, STARS mgr.; Erin Cameron, Creative Garden owner-durector; and Dr. Jocelyn Smrekar, Clarion Univ. ECE professor. Back (l-r) are: Creative Garden teachers Jessie Butler, Elise Butler, volunteer Amiee Gruda, teachers Mindy McAfee, Theresa Manners and Loni Studebaker; Northwest Regional Key Exec. Dir. Elana Como; NWRK Community Partner Specialist John Pozza; Punxsutawney Area Elem. Principal Shari Weber; and Bell Township Elem. School Kindergarten Teacher Nicole Werwie.
Cameron previously operated a group child care in her home, adjacent to the center, and worked hard to raise money and obtain loans to construct the center. Creative Garden opened in 2011 and in less than three years earned a STAR 4 rating.
The Bright Star award is a quality recognition program for Keystone STARS sites within the 22 counties of the Northwest Regional Key (NWRK). Early learning and school-age programs that demonstrate exemplars of quality are nominated for the award. The sign(s) of quality must align with one or more of the Ten Pillars of a Good Childhood for 2012-2022, as adopted by the Association for Childhood Education International (www.acei.org).
The 10 pillars are as follows:
- Pillar 1: Safe places to live and learn, with access to health care, adequate clothing, and nutritious food
- Pillar 2: Strong families and consistent, loving caregivers
- Pillar 3: Social interactions and friendships
- Pillar 4: Creative play and physical activity
- Pillar 5: Appreciation and stewardship of the natural environment
- Pillar 6: Creative expression through music, dance, drama, and the other arts
- Pillar 7: Education that develops the full capacities of the child—cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and ethical
- Pillar 8: Supportive, nurturing, child-friendly communities
- Pillar 9: Growing independence and decision-making
- Pillar 10: Children and young people participating in community life
When a pillar of quality is observed, NWRK staff and consultants submit a nomination in writing to NWIR Leadership. At the end of each quarter the nominations are reviewed by leadership, who vote for the site most deserving.
Keystone STARS is an initiative of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to improve, support and recognize the continuous quality improvement efforts of early learning programs in Pennsylvania. The Keystone STARS Performance Standards provide the foundation for the program. The Performance Standards are grouped into four levels: STAR 1, STAR 2, STAR 3, and STAR 4. Each level builds on the previous level and utilizes research-based best practices to promote quality early learning environments and positive child outcomes. The standards address staff qualifications and professional development, the early learning program, partnerships with family and community, and leadership and management.
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