Media Advisory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 23, 2019                                                                                        Contact:  Ellen M. Ganley, Director of Development  508 762-9807 
National Grid Foundation awards $15K to WCAC Head Start
Partnership with MA Audubon to bring science & nature into the classroom
D eborah Drew of National Grid Foundation joins Deb Cary from MA Audubon along with WCAC Chief Operating Officer Kerry Brennan and WCAC Board Chair Noreen Johnson Smith
Southbridge, Massachusetts - Worcester Community Action Council's Head Start program has been named the recipient of a $15,000 grant from the National Grid Foundation to support a science and nature curriculum in all of the agency's twelve classrooms. The initiative, i n collaboration with Massachusetts Audubon Broad Meadow Brook, will provide for multiple classroom visits and hands-on lessons at WCAC's Head Start center by MA Audubon staff, culminating with a field trip to the sanctuary for children to participate in a nature hike. Additionally the program will support the establishment of a community garden at the center, engaging students in the earliest stages of planting seeds to the growth and subsequent harvest of fruits grown in the garden.

"We are so very grateful to the National Grid Foundation for this support," said WCAC Executive Director Jill Dagilis. " We are thrilled to welcome MA Audubon staff into our classrooms to  capitalize on our youngsters' natural curiosity by encouraging exploration of the wonders of nature."

"We are pleased to team up with the Worcester Community Action Council to support its Head Start students as we work together to help combine learning and environmental stewardship, and improve the lives of young people," said Ed White, Executive Director, National Grid Foundation.  "We are continually looking for ways to help solve today's educational and environment challenges.  Our work with WCAC, along with MA Audubon Broad Meadow Brook, helps create opportunities to help solve those challenges and improve lives in our neighborhoods."

"Mass Audubon at Broad Meadow Brook is thrilled to partner with the WCAC," said Deb Cary, Director of Central Sanctuaries for Mass Audubon. "Early exposure to science concepts help lay foundational blocks that help students succeed as they get older.  We are excited to work with the preschoolers and their teachers so that we can model our hands-on inquiry based teaching methods."

The Science & Nature programming is intended to engage all of a child's senses , enhancing fine motor skills (scooping dirt into pots/handling a watering can), introducing scientific concepts (what will happen next after planting a seed?), teaching responsibility (needing to care/water plants daily), promoting caring for environment, math skills (measuring soil, counting seeds), and patience. 

The grant will also support eight hours of professional development for WCAC's Head Start teachers and staff, where MA Audubon staff will provide science and nature related lessons and classroom curriculum.

"When teachers are able to incorporate nature into a classroom the multiplier effect is powerful," noted WCAC Head Start Co-Director Kathleen Dow. "Hands-on, minds-on" nature based curricula are effective for students with a broad range of learning styles. Using the nature of the school yard and neighborhood as a learning resource offers students a way to connect with the world around them."

The establishment of a community garden will allow children to literally 'get their hands dirty' assisting with the creation of the garden from the early seed stage through care and nurturing of the garden to harvest. Lessons in healthy nutrition and the opportunity to try many new vegetables are endless and will enable teachers to expand the Cooking Matters curriculum presently shared with both children and their parents. Eating healthy food is vital for brain and body development but it can be hard at times to get kids to eat those fruits and veggies. By having them grow their own string beans, carrots and lettuce, they will have a sense of pride in eating what they have "created." This, in turn, will emphasize the importance of healthy eating.
About WCAC

Since 1965, the Worcester Community Action Council has served as the federally designated anti-poverty agency for central and southern Worcester County, with a mission of helping people move to economic self-sufficiency through programs, partnerships and advocacy.

Serving the City of Worcester and 45 neighboring communities of Auburn, Blackstone, Boylston, Brimfield, Brookfield, Charlton, Clinton, Douglas, Dudley, East Brookfield, Hardwick, Holden, Holland, Hopedale, Hubbardston, Grafton, Leicester, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Monson, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Northborough, Northbridge, Palmer, Oakham, Oxford, Paxton, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southbridge, Spencer, Sterling, Sturbridge, Sutton, Upton, Uxbridge, Wales, Warren, Webster, West Boylston, West Brookfield and Westborough.  
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