Program at Kerr Elementary will give preschoolers a jump start in technology, science and reading

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Preschool children who register for the Fox Chapel Area Creativity and Literacy program will learn more than their ABCs in a classroom at Kerr Elementary.

The school district's program, in its second semester, targets technology, science and reading as foundations for life-long learning, Director Alison Francis said.

“We believe that hands-on experimentation gives students a base for success,” Francis said. “They will know that there are challenges in life, but they will feel confident to creatively work through to a solution.”

Registration for the Creativity and Literacy program opens Monday. Aimed at children ages 3 to 5, the one-hour classes are scheduled Tuesdays through Thursdays. The semester runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 23.

Francis said students will learn to create, communicate and collaborate. The school district used to run a literacy program in Sharpsburg for preschoolers; this is an expanded offering.

With the classroom full of tools to explore sounds, shapes and numbers, students might make a building of colorful blocks or run their fingers across different textures to create noises.

“It's all about thinking about what might happen and then seeing what actually happens,” Francis said.

The program is a unique way to get children and parents involved early in the learning process, district spokeswoman Bonnie Berzonski said.

“Programs that help children come to school more prepared and ready to learn can be so beneficial for early learners,” she said.

Francis said the hands-on emphasis drives creativity. “Parents are seeing how learning is not just about getting the answer. We have rich conversations with children about experimenting, and that sets them up to learn,” she said.

In its first semester last winter the program attracted 85 students, more than administration expected.

Classes were added and Francis said this year will start with eight sessions a week.

There are plans to supplement the curriculum with community partnerships, Francis said. Saturday Light Brigade, a public radio program, will bring storytelling while Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve will visit with feathered friends. Digital Dream Lab will bring its mix of gaming and technology to the students.

Francis, a former kindergarten teacher, said her goal for the program is to focus on design, science, technology, literacy and communication, so that students learn to use them simultaneously.

“The focus is on process over product as children explore,” she said. “We want them to learn that there is more than one way to reach success and we want them to be adept at problem-solving.”

To register for the program, call 412-696-1400.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, or at

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