IUP's College of Education and Communications and the College of Health and Human Services received funding of $71,569, part of a $1.5-million grant from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's administration, to improve the quality of early childcare education.

The grant was announced on October 31 by Governor Wolf's office. IUP is one of 10 colleges and universities selected for funding through this initiative. The grant is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Human Services Office of Child Development and Early Learning and the Pennsylvania Department of Education Office of Postsecondary and Higher Education.

The grant will be used by universities and colleges and their project partners to design specific courses related to Pennsylvania's Learning Standards for Early Childhood Infant and Toddlers and Pre-Kindergarten; ECE subject matter focusing on infants and toddlers; and developing knowledge and skills for educating young children whose primary language is not English, are not part of the dominate culture, and children who have special needs or come from vulnerable populations.

IUP's funding will be used to design an infant–toddler certificate and preschool certificate for ECE professionals that focuses on the skills and knowledge needed to support children and their families. The grant will also help construct hybrid courses that combines face-to-face contact and technology-based instruction to support the needs of nontraditional students.

Co-project directors at IUP are Tricia Shelton, grant principal investigator (Professional Studies in Education), and Kalani Palmer (Family and Consumer Sciences Education).

“The grant is, in effect, seed money to get things in motion,” Palmer said. “It allows everyone to sit down and have the conversation about what these programs could look like and dig into the research to figure out issues and discuss how to address them.”

Shelton said that another goal for IUP faculty involved is sharing ideas and working together.

“One of the underlying goals is that we establish a sense of collaboration,” Shelton said. “Collaboration is happening here at IUP, collaboration is happening with IUP and community partners, collaboration is happening with some of the training centers and individuals who want to go into the field. There's lots of different points of collaboration, and we really want to provide a point where we can talk about these issues and have a conversation about how we can better support students.

“We want to find that balance between theory and practice,” she continued. “We know that all too often we get people in the field that are coming back to learn more, and we bombard them with theory that they can't see the relevancy in the classroom with what they're doing. We're going to look at the coursework and assignment and find balance between theory and practice.”

Specific goals for the grant include:

  • Develop two certificates: Infant/toddler and preschool/early childhood;

  • Articulation agreements with community colleges and other higher education institutes;

  • Investigating pathways for non-traditional students to come back to school to get a certificate;

  • Collaboration with community partners; and

  • Preparing faculty to work with students returning to school for certificates.