Planting a seed Preschool program aims to foster citizens of the Earth at an early age.

May 28, 1998

WHILE preschools concentrating on the ABCs and 123s have existed for decades, a Carroll County woman runs an early learning center with a specific goal: Teaching care for the environment.

In an age when ecology has become a prime concern, Barbara Weber began the Main Street Early Learning Center in Westminster several years ago to help give 3- to 5-year-olds an appreciation for conservation and recycling.

One of Ms. Weber's goals, she told The Sun's Donna Engle recently, is to "make them [the children] good citizens."

Many preschools promote sharing and other basic social skills; Ms. Weber also stresses the importance of learning about the world at large. She invites outside speakers, including foreign students on cultural exchange programs at local high schools. Visiting role models, female and male, help teach diversity.

Does such early learning pay off? Yes. Reports indicate that a recent drop in violence, teen pregnancy and drug use is a result not just to public service announcements and parental guidance, but also a solid educational foundation in the early childhood years.

These preschoolers are absorbing lessons, directly and indirectly, that have an impact on who they will become. Important as well is the concept of "citizenship," reinforced through other community programs, including the Boy and Girl Scout organizations, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and after-school activities such as the Police Athletic League.

Similar goals were envisioned by Congress and President John F. Kennedy when the Head Start program was launched in the 1960s. Although intended for families unable to afford early education, the same strategies apply today, especially with so many toddlers in preschool and day care programs.

Imaginative efforts such as Ms. Weber's help plant the seed of environmental awareness and interdependence for these children, ensuring success for them and, perhaps, for Mother Earth, too.

Pub Date: 5/28/98

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