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Pa. program teaches finer points of caring for kids

November 05, 1998

CAHS programBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Aubrey Hammond held up three fingers to indicate her age.

When her brother Ian hesitated, Aubrey said he was the "same size." The same is true of Garrett, the other triplet, playing in another room at Chambersburg High School's nursery school.

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"I sort of dread the end of the year, because I'll have to say goodbye to them," said Jen McNaughton, 18, of Chambersburg. The senior is majoring in Family and Consumer Sciences at the high school.

"I get a rewarding feeling from seeing the smiles on their faces," she said of the Hammonds and about a dozen other nursery-school children.

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Four days a week, students learn the finer points of caring for youngsters between the ages of 3 and 5. In addition to participating in coloring and story time, they learn first aid and CPR.

"It's not just baby-sitting. It's planned activities," said Joanne Eyer, who chairs the Family and Consumer Sciences Department for the district.

The curriculum is approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare for Child Care Development and students receive certificates that can help them land jobs.

Today, courses include personal and family relationships, family nutrition, child development and family resource management.

There's also the nursery school/child-care course and a child-care internship. Eyer said about 20 of the 120 students taking the courses declare it as their major.

Six of the students majoring in the program work in the internship program from 9 a.m. to noon at the YMCA, a church nursery school, the Montessori school and at Head Start, Eyer said.

She said the program teaches parenting skills and can lead to a career in child care. Students have gone on to major in elementary education, or gotten jobs at nursery schools and day-care centers.

For parents who need an hour or so to themselves, the program can be a blessing. Eyer said the nursery school can handle up to 18 children and there are 20 on the waiting list.

The children spend time doing lessons, crafts, physical activity and eating snacks, and it's all free.

"Wow, you guys are fast," Billie Mills, 17, of Chambersburg, said as children colored and cut out turkeys.

Kimberly Denham, 5, said she'd cut off her turkey's beak, but Billie assured her it could be taped back on.

"My big interest is neonatals, working with babies," Mills said. She's shopping around for a college with the right courses.

"I'm looking at several colleges that have majors in early childhood education or family relationships," McNaughton said.

"One thing I've learned with little kids, you have to keep them active," she said as she corralled one active child.

"I just like to work with kids," said senior Donald Kelly, 18, of Chambersburg. As he was about to take the kids to the gym, he said he'd worked at a local summer camp for the past few summers.

Kelly wants to attend a culinary school and become a chef.

Eyer said Family and Consumer Science courses are required for middle school students, are an elective in the ninth grade and are an elective or major for high school students.

The department has six teachers at the three schools.

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