Summer in the Woods highlights child care center’s five years of accomplishments

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On July 11, 2011, the Child Care Center at Hort Woods opened on the University Park Campus with a mission of providing high-quality child care and educational programs for the children of Penn State faculty and staff.

Since then, Hort Woods has evolved into a truly unique and very special place, where compassionate early childhood education and development professionals work, nurture and play in a one-of-a-kind environmentally responsible and resource-sustainable setting. 

On July 11, Hort Woods held its annual “Summer in the Woods” open house to commemorate its five-year anniversary and highlight its transition to University management, welcoming nearly 250 parents and Penn State executive administrators, including Finance and Business Senior Vice President David Gray, Provost Nick Jones and Human Resources Vice President Susan Basso.

Hort Woods, serving 180 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years at the corner of Park Avenue and Allen Road, transitioned from Bright Horizons’ management to University management on July 1. Both Hort Woods and the University managed Bennett Family Center, which serves 145 children ages 6 weeks to 6 years on the corner of Hastings and Bigler, are open year-round.

The families and University officials in attendance at Summer in the Woods had the opportunity to experience Hort Woods’ philosophy of incorporating natural resources into curriculum. Exhibits at the event included a mud kitchen, flower weaving exercise, open-ended art opportunities, bug explorations, an obstacle course and more, all highlighting the facility’s trademark environmentally sustainable approach.

The activities introduced features that make Horts Woods truly unique including – it’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification, awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

In 2013, Hort Woods became one of only a handful of child care centers in the world and the first building in the Penn State system to achieve the LEED Platinum Certification. The center incorporates many sustainable features, such as natural ventilation, the use of recycled materials, rain-water collection and reuse, and natural-day lighting to help conserve energy.

The building’s sustainable design inspires young children’s learning around the importance of conserving natural resources, and the center’s outdoor play spaces support children’s exploration of natural environments. Playground features include, extensive gardens, musical instruments, climbing rocks, interactive water features, and meandering pathways.

The two-floor, 23,000 square-foot building features a brick, copper and painted aluminum exterior, and three natural, outdoor learning environments that were designed to accommodate the center’s varying age groups.

The first floor includes five classrooms for infants and toddlers, shared and common spaces, a multipurpose area called the "imaginatrium," an atelier, a library, and outdoor patios. The second floor includes five classrooms for preschool children, family gathering areas, rooftop decks and library space.

Like many units at Penn State, the Child Care Center at Hort Woods doesn’t just perform its essential duties, but strives to be a national model of high-quality early childhood programming. The center is recognized in Pennsylvania for implementing the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) system. PBIS is a process for creating school environments that are more predictable and effective for achieving academic and social goals. PBIS schools apply a multi-tiered approach to prevention, using researched based guidance approaches and behavior analysis to develop school-wide, targeted and individualized interventions and supports to improve school climate for all students.

Beyond sustainability and serving as a safe and educational haven for the children of Penn State faculty, staff and students, Hort Woods plays an important role as a site for undergraduate and graduate training, education and research. This past year the center hosted over 150 students -- representing 10 academic units -- who spent over 9,000 hours in the center completing research, pre-service internship placements, and other class projects.

Licensed through the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Hort Woods is nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and maintains a STAR 4 quality-rating through the PA Keystone Stars Quality Rating System.

For more information on Hort Woods, visit the center’s website at

Last Updated August 11, 2016