Early Learning in Unlikely Spaces: Shelters, Jails, & More


In their critical first years, every second of a child’s life is spent learning from their environment. For the millions of children affected by homelessness, incarceration and other hardships associated with poverty, that means an experience shaped by institutions that are often punitive and rarely consider their needs. If we’re serious about equity, we must take on these spaces’ role in early learning. Hear how creative programs are centering children in spaces routinely barren of resources and why philanthropy should be committed to creating positive environments for child development.

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  1. Environments where parents and children can engage in activities can combat the consequences of poverty and toxic stress on children’s development.
  2. Spaces like homeless shelters, public housing, and jail visitation often overlook children but can serve as spaces for incorporating learning equity.
  3. Scalable models for experiential learning, such as CMOM 3BH and MathTalk MathTrails, are ripe for philanthropy to elevate equitable learning.



Kelly Escobar, Director, Fund For Early Learning; Interim Managing Director, Early Childhood, Robin Hood Foundation

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