William Penn Foundation Awards $1.6 Million for Early Learning Program

William Penn Foundation Awards $1.6 Million for Early Learning Program

The William Penn Foundation has announced grants totaling $1.6 million in support of nine Informal Learning Initiative partnerships and programs.

Launched in 2017, the initiative pairs a Philadelphia-based cultural institution with at least one community-based nonprofit to design learning opportunities that engage children and their caregivers in creative play and discovery, with the aim of developing children's vocabulary, oral language, and writing and comprehension skills. Participants in Phase I of the initiative found that the experience broadened their reach and helped them develop new programming for young children and families in partner communities. The nine programs in Phase II (many of which received funding in Phase I) are expected to serve at least twenty-three hundred children over the next three years.

Partnerships and programs in Phase II include the Barnes Foundation and Puentes de Salud, which will use it grant to offer Puentes a las Artes (Bridges to the Arts), a bilingual art-based program, to families in southeast Philadelphia; the National Liberty Museum and the Salvation Army Kroc Center, which will develop a free social-emotional development program called Big Ideas for Little Learners for three hundred children between the ages of 3 and 8 in North Philadelphia; and the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial and Sunrise of Philadelphia, which will offer Our Stories, an art-based family literacy program focused on oral and visual traditions, to more than two hundred kids between the ages of 5 and 8 in southeast Philadelphia. 

"Children begin to learn from the very first days of their lives, years before the first day of kindergarten," said Great Learning Program director Elliot Weinbaum. "When we launched the Informal Learning Initiative two years ago, many of the partnerships were brand new and cultural institutions and community groups were learning to work together. We wanted to create more free and accessible high-quality early learning opportunities outside of a traditional classroom and bring the unparalleled assets of Philadelphia’s cultural sector directly to our neighborhoods. Now, we know these programs and community partnerships can be successful in Philadelphia, and we want to see them continue to grow and establish themselves as part of our city’s early learning landscape."