Throughout the year, the Museum continued its work in the broader community, applying its expertise in informal learning to strengthening the capacity of libraries and museums as they support learning for young children. Highlights of this national and local work include:
Building a National Network of Museums and Libraries for School Readiness
Through the Building a National Network of Museums and Libraries for School Readiness project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Libraries Services (IMLS), the Museum is engaged in strengthening libraries’ and museums’ capacity to serve children and families in developing the skills needed to enter school prepared for success.
The Museum’s work focuses on providing technical assistance and capacity-building expertise to teams of children’s museums and libraries in their local communities. Initial steps included sharing the goals of the project, reviewing the phases of work involving state teams, discussing key activities and milestones that would occur throughout the project, and reviewing the evaluation component of the program.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the Museum adapted its work to engage with states virtually through individual state team monthly conference calls to provide individual technical assistance to the children’s museums and libraries as they engage in the first phase of the project which includes: reviewing programs and services within each partner institutions which could be shared, identifying target population to focus efforts, increasing access and opportunities, and identifying community partners they can collaborate with in these efforts.
Through a follow up webinar all participating organizations shared their re-opening plans including how they have shifted programs to a virtual format as well as way in which they are engaging in outreach and partnerships with community organizations to continue to reach families while their physical buildings are closed.
The project is currently working in the following states and cities:
Charleston, South Carolina
Children’s Museum of the Low Country
Charleston County Public Library
South Carolina State Library
Iowa Children’s Museum
Coralville Public Library
Lynn Meadows Discover Center
Harrison County Library System
Children’s Museum of Richmond
Richmond Public Library
Sante Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe Children’s Museum
Santa Fe Public Library
Strengthening Early Learning in Boston and Greater Boston
Working through a grant received from Boston Children’s (formerly Boston Children’s Hospital) for a project called Linking with Libraries: Opportunities for Early Learning through Family and Community Engagement, the Museum is applying its expertise in informal learning to collaborating with libraries, parent ambassadors, and community partners in providing families with resources that can support early learning. This includes under-resourced families, some recent immigrants, living in three Boston neighborhoods (East Boston, South Boston, and Mattapan), and Quincy, Watertown, and Brookline.
In both 2019 and 2020, the Museum engaged libraries in the participating communities to strengthen parents and caregivers ability to support very young children’s development and to build library capacity to offer early learning activities and enhance school readiness.
The Museum has organized and facilitated training, the hiring of parent ambassadors to support early informal learning, and the creation of learning materials such as STEAM kits for use by librarians and parent ambassadors with children 2-4 years of age. Challenged by the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Museum sought to re-calibrate the program’s priorities and strategy for delivering services given the closure of libraries. This work included assessing the viability of online learning, survey research and parent/caregiver feedback, and will inform the next steps for the project.