Thursday, May 28, 2015

Early Learning Resources in NYC

An Exploration of the Arts

When it comes to early learning, art and creativity play an undeniably large part.

In 2005, a report by the Rand Corporation called "A Portrait of the Visual Arts", argues that art education not only provides a creative outlet, but it helps to connect students to the larger world, improving their community awareness and involvement. 

In 2006, a Guggenheim Museum study on art education showed a strong link between arts education and improved literacy skills. 

In 2009, the International Journal of Early Years Education, presented a research project in which they explored and found that knowledge of the arts not only helps children to refine other skills such as mathematical and reading skills, but it also aids in development.

There are so many studies similar to these that outline the importance of the arts in the development of young children. The wonderful thing about this is that it is easy to provide children with creative outlets. There are countless resources available to children and families, and there are some great ones here in NYC. 

1. Children's Museum of the Arts (Website

CMA has an established goal of making art accessible to all children. "Accessible" in this instance means that children have access to art as well as being physically able to engage with art. CMA takes a "hands-on" approach, believing that direct involvement allows for the best expression of creativity and learning.
The museum offers over 2000 pieces of children's artwork from all around the world, giving children the opportunity to broader their horizons and experience different cultures and ways of life. CMA also offers daily workshops, such as landscape drawing, after-school classes, summer day camps, private lessons and so much more. 

2. Children's Museum of Manhattan (Website)

Founded in 1973, CMOM has truly become the location where learning meets play. CMOM's goal is to help prepare children for school as well as to improve the social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth of young children.
CMOM offers a variety of exhibits, programs and performances that allow for children to freely explore their imaginations through play and discovery. They have a specifically tailored early education curriculum, a variety of workshops, and family programs such as "Eat, Sleep, Play" that helps to educate families on healthy lifestyle behaviors. CMOM is a collaboration of artists, musicians, dancers, actors, authors all with a shared goal of helping children to broaden their imagination and foster creativity. 

3. Brooklyn Children's Museum (Website)

Imagine a place where you never have to worry about your children getting their hands all over everything. At the Brooklyn Children's Museum, kids have the freedom to play, explore, touch and feel everything they discover. They even offer free hours on Thursdays from 3 to 5!
In workshops such as "Try Out Tuesday", kids can discover and learn about endless new things. The museum regularly offers a variety of programs and activity such as math activities, garden exhibits that encourage kids to appreciate nature, and animal, reptile and sea creature lessons. Their current exhibit is called "Pattern Wizardy", going on now through September 6th which allows kids to become wizards while learning and playing with patterns, exploring symmetry in 360-degree mirrors, creating musical patterns through rhythm and more. 

These are only a few of so many resources available to children in New York that make it possible for them to explore and expand their creativity. Check back for more resources! 


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Redirecting Education Reform Efforts

We recently came across a great article in the New York Times titled "Beyond Education Wars".

Nicholas Kristof talks about how the education reform movement has essentially peaked. Energy has started to run out, and he compares the movement to an exhausted battleground. His suggestion? Turn our energies where they can actually make a difference: Early Childhood Education. 

Kristof gives three reasons for his argument that we turn more education reform efforts towards children aged 0 to 5 rather than K-12 students.

1. Early childhood is a crucial period for brain development. This is the reason for many of our efforts as an early education nonprofit. Intervention for all children, and especially for high-risk children (children at risk of poverty, crime etc.) is the most effective in the earliest years. There are countless studies that show that early intervention produces better life outcomes - less crime, fewer teen pregnancies, higher graduation rates and higher incomes.

2. Kristof's second reason sounds surprising but makes a lot of sense. We, as a country, have been putting so much energy in K-12 education reform, but it seems we've made little progress. So Kristof suggests redirecting those efforts to early education. The idea is to prevent the problem before it starts. It is difficult, Kristof says, to work with teenagers and adults who are already developed. It is difficult to convince them to attend school. It is less of a challenge to provide opportunity for children aged 0 to 5. We need to start small, when it's still manageable.

3. The final reason for redirecting efforts to early education is that there are the greatest chances for progress in this area. Early childhood education is not politically polarized, which is not something we can say about many things in this country. Conservatives and liberals alike have embraced preschool. We need to take advantage of this rare situation.

There will always be battles, as Kristof points out, but our time, passion and energy will be more effectively spent on early education, where we may be able to actually achieve some common ground.

Learn more here about what the Helene Marks Early Start Foundation is doing for early childhood education.