Last spring, the Governor’s Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding made several bold recommendations on ways to provide more equitable access to high-quality early childhood care and education services in Illinois. One of those recommendations was to give grant funds to local early childhood collaborations to deepen their work and to jumpstart new local collaborations focused on strengthening those early childhood systems.
Fast forward to today, the Collaboration is honored to be one of the 20 early childhood collaborations chosen to advance this work in Illinois through an implementation grant.
The Collaboration for Early Childhood has teamed up with Wonder Works Children’s Museum to connect more families to early childhood resources and family support, and to amplify awareness around the benefits and availability of affordable preschool programs.
This is by no means the beginning of our strong partnership with Wonder Works. Wonder Works sits on our Parenting Resource Program Committee and they have adapted our Growing Gardeners Early Learning Curriculum for use in their campus garden. They have also provided their space for the community’s Early Childhood Resource Fair and Child Care Meet and Greet events, and they are a part of our Developmental Screening Project, serving as a community partner site that administers developmental screenings to young children with training and support from the Collaboration.
Wonder Works Children Museum’s mission is to spark curiosity and creativity in ALL young children through positive, play-based, creative learning experiences. In other words, we share their goals for young children which makes working together and building off each other’s strengths a great way to continue to positively impact our little ones and strengthen early childhood systems of support!
With the Birth to Five Implementation Grant, Wonder Works will serve as a “Family Engagement Hub,” to facilitate more connections to resources for families with young children who visit the Museum. The Museum will also become the centralized learning space for parent leadership training, monthly parent workshops, and professional development sessions for early learning professionals. A Family Engagement Partnership Coordinator will help manage all these moving pieces. They will be an important team member to both the Collaboration and Wonder Works staff, conducting outreach to families, making referrals, coordinating a training calendar, and project managing outreach events, among many other tasks.
As we move out of the pandemic into a place of healing and hope, and as we shift from virtual workshops to more in-person offerings, Wonder Works Children’s Museum will become an important physical space for our early learning community to find connection, growth and opportunity.
The strengthening of the Family Engagement Partnership Initiative as an outreach, education and referral hub is a key part of the system that we collectively seek to build.
It is our hope that this new initiative with the Wonder Works Children’s Museum will extend support to young children and families outside of Oak Park that come to the museum to learn and play. All of the services offered outside of Oak Park and River Forest will be new for us and we look forward to building new partnerships and sharing strengths across our borders.
Please stay tuned for updates as we develop this work!