Early Learners Need a Jump Start

By: Karen Lash

There is a sense of urgency shared by educators, business leaders, parents and the President to prepare our young children for elementary school. The research is clear: brain development happens the first five years of a child’s life, and those first five years lay the foundation for everything that follows—learning, behavior and physical and mental health. Unfortunately, many young children are two years or more behind their peers when they start kindergarten, especially disadvantaged children who face a lack of access to high-quality early learning programs.

Destination Imagination (DI) recognizes that it is time to be a loud voice for pre-K and elementary teachers and their early learners. This past May, more than 360 companies and business leaders in 44 states signed on to a letter endorsing the educational and economic benefits of high-quality early learning programs, especially for disadvantaged children. Major US companies are now publicly supporting early childhood programs and recognizing that investment now will pay off later with increased graduation rates, lower incarceration rates, higher income earning potential and a better educated and prepared workforce that allows the US to compete globally.

Most recently, the bi-partisan leadership of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Congressman George Miller (D-CA) and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. This bill aims to expand high-quality, full-day preschool programs for 4-year-olds from low and moderate income families while also providing new federal funding for high-quality early learning programs that support children from birth through age five and their families.

In 2012, Destination Imagination launched the STEM & Literacy Pathways for Early Learners program in the U.S. The program provides teachers with a framework which enables them to relate more effectively with young students while preparing them for elementary grades. The unique approach to support educational readiness in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and literacy is aimed at increasing the critical and creative thinking abilities in young children. Aligned with Common Core Standards, Pathways has proven strategies for teaching and learning STEM concepts. Thanks to the support of our valued partners: 3M, Motorola Solutions Foundation, IBM, CVS/pharmacy and the Caterpillar Foundation, Pathways will empower more than 14,000 children to embrace literacy and STEM concepts and explore STEM with real-world lessons.

Destination Imagination is committed to young children and advocates alongside educators and business leaders the critical need for quality early childhood education programs that expose kids to nurturing and rich learning environments, as well as programs that improve school readiness, improve young children’s health, and social-emotional competence and cognitive outcomes.

If you would like to be a part of this great moment in the promotion of early childhood learning, tell your congressman/congresswoman and senators to enact and fully fund the Strong Start for America’s Children Act…and remember to thank those elected officials who have already committed to supporting the bill!

All children have a fundamental right to a quality education, including our youngest learners.