- An online resource that helps early educators bring children to local parks, a training model that aims to improve the quality of informal child-care settings, and a fleet of mobile innovation labs that increase children’s access to STEAM learning opportunities are among the nine winners of the Zaentz Early Education Innovation Challenge, based in the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
- The nine proposals — chosen from 15 finalists that pitched their ideas before an audience and a panel of judges on Monday — will receive funding to further develop their concepts, test them out in a pilot, or scale up existing models to serve more children, families and early-childhood educators. The challenge is part of the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative, funded by a $35.5 million donation from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation.
- The initiative "strives to be a leading connector for innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of early education," co-directors Nonie K. Lesaux, academic dean, and Stephanie M. Jones, education professor, said in a press release, adding that their "vision is to seed the field of early education with new ideas, fresh thinking, and strategic approaches that drive widespread transformation and improvement in the quality of early education, increasing opportunities and positive outcomes for all children."
Other winners include creating a "single point of entry" system to help families and caregivers find child-care options in their community, a leadership academy for center directors in Louisiana, and a program that recruits young men of color into the early-childhood profession.
Along with expectations that school districts and other public agencies offering early-childhood programs will use practices backed by a body of research, there have also been increasing calls in recent years for novel approaches to addressing gaps in services for children.
The Center on the Developing Child, also at Harvard University, has been supporting what it calls “a fast-cycle process of co-creation” that involves researchers, practitioners and community members working together to solve problems using scientific principles. “For us, innovation means taking risks, sharing results early, and learning quickly from ideas that don’t work,” according to the center’s website.