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Mobile Classroom Coming To Houston Neighborhoods This Fall

The nonprofit Collaborative for Children is bringing interactive learning directly to select Houston neighborhoods this fall with the introduction of its Collab-Lab.

The first-of-its-kind mobile classroom is designed to captivate little learners (ages 3-5) while being convenient for their families, all at no extra cost.

Acres Homes, Galena Park, and North Houston will be the first to welcome the Collab-Lab.

This innovative initiative brings project and play-based curriculum together to reflect the changing needs of early childhood education. Modern learning recognizes that emotional intelligence skills are inextricably intertwined with cognitive skills, suggesting that executive function and social emotional learning skills should be taught alongside traditional academic areas such as literacy, math, and science.

Collab-Lab was created with this new model in mind. It also touts the benefit of involving the parent or essential caregiver in the process — this is what the dual-generation approach to learning is all about.

“We recognized that traditional early learning models needed to be transformed,” says Dr. Melanie Johnson, president and CEO of Collaborative for Children. “The recent pandemic has shone an even greater light on the importance of creating equitable, quality early learning opportunities for our youngest citizens.

“Students have fallen behind, many of whom didn’t have quality early learning opportunities to begin with because Houston is fraught with child care deserts. We’re leading the way to make sure that no child falls through the cracks, no matter the external circumstances,” continues Dr. Johnson. “We see the urgency of this issue as vital to Houston’s future economic growth. That’s the reason we developed the Collab-Lab, to help change the trajectory for our community.”

Collaborative for Children has been at the forefront of early childhood education for more than 34 years. But the Collab-Lab is part of its most determined attempt to reshape early learning and child outcomes as part of an overarching new strategic plan, which included developing its own proprietary “I Wonder!” curriculum for the Collab-Lab: an innovative, project- and play-based curriculum that utilizes 21st century learning focused on creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving.

On board the Collab-Lab — which is set to a backdrop of Houston’s diverse neighborhoods and illustrated in bright, colorful murals like a grocery, bank, space lab, and more — children and parents will learn and develop skills to prepare for kindergarten and an unknown future that awaits by:

  • Practicing literacy, math, and science activities
  • Learning how to help a child manage their emotions and build social skills
  • Continue learning at home with real-world extensions
  • Connecting families with community partners and helpful community resources

Programming themes revolve around five core units that correspond to the attributes of the Collab Kid: a global learner, an innovative creator, a leader, a digital learner, and a problem solver.

Working with family specialists and a family member, each child will explore hands-on activities and topics like A Community of People, Loose Parts Coding, Lego Symmetry, and Perfectly Me, all designed to build on a child’s natural curiosity about their world.

In addition to theme-based activities, children will also engage in skill-based and open-ended activities related to school readiness as set forth by Texas Pre-Kindergarten guidelines. Each group of children and families will spend four exciting months on the Collab Lab, beginning in January 2022.

Dr. Kimberly Agnew Borders, chief programs officer for Collaborative for Children, explains that “early cognitive development shows that the developing mind is astonishingly competent, active, and insightful from a very early age. For children to be fully engaged in learning, they must develop a set of mental skills called executive function, which include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control.”

Dr. Borders points out that without developing these skills at an early age, children are less likely to be able to focus, follow directions, or handle emotions.

“That’s why we’ve spent so much time developing our curriculum, so we can tap into the incredible agility of the young mind, ensuring that both academics and critical social/emotional skills are taught hand in hand to give children the best shot at being ready for kindergarten and for life,” she says.

Initially, Collab-Lab will serve several established area communities, but is available to come to other neighborhoods by request. Visit the website or contact mobileeducation@collabforchildren.org for more information.

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