Foundation for Early Learning Launches Innovative Granting Program, Invests in Early Learning STEM Projects Throughout Washington State

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Foundation for Early Learning launches its first STEM cohort by investing in early learning STEM projects in Washington State.

We are so pleased to be launching this new initiative with such an outstanding array of projects representing communities from across the state.

The Foundation for Early Learning announced today that five Washington State organizations, have been selected to form the first of three cohorts under the Foundation's newly restructured, thematic granting strategy designed to foster innovation by service providers in the early learning field. Each organization will receive $35,000 to implement STEM related projects in their communities. “We are so pleased to be launching this new initiative with such an outstanding array of projects representing communities from across the state,” said Mark Crawford, FEL Executive Director. “Each project represents a creative approach to improving STEM readiness and the cohort structure will create tremendous opportunities for collaboration by the grantees as well.”

The Discoveries from the Field Fund supports community-driven themes that expand the community’s own understanding of early learning. The pilot funding program, launched earlier this year, focused on STEM, (science, technology, engineering and math) as its first theme. Research indicates that math skills, in particular, serve as a better predictor of long-term school success than literacy. According to Washington’s Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) data, fewer than half of children in Washington State are entering kindergarten prepared in math.

Funded organizations include the Kittitas Early Learning Coalition, which plans to host 12 culturally relevant STEM early learning events throughout their county, such as integrating dance and movement to teach its young children about wind and energy given that the area is famous for its windmills. Also selected is La Casa Hogar in Yakima which is seeking funding to incorporate STEM into its music program by first training parents and encouraging them incorporate activities at school and at home. Other grantees include: Woodland Park Zoo, Friends of the Everett Public Library, and the Chinese Information Services Center.

The cohort model was chosen to promote collaboration among peer organizations, with the intent of strengthening projects and securing more effective outcomes for early learning in Washington State. Grantees are expected to meet on a regular basis and to work in concert, benefiting from the Foundation’s decade-long tradition of working with communities. Each organization will be also eligible for a second round of funding based on outcome measurability and a third round of funding based on project scalability with the potential of receiving a total $85,000. We look forward to building healthy and vibrant new partnerships," said Susan Yang, the Foundation's Program Officer. "This is the type of collaboration that can benefit the field for years to come."

The thematic, cohort-based funding strategy will also allow the Foundation to invest in the early learning community, broadly, deeply and systematically in support of its mission of “finding and fostering kindergarten readiness opportunities in Washington State.” Inquiry and exploration are foundations for math and science, and are also the foundations for early learning in general.

About the Foundation for Early Learning
Founded in 2000, the Foundation for Early Learning grew out of Gov. Locke’s Commission on Early Learning and started with a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since then, it has played a key role in developing community-based initiatives and coalitions. In support of its mission of “finding and fostering opportunities for kindergarten readiness,” the Foundation also invested heavily in early learning services and networks. Earlier this year, the Foundation launched a new strategic vision, focusing its funding and outreach efforts on specific thematic content areas by investing in services and initiatives, originated in and by the early learning field, that improve young children’s lives. In May, the Foundation announced Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM) as its first theme and began a competitive process to award grants to community-based organizations. http://www.earlylearning.org

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