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United for Brownsville Launches Learning Landscapes in Brownsville

January 31, 2020 / SCO News

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Learning Landscapes Launches at Food Bazaar to Help Prepare Brownsville’s Youngest Children for Academic Success

United for Brownsville, a program of SCO Family of Services in partnership with Community Solutions, has teamed up with young families and local markets to launch Learning Landscapes, an initiative that turns grocery shopping into a learning adventure for parents, caregivers, and their children.

Learning Landscapes creates opportunities for meaningful interactions and parent-child engagement through friendly signage and graphics that encourage children to count, spell, and identify shapes, colors, and patterns while grocery shopping. Inspired by the Too Small to Fail initiative of the Clinton Foundation, the program was adapted and customized to represent the Brownsville community by tapping into the collective wisdom and lived experiences of local families who comprise United for Brownsville’s Family Advisory Board – right down to the program’s mascot, Blake, the Brownsville Bee, who was created by local designers.

Learning Landscapes helps families recognize their power to boost their children’s early brain development. Upon entering the supermarket, children and their parents receive a card with scavenger hunt instructions to facilitate conversations as they shop together. At checkout, children receive a congratulatory sticker from the cashier as a reward for their burgeoning curiosity – and detective work.   This unique experience, the first of many engagements to come, promotes early literacy in everyday activities and helps to prepare Brownsville’s children for a lifetime of success.

“United for Brownsville brings together local families alongside professionals who work with young children to plan and launch activities that improve the experience of infants and toddlers in the Brownsville community,” remarked Kassa Belay, Co-Director of United for Brownsville.  “Learning Landscapes, which transforms everyday activities like grocery shopping into moments for learning and bonding through simple conversational prompts, is one such example of the ingenuity and creativity that has for too long gone untapped in this part of Brooklyn. As with all our projects, families and other local stakeholders shaped every piece of this project from start to finish not only creating fun experiences for Brownsville’s youngest residents, but also shattering negative narratives regarding the ways in which this community values education and learning.”

On Thursday, January 30, 2020, a kick-off event was held at Food Bazaar in Brownsville with members of the Family Advisory Board and their children, as well as friends, government partners, supporters, and curious shoppers.

“It is inspiring to see a community-wide collaboration lift off,” said David Harrington, Co-Director of United for Brownsville.  “Learning Landscapes started with parents’ desires to extend learning beyond homes and schools and into the landscape of the neighborhood. This idea became a reality through partnerships with PACE University, Too Small to Fail, Bogopa/Food Bazaar, local designers, and dozens of individuals living and working in Brownsville. United for Brownsville is excited to continue building on this successful model for collaborative work as we transform the entire neighborhood into a place that celebrates Brownsville’s strengths, supports children’s language development, promotes bonding, and positions families for generations of success.”

United for Brownsville (UB) unites families and service providers around the shared goal of strengthening early childhood education in the community.  With a mission to improve outcomes for the 3,500 children under the age of three living in Brownsville, UB’s strength-based approach celebrates the vibrancy of the community, the diversity of its families, and fosters pride-in-place where people live and learn.

UB’s family-first approach to innovation recognizes that improving outcomes for children requires making space for families at the planning and decision-making tables. A Family Advisory Board (FAB) of mothers, fathers, and grandparents works hand-in-hand with a Provider Action Team (PAT) of education, health, and social services providers to jointly plan and execute projects that celebrate and strengthen the community. A Leadership Council of executives from agencies, nonprofits, and businesses at the forefront of early childhood development in New York City acts as an advisory group.

Funded through the generous support of the Robin Hood Fund for Early Learning (FUEL); The Sirus Fund, and the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation, Learning Landscapes is one of three interconnected projects launched by United for Brownsville over the past few months. Other projects include Books for Brownsville, a service provider training initiative; and the Family Co-op, in partnership with Scholastic, brings free, fun, and education-enriching weekend programming to underutilized spaces in Brownsville. For more information on United for Brownsville, please visit www.unitedforbrownsville.org.

Learn more about SCO’s work in Brownsville.

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