1) What is your group’s background?
48% of children from low-income families do not start kindergarten ready to learn. For the last 130 years, Columbus Early Learning Centers (CELC) has been working to make affordable high-quality early learning and care more accessible to the children of Columbus. CELC’s two-generational approach to reducing poverty allows parents to work while their children participate in high-quality early learning that prepares them for kindergarten. CELC provides access in the highest need neighborhoods in our city, the Near East Side and Linden. In the past six months, CELC has doubled in size, and now operates four centers in these neighborhoods, serving 300 children aged six weeks to five years, many of whom live in poverty.
Many CELC families struggle to provide basic needs. As a result, extracurricular activities like dance or karate classes are simply not possible for our families. CELC works to provide access during the school day to programs like Momentum, a dance residency for school children. However, with the expansion of CELC in the last year and a tight budget from our arts organization partner, funding is stretched thin. CELC needs your help to bring this enriching program to all 300 of our deserving students.
2) Describe your project
The purpose of this project is to provide a music and movement piece to the early learning curriculum at CELC. Momentum, a dance programming organization in Columbus, provides four-week residencies to deliver an in-school program that uses movement, live music, and performance to expose children to necessary life skills, like self-discipline, teamwork, and striving for excellence. These are skills that are not otherwise enforced in most of our student’s lives and have the potential to be life-changing skills for our students that will stay with them long after they leave our classrooms for kindergarten.
The Momentum program is an extracurricular activity that adds to the CELC curriculum and enhances student learning. The research surrounding the importance of pre-k for children, especially children in poverty, agrees that access and attendance in a high-quality pre-k program is one of the highest indicators of later success in life. High-quality means that the program educates the whole child, not just to read and write and count, but to jump, dance, express themselves, and think creatively! CELC needs to provide this programming to our students so that they are ready for the challenges they will face later in life.
3) What is the goal for your project?
Our goal is to provide this project at all CELC centers for a consistent level of quality across all of our locations. By providing a consistent, high-quality program, CELC is working to reduce the effects of poverty in the lives of these young children. Americans for the Arts states that the arts provide the skills and knowledge students need to develop the creativity and determination necessary for success. Music and movement curriculum contributes to mathematical learning, and increases students’ level of physical activity, fighting childhood obesity. Music and movement activities also maintain muscle tissue, develop coordination skills, develop social skills, and teach students to express themselves. By having a Momentum residency in all CELC classrooms, we are providing them with educational experiences that contribute to their overall success in the future.
By instilling these skills and traits in CELC students, the program also benefits the city of Columbus. Children are our future, and an investment in them is an investment in the future of our city. Dollar for dollar, early childhood education has one of the highest returns on investment for the community. By providing early childhood education for children, communities see up to $17 returned for every dollar invested.
4) How much money do you need and what will you use it for?
Momentum works to provide realistic costs to the schools that they work with. To have residencies at each CELC center, the total cost will be roughly $6,000. With $1500 from a SOUP grant, we would be able to fund the Momentum residency at our Broad St. and Main St. location, providing dance instruction to 50 pre-k students; 85% of whom live below 200% of the federal poverty level.