Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children
Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

We’re happy to welcome a new early education blog to town: The Birth Through Third Grade Learning Hub.

Learning Hub blogger David Jacobson travels around Massachusetts visiting the homes, centers, and classrooms where young children learn.

The impetus for the blog? For several years, it has been clear to Jacobson that communities were implementing new programs and practices without knowing what their neighbors were doing. The blog is a way to share these experiences among cities and towns.

Specifically, the blog “tracks, profiles, and analyzes Birth-Third initiatives with the aim of promoting learning, exchange, and knowledge-building across communities.”

Jacobson works at Cambridge Education, an educational consulting company, in two roles, as Professional Excellence Director and Early Years Lead.

His blog entries offer compelling, first-hand accounts, including this one from “The Boston K1DS Project: Implementing a New Curriculum in Community-Based Preschools”

“On a recent visit to the Paige Academy preschool in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, a group of students sit clustered on the rug in front of teacher Sister Paige. Sister Paige leads the students in counting up to 10, with the whole class yelling the even numbers and whispering the odd ones. After a follow-up activity with puzzle shapes, she transitions the group to centers. In one small group children play with letters, picking out the ones in their names. In another, four kids ‘read’ picture books. Sister Paige spends part of the time on a stool observing the children and taking notes on index cards.”

What has struck Jacobson the most as he’s done the blog?

“The efforts of the communities to have the biggest impact they can with a limited amount of funding,” he said during a recent interview.

Specifically, he points to Boston, Lowell, Pittsfield, Somerville, and Springfield. In 2012, these cities received Birth through Grade Three Alignment Partnership grants from the Department of Early Education and Care to deepen their early years work. The underlying funding comes from the federal Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge program.

A blog published in February called “Five Communities to Watch,” explains that these cities are “implementing a diverse range of promising strategies.”

“Three partnerships are led by school districts (Boston, Lowell, and Somerville), one by the local United Way (Pittsfield), and one by a preschool organization (Springfield).”

What can the communities learn from each other?

Jacobson points to:

– Boston’s developmentally appropriate curriculum and its use of literacy coaches who work with teachers

– Lowell’s efforts to span the birth-to-third-grade continuum and include family providers, center-based providers, and schools

– the breadth of Pittsfield’s literacy campaign and its openness to doing a strategic review

– Somerville’s efforts to improve communication between preschool program teachers and kindergarten teachers, and

– Springfield’s inclusive process of choosing a preschool curriculum that has included school districts and community based providers

To read more of these blogs click on the EEC Alignment Partnerships link in the categories column on the left hand side of the blog.

What’s coming next on the Learning Hub blog? A look at a community-based early education classroom that Jacobson visited at the East Boston YMCA. Jacobson will also blog about Somerville’s literacy coaching program for teachers, and about his recent experience going along with home visiting staff on their trips to serve families.

So bookmark the Learning Hub blog or click the blog’s brown “Follow” button to get email updates. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the birth through third grade continuum across Massachusetts.