We’re off and running with the second installment of Play To Learn, a project of our Success By 6 program that works to bring engagement through early education to low-income families at accessible neighborhood locations. Over the course of four installments, the Play To Learn project will impact more than 200 families in Austin’s low-income communities.
Play To Learn is an eight-week parent education course that teaches parents of 2- and 3-year-olds how to help their children become school ready through interactive play that fosters brain development. UWATX created an enriching curriculum that allows children to interact with others and teaches parents about developmental milestones and age-appropriate expectations.
“One student wouldn’t speak at all when he was first introduced to Play To Learn. He was shy and didn’t want to participate in any of the programming,” said Kaley Horton, Success By 6 VISTA, who manages the project. “At the end of the first group, he stood in front of the class and counted to ten.”
The project is the latest effort funded by a generous million-dollar grant from Samsung Austin Semiconductor. The grant initially allowed UWATX to create a first-of-its-kind baseline that showed only 13 percent of children in Austin’s low-income communities were ready to start school, far lower than the 52 percent who are ready in Central Texas overall.
“Play To Learn encourages my daughter Jaelizza to step outside of her comfort zone,” said Esmeralda Martinez, parent participant. “Ever since she’s been in the program she wakes up excited to go to school and eager to be involved with her peers.”
Families that complete the eight-week program will also receive a Samsung galaxy tablet at the end to continue the learning beyond the classroom. To further encourage families to use their local library as a central resource, UWATX has partnered with local libraries to offer free Internet services for families that attend the library twice a month.
UWATX is also working with libraries to offer more bi-lingual story times for families who understand and use Spanish consistently. Through the Play To Learn project, UWATX is striving to break language barriers and stimulate community participation.
Throughout the four installments of the Play To Learn project, a research group from The University of Texas at Austin will prepare and compare results based on the previous and current curriculum. These results will help determine the best learning tools and details what components of the program were most effective in order to move the dial and help these children become school ready.