Giving Compass' Take:

• Helen Shwe Hadani and Jennifer S. Vey look at re-imagining learning spaces in public to bridge equity gaps in children's education, especially during COVID-19.

• How could we figure out ways to re-imagine learning in places where children spend the majority of their time? How does COVID present a perfect opportunity to do so? What are you doing to address educational inequities during the pandemic?

• Read more about the benefits of re-imagining learning spaces, even before the pandemic hit.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of daily life, but presents an added burden on children and families. Closures of schools and child care facilities have had dramatic impacts on the lives of children and put a strain on caregivers to meet children’s developmental needs at home. These cascading effects of the pandemic are widespread, but are disproportionately affecting families living in communities challenged by decades of discrimination and disinvestment—and are very likely to widen already existing educational equity gaps in worrisome ways.

Policymakers and educational leaders have invested most of their time and resources on top-down reforms to improve access to and quality of formal learning spaces. This is particularly true for children in under-resourced communities, who may have limited access to music lessons, summer camps, children’s museums, and other educational activities and environments outside of school. Given what we know about the importance of healthy and positive child-caregiver interactions for child development and the long-term effects of quality early learning experiences on economic mobility, this puts these children at a significant disadvantage relative to their higher income peers.

As cities and regions look to “build back better” in the wake of COVID-19, it is imperative that they consider a far more holistic approach to child development that addresses the inequities in our current systems. This means supporting new and creative ways to foster and sustain learning beyond the classroom, including in public spaces where children spend time waiting—like bus stops or laundromats—or go on a regular basis to purchase food and other essentials. One innovative approach to bringing education into the public realm is through playful learning—child-directed activities that often include learning goals initiated or designed by an adult.

Read the full article about re-imagining learning spaces by Helen Shwe Hadani and Jennifer S. Vey at Brookings.