In 2010, in partnership with AEP, Action for Children created a science centered learning experience for young children. Adventures in Science guidebooks and learning kits were designed to encourage brain development by nurturing children’s natural curiosity through play. Tucked away in a modest blue backpack are a few books, various tools, and endless possibilities for growth. Once developed, these kits were distributed to nearly 1,200 low-income families throughout seven counties in Central Ohio including Franklin and Delaware County. With AEP’s support Action for Children managed to touch the lives of even the most disadvantaged youth.

As 2012 was coming to an end our team member, Laura Julian, was creating new beginnings for disadvantaged kids. Together, she and her husband, traveled through Indiana and Michigan to deliver science kits to six different centers. By the end of their journey they had given away over 2,200 backpacks to kids in need.

Incredibly, 85% of human brain development happens before the age of five. For children, the years before they start kindergarten are especially crucial. At this stage their potential for learning is higher than it will ever be. The United States is one of the lowest ranking developing countries in math and science. At AfC, we understand that if we can reach a child at such an important point in their development and establish a foundational interest in science and math, we can make a real difference. The facts about early learning are clear. There is a need out there and these simple, yet intelligently designed backpacks fill that need.

Earlier this week my associates and I moved around 200 backpacks from our storage space to our home office. By the time the unpacking, loading, and unloading was finally finished I would have been happy never seeing a blue backpack again.  Of course when I was asked to write a piece on these science kits I knew I would have to get to know them more personally. I dragged my feet, sluggishly, down the steps, grabbed a backpack, and then returned to my office. Upon opening it I quickly realized just how full these kits really were. They are filled to the brim with tools and activities for infants, toddlers, and preschool age children. The detail and care that went into choosing each item and book is incredible! So I unpacked the kit and began to play.

I played for a lot longer than I had expected. Work began piling up on my desk and if it weren’t for HootSuite, Facebook would have never been updated. In the midst of playing with magnets and puzzles I realized something. These kits are appealing to both children and adults. Not only are kids being given an opportunity to learn and explore their curiosities but these activities allow parents to bond with their children. Although originally targeted towards low-income families, I can see now that this is something that every child could truly benefit from. Low test scores in science and math are a problem for our entire country, regardless of where you live or where you go to school. Presenting children with activities which encourage wonder and connection in a way that is supported by parent involvement is an absolute recipe for success.

For 2013 we would like to have the ability to distribute even more backpacks to children. If, however, we do not have the means to produce more backpacks than hopefully we can at least perpetuate the idea behind them. Simple concepts like counting, identifying colors and shapes, and even teaching your child how to use measuring cups and then asking for their help in the kitchen are great ways to get them started. Most people who don’t enjoy science and math don’t because they never learned how to. A love for calculating and a wonder of the world doesn’t flourish often because it wasn’t ever given the chance. As parents, become your child’s greatest teacher. Offer support to their growth and development by providing opportunities to learn. Children are our greatest resource and the future depends on their ability to live their potential.

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