Early Learning Newsletter | July 2021 | Summer Fun!


The U.S. Department of Education's Early Learning Newsletter

Summer Fun!

July 2021

Summer Fun: dad throwing daughter in the air

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In This Issue:

From the Directors

David Cantrell and Jamila Smith

Hello, Early Learning Leaders!

In July, we take time to enjoy fun summer activities. It is a great time to go outside and explore, spend time playing and socializing with family and friends, and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Summer provides many opportunities for early learning activities that keep young minds stimulated and increase children’s confidence as they work through challenges at their own pace, while promoting a love of learning, innovation, and creativity. Engaging in summer learning activities can also offer a more structured routine during lazy summer days, which can provide stability and security to young children and support them in being prepared when the school year resumes.

In this edition of “Early Learning,” you will find information about the use of funding provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021, as well as resources that support summer learning through fun and engaging activities. 

For our Voices From the Field blog, we interviewed Deborah Jackson, parent of Desmond Jackson, who shares her family’s journey from early intervention to the Paralympics. 

Thank you for reading "Early Learning"!

David Cantrell, Ph.D.
Delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the
Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and
Rehabilitative Services

Jamila Smith
Director, Innovation and Early Learning Programs
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education


Project Spotlight

Operation Investigation

Summer Science Fun

Twin Cities Public Television, a recipient of a Department-funded Ready to Learn Programming grant and creators of the Hero Elementary show, has launched a new website for games and learning activities that can be used this summer to help young children learn about science. Be sure to check out Operation Investigation, a free family science app, where children can use their science superpowers with the characters of Hero Elementary. Educators and families can find additional free resources at PBS Learning Media and PBS KIDS for Parents.


Early Learning Updates

Department of Education Logo

FAQ on the ESSER Fund

The Department recently released guidance to answer frequently asked questions about how funding under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, including the American Rescue Plan ESSER program, and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund may be used in response to the impact of the pandemic on children, including young children and children with disabilities. 


Voices From the Field

Desmond Jackson

A Family’s Journey

We recently interviewed Deborah Jackson, who shares her son’s journey from early intervention to the Paralympics. We invite you to read the full interview on the OSERS blog.


This Month’s Recommended Resources

Logo: 21st Century Community Learning Centers - Soaring beyond Expectations

Summer Symposium on After-school Programs

The Department has opened registration for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant Program 2021 Virtual Summer Symposium. This free three-day event, held from July 20-22, will offer State educational agencies, their grantees, and other interested parties strategies in implementing and managing all components of the program. The Symposiums' sessions are a combination of large-group presentations with nationally recognized speakers and smaller interactive workshops where attendees will have the chance to work closely with education experts.

Girls reading in the grass

A Playground of Literacy Resources!

The Department-funded National Center on Improving Literacy has resources galore to support children’s literacy development. The Kid Zone! is a place where children can build literacy skills in a fun and interactive way. The website also has a section for families on supporting children’s literacy at home, including recommended websites, downloads, videos, and activities. Also check out the implementation tool kits, which provide practical strategies for families and teachers on implementing recommended literacy practices.

Family sitting at the kitchen

Setting Expectations

Learning to follow rules helps children be successful in early childhood programs. The Department-funded National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations released a tip sheet, a scripted story, and sample posters that families can use at home to teach children about expectations and following rules.

Office of Child Care (OCC) logo

American Rescue Plan Guidance for Child Care

The Office of Child Care, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has released a document that provides an overview and guidance on the use of funds made available through the ARP Act. The guidance is designed to help states, territories, and tribes understand the specific requirements included in the ARP Act to identify opportunities to leverage ARP resources to build a better child care system and help more families afford child care.

Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative

Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative

The Department-funded National Comprehensive Center is hosting a Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative, a professional learning community that supports partnerships among states, school districts, and other organizations to provide summer programs that ignite a love for learning, exploration, and enjoyment for students, particularly those most impacted by the pandemic. The Collaborative is hosting working sessions throughout the summer to offer practical tools, strategies, and opportunities for peer sharing. Join the next working session on Thursday, July 8 from 3:00 to 5:00pm EDT. Future Collaborative sessions are scheduled for July 22 and Aug. 12. Sign up to receive updates and registration information here.


Featured Webinars

Mother and child

In Pursuit of Equity Webinar Series

Please join the Department-funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center and the Division for Early Childhood as they host various experts in the field of early childhood special education and early intervention in discussions about disrupting the pervasive inequities of early childhood systems. The next webinar in the series, The ABCs of Anti-Racist Early Intervention, will be held on July 23 from 12:00-1:30 PM ET. Sessions will be offered live and recorded, and access is available to the full set of archived sessions.

Summertime STEM

Summertime Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

The Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education recently hosted a webinar on Summertime Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Summertime learning can be a fun and rewarding experience for children and educators. The webinar discussed the benefits of summertime STEM learning and shared evidenced-based resources and best practices that can be implemented in communities.


Funding Opportunities

IES logo

Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education

The Department’s Institute of Education SciencesNational Center for Special Education Research has released a funding announcement for fiscal year 2022. The Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education seeks to address the urgent challenges districts and schools face in supporting children with or at risk for disabilities, their teachers, and their families in the aftermath of the pandemic. Grants will support research that is directly related to a pandemic-related problem, issue, or intervention (program, policies, practices); has the potential to significantly and rapidly improve outcomes for children with or at risk for disabilities; and will provide actionable and timely results to districts and schools.

There are two deadlines for this competition, Aug. 2 and Sept. 9.

logo - Administration for Children & Families (ACF)

Coordinated Evaluations of Child Care and Development Fund Policies and Initiatives

HHS-ACF is accepting applications for a 2021 funding opportunity: Coordinated Evaluations of Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Policies and Initiatives. The grant supports partnerships between CCDF lead agencies and researchers to develop rigorous, policy-relevant evaluations testing child care subsidy policies designed to increase low-income families’ access to high-quality child care. Sponsored projects will evaluate policies and practices related to setting and implementing subsidy payment rates and/or family copayments.

The application deadline is July 20.

National Science Foundation

Projects Addressing Systemic Racism in STEM

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) is soliciting applications for bold, groundbreaking, and potentially transformative projects addressing systemic racism in STEM. Contexts may include, but are not limited to, preK-12, two- and four-year undergraduate, and graduate institutions; municipal organizations; STEM workplaces; and informal STEM contexts, such as museums, community organizations, and media.

Full proposals are due July 13 and Oct. 12, 2021, and March 22, 2022


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Check out more early learning stories, including "Voices From the Field" posts, on OSERS Blog.