An Overview of the Early Learning Lab

All children deserve the chance to grow, learn, and fulfill their potential to be creative thinkers and doers. Yet too many young children aren’t exposed to the engaging and enriching experiences they need from birth to age five that help them thrive and learn. The only way to close this opportunity gap is to invest in the adults that care for them.

What We Do

The Early Learning Lab supports the early childhood education field by identifying, developing and catalyzing the use of innovative tools, program design, and technologies to foster great caregiving and teaching of children from birth to age five. Our vision is to drive smart practices, solutions and systems to amplify early childhood learning:

  • Smart practices: We are laser-focused on the key skills and practices that parents, caregivers and teachers need to support children’s healthy development and learning.
  • Smart solutions: We identify and promote the large-scale adoption of the strategies and solutions that build these critical skills for great caregiving and teaching of young children.
  • Smart systems: We believe in moving beyond the limits of program replication and creating policy change that drives smart investments.

We Are Working at Three Levels

California Communities

Co-design and implement new approaches to accelerate learning and scale impact.

We act as an external catalyst and support for three California communities funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation through its Starting Smart and Strong Initiative. During the 10-year initiative, the Fresno, Santa Clara, and Oakland communities will act as laboratories for innovation as they test, develop and scale effective practice-building solutions.

Lab members work with school districts and other stakeholders to co-design and support implemention of testing and learning initiatives to identify effective strategies that improve teacher, parent and caregiver practice. We support shared learning in and across the three communities and partner with the communities to design for scale up-front, using existing delivery systems and channels to move towards the large-scale adoption of what works.

Early Childhood Field

Drive development and adoption of innovative solutions and technologies by connecting and activating early childhood doers, thinkers and funders.

Through the Lab’s Sandbox initiative, we seed and accelerate innovation for the field by bringing together researchers, program implementers, developers and designers and parents and teachers. We incubate new technology solutions, create tools and frameworks, and provide the capacity building needed to quicken the pace of change in the early childhood education field. The Big 5 Target Practices and Bright Spots of innovation are two tools we have developed, in partnership with leading early childhood researchers, to guide the work of the field. We are also building new networks and convening stakeholders to share best practices and create opportunities for cross-fertilization.

Federal, State and Local Policy

Create recommendations for policy and systems changes needed to support impact at scale.

We will synthesize what we learn in California communities and from others across the country as they work to create supportive policy and funding environments and use existing publically-funded program as channels for the widespread adoption of solutions that work. We will combine this bottom-up analysis with the engagement of leaders and policymakers to identify actionable policy changes that can be made at the local, state and federal levels.

A dynamic team that combines early childhood expertise with design and innovation capacities brings new tools and approaches to the table to advance high-value initiatives.

Catherine Atkin, Executive Director

Sheetal Singh, Design & Innovation Director

Kimberly Boller, Testing & Learning Director & Senior Fellow at Mathematica Policy Research

Chris Sciarrino, Workforce & Professional Development Director

Malena Herrera, Associate

Contact Us

  • 414 13th St. Suite 500, Oakland, CA 94612
  • 510-543-1773

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