CINCINNATI -- A traveling exhibit that makes frequent stops in communities across Greater Cincinnati is wrapping up a successful season of transforming preschoolers into pint-sized ballerinas, astronauts and veterinarians and their parents into early childhood educators.
It’s called the Mobile Learning Adventure. While it looks a little like a traveling circus, it’s actually an educational exhibit that allows parents and their young children to engage in hands-on, interactive activities aimed at improving kindergarten readiness.
The early childhood education outreach program is part of PNC Grow Up Great, a bilingual initiative that began in 2004 to help prepare young children for success in school and life. The initiative is the PNC Foundation’s signature cause.
“It engages kids in what we like to call 'sneaky learning.' They’re learning through play,” said Dale Kozma, a senior vice president and community relations director at PNC Bank. “Additionally, parents and caregivers are provided with unique resources and tools they can use to create early learning opportunities for their children at home.”
PNC has partnered with a long list of organizations, including Head Start, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and local museums and public library systems. The exhibit travels from spring through autumn each year and makes stops throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky at community events, festivals and partner sites.
The exhibit is housed in two bright orange tents. The children progress through five activity stations that include touch screen kiosks and even a career exploration photo station (complete with tiny costumes and a souvenir photo opportunity).
The Erlanger-Elsmere School District received its first visit from the Mobile Learning Adventure on Tuesday. In the span of about six hours, more than 300 children -- and their parents and caregivers -- went through the exhibit at Arnett Elementary School.
“We received a lot of positive feedback,” said superintendent Kathy Burkhardt. “It’s fun for the kids to play and dress up -- and it's a great resource for parents because it’s all about turning everyday activities into learning activities.”
The activities are aimed at kids ages 2-5. That’s a critical time for brain development, according to Burkhardt.
“About 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs by age 5,” she explained. “Age-appropriate learning opportunities are so important long before children start kindergarten.”
Improving kindergarten readiness is a big goal for local school districts on both sides of the Ohio River.
In Erlanger-Elsmere, the district has launched a variety of initiatives in an effort to get more of its kindergartners ready to start school, including a preschool for children beyond those who qualify for state-funded programs and a summer program for incoming kindergartners. Its schools also host United Way Born Learning programs, which offer early childhood education resources to families.
“This program fits in really well with some of the other things we’ve been doing,” Burkhardt said of the Mobile Learning Adventure. “It’s an additional resource that allows us to reach more children.”
The Boone County Public Library also sees the Mobile Learning Adventure as an additional tool in its early childhood education toolbox.
“One of our goals here at the library is providing parents with practical tips and resources they can use at home to help educate their children,” said Amanda Hopper, the library system’s assistant director. “Hosting the Mobile Learning Adventure is a fun way to do that.”
If the exhibit’s visitor numbers from last year are any indication, sites across the nation have a similar view. In 2015, the exhibit toured 16 states and had more than 42,300 visitors.
For details about the program, click here.