In a unique community collaboration, NYCHA, Union Settlement Association, and the
Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) celebrated the opening in December of a new learning “hub” inside the Union Johnson Early Learning Center and Head Start facility in the Johnson Houses Community Center. The early childhood literacy and health hub represents the first time this has been done in public housing. It brings museum-quality exhibitions and programs to Johnson Houses in a permanent location to serve as an anchor for community engagement.
The project provides families with a safe, nurturing environment to support the development of preschool readiness skills and to build healthy habits. The interactive components include Alphie, a talking dragon who encourages literacy and healthy foods; a NYC Green Cart replica to encourage healthy eating habits; a child-scale FDNY fire truck for dramatic play and socio-emotional learning; a block building area where children can explore math concepts through imaginative play; and a digital finger-painting kiosk and giant lite-brite to promote creativity through the arts.
“We know the importance of connecting our families to resources and opportunity, a wise investment that our city as a whole benefits from in turn, as we outlined as an imperative in our strategic roadmap Plan NYCHA,” said former NYCHA Chairman John Rhea.
The project also has professional development programs that provide parents, caregivers, and public housing educators with the tools and strategies to support the learning and developmental needs of young children. The first year of the program at Johnson Houses will serve as a model for the development of additional NYCHA/CMOM early learning and health hubs.
“Not only are our preschool children learning about healthy eating, but the lessons are extended to staff and parents as well, so we know that the benefits are reaching entire families in their homes,” said Union Settlement Executive Director David Nocenti. “This is a wonderful initiative, and is a perfect example of the impact that nonprofits and governments can have by working together.”