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The Barnes Foundation Joins with Philadelphia Cultural Organizations to Present Third Annual Early Learner Summer Pods

The Barnes and six other Philadelphia cultural organizations offer free summer activities supporting early childhood development, with lead funding from the William Penn Foundation

Through August 19, 2023

Philadelphia, PA, August 7, 2023—The Barnes Foundation has announced Early Learner Summer Pods, a citywide effort realized with six other cultural organizations in Philadelphia, offering summer activities for children ages five and under living in underserved communities. Made possible with support from the William Penn Foundation, Early Learner Summer Pods is taking place over six weeks, through August 19, 2023, and is expected to engage more than 1,000 early learners and their caregivers through play, art, science, nature, and stories.

This educational initiative, coordinated by the Barnes Foundation, is delivered through a network of Philadelphia’s leading cultural agencies and institutions, including the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the Barnes, the Clay Studio, Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, Fleisher Art Memorial, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, and WHYY—all engaging informal learning spaces and organizations where early learners can grow and develop.

Early Learner Summer Pods are designed to engage young learners and their caregivers and promote discovery through outdoor activities, art making, science-related workshops, literacy activities, storytime sessions, and other experiences. This initiative taps the strength of each organization to connect Philadelphia’s youngest learners to art, nature, science, and stories. Collectively, Early Learner Summer Pods will serve residents in South, West, Southwest, and North Central Philadelphia neighborhoods, activating Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Centers, public parks, community centers, schools, and cultural agency sites. Free learning and art kits will also be distributed to participating children.

“Through the Early Learner Summer Pods program, the Barnes—together with our network of partners—offers a variety of free programming across the city to support early learners’ social, emotional, language, and literacy development and counter summer learning loss,” says Jeremy Wagner, director of community engagement and family programs at the Barnes Foundation. “We are excited to deliver activities that are fun, educational, and experiential, and that draw upon the unique strengths and assets of each cultural partner to support the young learners in Philadelphia communities who need it the most.”

“We’re glad to see many of our city’s arts, culture, and science institutions play such an important role in early learning this summer,” says Jennifer Stavrakos, Interim Director of the Great Learning Program at the William Penn Foundation. “Our support of these creative, inquiry-based, and content-rich experiences extends the Foundation's efforts to create high-quality learning opportunities for children and families throughout Philadelphia.”

More details about the 2023 Early Learner Summer Pods are listed below.

The Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University
Discover, Play, Share: Summer Family Fun!
WHERE: Various locations listed below.
WHEN: Through August 19
WHAT: Learning comes alive as we engage with families through STEAM, literacy, and play all summer. Families receive take-home activities at all events, Learn and Play kits at ANS Family Day, and are invited to attend all future museum Family Day events. Activities include storytimes, puppet play, STEAM experiments, music, movement, and fun!

  • Tuesday, August 8, 6 pm
    Community Dinners at Dornsife Center, 3509 Spring Garden St.
  • Wednesdays, through August 16, 10:30–11:30 am
    Sister Cities Park, 210 N. 18th St.
  • Saturday, August 19, 10 am–5 pm
    Family Fun Day at the Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Visit for more information.

The Barnes Foundation
Barnes Early Learner Summer Pods

WHERE: Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia (2416 S. 7th Street) and Columbia North YMCA (1400 N. Broad St.)

  • Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia: (Took place Tuesdays, through August 1, 11:30 am–12:30pm)
  • Columbia North YMCA: (Took place Wednesdays, through August 2, 9:30–10:30 am & 10:30–11:30 am)
  • Mondays, 10:30 am
    Locke Ave Park, 58 Locke Ave, Swedesboro, NJ 08085
  • Tuesdays, 10:30 am
    Storytime at WHYY, 150 N. 6th St.
  • Wednesdays, 10 am
    Mill Creek Recreation Center, 4700 Brown St.
  • Wednesdays, 11 am
    Tustin Recreation Center, 5901 W. Columbia Ave.
  • Thursdays, 10 am
    Tacony Creek Park, I St. and Ramona Ave. Gateway

WHAT: The Barnes partnered with local community organizations to provide programs at preschool centers that help students see art in their everyday life. Barnes community engagement team members gave lessons on topics ranging from color and the seasons to shapes and community-scapes. Young learners looked deeply and noticed how art surrounds them. Lessons featured read-alouds, close-looking activities, and artmaking.

Contact for more information.

The Clay Studio
Clay, Play, Read!
WHERE: The Clay Studio, 1425 N. American St., Philadelphia, PA 19122
WHEN: Saturdays, through August 19, 10 am–noon
WHAT: Books capture imaginations at Clay, Play, Read!,a workshop series at the Clay Studio. 

Storyteller Thembi Palmer leads young learners in engaging stories through conversation, movement, and song. Teaching artists Frankie Reyes and Laure Krumenacker facilitate clay workshops where stories come alive in student hands. Books and ceramics lessons focus on social and emotional learning, creativity, and play. Join us as we combine arts and literacy with something for every learner!

Visit for more information.

Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center
SPLASH: Summer Family Literacy Program
WHERE: 640 Waterworks Drive
WHEN: (Took place Saturdays, through July 29, 10 am–noon)
WHAT: Saturday mornings were filled with lively family expeditions along the Schuylkill River. Participants explored the area with guided water-related activities, and the fun continued with take-home books and kits with water-themed activities to do in your neighborhood.

Visit for more information. Register here.

Fleisher Art Memorial
Drawing Stories
WHERE: Fleisher Art Memorial (719 Catharine St.) & Southwark School (1835 S. 9th St.)
WHEN: Fridays, 9:30–11:30 am
Fleisher: (Took place July 7–21)
Southwark School: July 28–August 11
WHAT: Friday morning workshops on topics like outdoor painting, torn paper collage, or print making for a kid-friendly intro to the art world. ColorWheels mobile studio brings art materials, take-home kits, and fun to Fleisher and Southwark School parking lots!

Visit for more information.

Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse
Jr. Summer@Smith Camp
WHERE: East Fairmount Park (3500 Reservoir Drive)
WHAT: A seven-week, full-day camp program in East Fairmount Park for children from North and West Philadelphia. The play-based, literacy-focused program uses nature, music, art, storytelling, science, and dramatic play to enhance experiential learning opportunities for children. 

Smith is a 124-year-old national treasure that has inspired generations of children to fall in love with nature and let their imaginations run wild. Smith’s six-acre Playground and 16,000-square-foot Playhouse provide safe spaces for children from every corner of Philadelphia to exercise their imaginations and to realize their full potential through play.

Visit for more information.

Summer Literacy and Engagement Project
WHERE: Various locations listed below.
WHEN: Through August 18
WHAT: Early literacy activities through crafts, stories, music, and movement with take-home resources for families. Partnerships with Mill Creek Recreation Center, Tustin Recreation Center, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed (Juniata Park), WHYY Office, and Locke Park (New Jersey).

All programming is held outside and subject to change due to inclement weather.

Visit for more information.

Early Learner Summer Pods are made possible with lead support from the William Penn Foundation. Lead support for community engagement and family programs is provided through the Comcast Center for Community Engagement at the Barnes. Generous endowment support for community engagement programs is provided by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), and additional annual support for these programs comes from generous individual, corporate, and foundation donors.

The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution that shares its unparalleled art collection with the public, organizes special exhibitions, and presents programming that fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. The Barnes collection is displayed in ensembles that integrate art and objects from across cultures and time periods, overturning traditional hierarchies and revealing universal elements of human expression. Home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings—including the largest groups of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne in existence—the Barnes brings together renowned canvases by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent van Gogh, alongside African, Asian, ancient, medieval, and Native American art as well as metalwork, furniture, and decorative art.

The Barnes Foundation was established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” A visionary collector and pioneering educator, Dr. Barnes was also a fierce advocate for the civil rights of African Americans, women, and the economically marginalized. Committed to racial equality and social justice, he established a scholarship program to support young Black artists, writers, and musicians who wanted to further their education. Dr. Barnes was deeply interested in African American culture and became actively involved in the Harlem Renaissance, during which he collaborated with philosopher Alain Locke and Charles S. Johnson, the scholar and activist, to promote awareness of the artistic value of African art.

Since moving to Philadelphia in 2012, the Barnes Foundation has expanded its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice, teaching visual literacy in groundbreaking ways; investing in original scholarship relating to its collection; and enhancing accessibility throughout every facet of its programs.

The Barnes Foundation is situated in Lenapehoking, the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people. Read our Land Acknowledgment.

Hours and ticket prices are listed on our website.


Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications
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