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

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

July 6–August 13, 2021

Philadelphia, PA, July 12, 2021—The Barnes Foundation has announced Early Learner Summer Pods, a citywide effort realized with seven other cultural organizations in Philadelphia, offering summer activities for children ages 5 and under living in underserved communities where the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted systems of education and support. Made possible with support from the William Penn Foundation, Early Learner Summer Pods will take place over six weeks, from July 6 through August 13, 2021, and will 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, Fleisher Art Memorial, Please Touch Museum, 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, environmental education workshops, 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, this initiative will serve residents in South, West, and North Central Philadelphia neighborhoods, activating Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Centers, Philly Playstreets, public parks, community and daycare centers, and cultural agency sites. Free learning kits will also be distributed to participating children.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply disrupted access to high-quality early development and learning opportunities for children, posing deep setbacks that jeopardize the potential of long-term achievement for many—particularly for low-income families who have been hardest hit by the myriad impacts of the pandemic,” says Barbara Wong, Director of Community Engagement at the Barnes Foundation. “The summer offers a critical opportunity to narrow the developmental gaps of the past year, and our goal with the Early Learner Summer Pods is to offer a variety of free programming across the city for six weeks to support early learners’ social, emotional, language, and literacy development. Together with our network of partners, we are thrilled to deliver activities that are fun, experiential, and utilize the unique strengths and assets of each cultural partner to support the people in our communities who need it the most.”

The participating organizations in this network are grantees of the William Penn Foundation’s Informal Learning Initiative—a community-based program that partners cultural institutions and community organizations to connect critical informal learning opportunities with children and families in low-income neighborhoods—with the addition of the Please Touch Museum.

“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 Elliot Weinbaum, Director of the Great Learning Program at the William Penn Foundation. “These free summer programs will take place in community locations, extending museum walls, creating new learning experiences for children and families, and building bridges between our residents and institutions. This work continues efforts the Foundation has supported for several years, as we seek to nurture connections among cultural institutions and community organizations across our city.”

More details about the Early Learner Summer Pods are listed below. Families are encouraged to connect with agency contacts listed below to confirm program participation and to receive further information:

The Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University
Discover, Play, Share: Summer Family Fun
STEAM, literacy, and fun family activities.
Aspira Inc. (4322 N. 5th Street), July 17, 10 am–1 pm; July 28, 5–8 pm
Congreso de Latinos Unidos (216 W. Somerset Street), July 24, 10 am–1 pm; August 4, 5–8 pm
Sister Cities Park (210 N. 18th Street), July 13 & August 10, 11:30 am–12:30 pm
The Academy of Natural Sciences (1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway), August 7, 10 am–2 pm

For further information, families may contact:

The Barnes Foundation
Barnes Early Learner Summer Pods
Outdoor performative storytelling, art making, and kits. Serving ages 2–5 and families from West Philly Playstreets and South Philadelphia.
July 6–August 12, 11 am–1 pm

  • Mondays @ Philly Playstreet Mantua (3500 Mt. Vernon Avenue)
  • Tuesdays @ Philly Playstreet Kingsessing (1438 Vodges Street)
  • Wednesdays @ Mifflin Square Park (500 Wolf Street)
  • Thursdays @ Ford PAL Rec Center (609 Snyder Avenue)
  • Mifflin Square Park (500 Wolf Street), July 6, 13 & 27, 10 am–noon
  • FDR Park (1500 Pattison Ave. & South Broad Street), July 20 & August 3, 10 am–noon

For further information, families may contact:

The Clay Studio
Claymobile for Early Learners
Live workshops, literacy games, and read-alouds.
Serving South Kensington childcare centers, July–August.

For further information, families may visit:

Fairmount Water Works
Wee Water Weekly
Family expeditions to discover the wonder of water and the environment.
Serving West and North Philadelphia preschool and childcare centers.
640 Waterworks Drive, Saturdays, July 10–31, 10 am–noon

For further information, families may contact:

Fleisher Art Memorial
What Happens Next?
Mobile art studio with outdoor art workshops. Serving South Philadelphia.

For further information, families may visit:

Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse
Camp Read at Smith Memorial
Play-based, literacy-enriched learning in nature camp. Half-day program for ages 3–5 and families from zip codes 19132 and 19121.
3500 Reservoir Drive, Through July 30, 8:45 am–noon
Register at:

For further information, families may contact: Frances Hoover at

WHYY Summer Literacy and Engagement Project
Weekly storytime, plus art and literacy activities. Serving West Philadelphia children and families.
Mill Creek Recreation Center (4700 Brown Street) & Tacony Creek Park (559 East Olney Avenue), Thursdays, July 8–August 12. Hours to be announced.

For further information, families may contact:

Lead support for Early Learner Summer Pods is provided by the William Penn Foundation.

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, and medieval 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 program. Hours and ticket prices are listed on our website.


Deirdre Maher
Director of Communications
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