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Moonshot Rocket Nation

We create Enriched Literacy experiences that increase the capacity of educators and create high-quality early childhood experiences.

Photo of Barbara Riefler Hammond
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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

We developed and tested our business model before the prize was presented to our organization so there was not a significant change to it. However, we have internally shared the valuable tools that were provided to participants of the challenges as part of the brainstorming process. We will use them for future projects to facilitate the development of ideas and projects.

Name or Organization

The Learning Alliance

Geography

We are located in Vero Beach, Florida.

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD

Type

  • Non - Profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Describe your submission in one clear sentence

TLA aims to use a mobile training and enrichment program that offers on-site support and training for early childhood education providers, especially home daycares, throughout Florida and the US with an emphasis on Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities. Additionally, the Moonshot Rockets will create highly engaging intentional learning spaces that support the development of children (i.e. gross motor skills, social-emotional well-being, general knowledge, language, and literacy).

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most critical time to invest in a child. However, early childhood educators and parents often do not have the capacity, resources, or access to professional development opportunities to effectively do so. Empowering and investing in those who are the most influential in the lives of children, while exposing children to high-quality educational experiences will pay dividends later. The Moonshot Rocket Nation program provides an ounce of prevention that is more effective than a pound of cure!

Select an Innovation Target

  • Business model: a better model with more effective structure or financing

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

We aim to implement a mobile Enriched Literacy and professional development program that will provide low-income children access to high-quality literacy and arts lessons in addition to providing professional development to early childhood educators. By doing so, we will address the challenge of kindergarten readiness and the lack of professional development opportunities to educators, especially early childhood educators.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

1. Awareness 2. Kindergarten Readiness 3. Professional Development Our purpose is to build the collective capacity of parents and teachers for them to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to get kids ready for kindergarten and reading by 3rd grade. Thus, we must provide awareness of the importance and value of early childhood literacy, facilitate the conditions for kindergarten readiness, and equip teachers with skills, resources, and knowledge beyond the minimum required to teach.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

The Moonshot Rocket Nation project is designed to be a symbol and embodiment of a community’s commitment to the success of all children within its Moonshot Community – a community dedicated to the Moonshot Vision of 90% of all students reading proficiently by 3rd Grade. The intent of the Moonshot Rocket Nation project is to create a fleet of Rockets to expand the work and reach of our local Moonshot Rocket in the early childhood learning space to other communities throughout Florida and the nation. The initial expansion phase would include three to four additional rockets, based on funding, that would provide mobile, customized experiences centered on the needs and interests of the participants and the communities served. Our plan of action to scale our project is to start by leveraging our partnership with the Florida and National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The Moonshot Rockets will provide support to The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Pacesetter communities within Florida and around the nation. Currently, there are 48 Pacesetter communities nationally and four Pacesetter communities in Florida: Suncoast & Manatee Counties, Broward County, Delray Beach, and Indian River County in which we are the lead agency. A city or county is eligible to be recognized as a Pacesetter community by demonstrating a commitment to lead by example in one or more areas that undermine literacy - school attendance, summer learning, and school readiness – the space the Moonshot Rocket operates within. The next phase would be to offer franchise opportunities to all communities around the nation. The franchise opportunity would afford a lead agency or community to have a fully customized Moonshot Rocket (i.e. a converted RV, UPS delivery truck, or bus) that can be adapted to an organization or community’s brand and identity. We have fully developed franchise supports that include financial requirements, break-even analysis, curriculum, professional development opportunities, and technical assistance from the current Moonshot Rocket program manager who has over 25 years of teaching experience in the United States and internationally with many years in high poverty settings. The Moonshot Rockets will have a threefold purpose within each of the communities they serve 1) build awareness, 2) provide early educator professional development, and 3) provided Enriched Literacy experiences which have integrated literacy lessons that include Foundational, Applied, and Social-Emotional Literacy. Each of these elements is key in the future success of children. The Learning Alliance is committed to improving education for all children. Our vision is a future where 90% of children arrive ready for kindergarten and are reading on grade level by 3rd grade; where children are taught to think critically and creatively, acquiring the skills to be successful in the 21st Century; and where community leaders, businesses and individuals work together for the greater good, so that our community can prosper. Since third-grade literacy is the lynchpin to realizing this vision, the work of The Learning Alliance and the Moonshot Moment is taking a stand for our children, and in doing so, securing the future economic and social well being of our community and other communities around the nation. Thus, to be effective, we realize that success by third grade requires investment in the early childhood space. Children 0 – 5 are within their most formative years, but often lack resources (e.g. parents as teachers, highly qualified educators, and/or engagement in literacy or academic based enrichment within the home). The Moonshot Rocket Nation project is a support that is needed to be a catalyst for innovation and learning. By collectively holding this vision and working relentlessly toward achieving our goal of 90% literacy, we have been a transformative agent in our local community and already serve as a model for the nation. In carrying out our work, our organization has created local, regional and national recognition for the importance of early education, birth through 3rd grade. We have been recognized by PBS NewsHour, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading through four Pacesetter Awards, regionally through invitations to speak to the K-12 legislative subcommittees in Tallahassee, and visited by the Community Council 100. We provide innovative teacher training, extended learning opportunities for students in summer and after-school programs, and backbone support for the professional development of our Moonshot Community Action Network.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Children - The Moonshot Rocket Nation project will benefit children, with an emphasis on 0 - 5 years old, by providing arts and literacy-based lessons that are fun and standards-based in addition to promoting their academic and social-emotional development. Education Providers - Professional development and coaching will be made available to early education providers. This is highly beneficial to these educators because early educators do not always access to free professional development opportunities. We have experience in both areas through our current programs and projects. The Learning Alliance offers extended learning programs after school and during the summer at multiple school sites throughout the county where we're located. Also, the Moonshot Rocket partners with multiple preschools, Headstarts, and early learning organizations. Lastly, we provide over 20 professional development training opportunities to over 200 educators a year. Teachers who attend our workshops rave about the information and resources they attained at our professional development workshops and look forward to attending the next session.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

By 2020, we aim to bring our Moonshot Rocket Nation program to the phase one scale of five mobile rocket units, reaching over 25,750 children and families in addition to providing professional development to over 150 early childhood organizations. The proof/rationale for the assumption of impact is based on our Moonshot Rocket's previous program year. Last program year, the Rocket facilitated 100 events, traveled 6,391 miles, and impacted 5,150 children and families. We assume as a conservative estimate 50% of the individuals served by our rocket multiplied by five rockets over the course of two years (2,575 x 5 x 2 = 25,750). The professional development figure assumes professional development training for 15 unique organizations multiplied by five rockets over two years (15 x 5 x 2 = 150). Also, please note the total of five rockets include the original rocket and four additional rockets. The rationale behind the reduced number of events is calculated based on the need for our current program manager to take a role in training and supporting the other Rockets, while the program coordinators for those Rockets focus on building relationships within their communities to support the work in addition to delivering high-quality early childhood experiences.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (1500 characters)

Here is a video that shares the engaging nature and impact of the Moonshot Rocket!

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

We believe that our project has the potential to scale to 10 communities by 2021. Based on our assumption of the impact numbers multiplied by two, 10 Rockets could reach over 50,000 children and families and over 300 early childhood education organizations between 2021 and 2023. The barriers to scaling the project could be the apprehension of a community/organizations to collaborate together and the capacity of the program coordinator for any given Rocket. The way those barriers can be mitigated is by our plan to start our project expansion in The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities. Those communities have already shown a demonstrated commitment to collaboration to meet a common goal. A significant number of organizations within those cities and regional areas are already engaged in collaboration and collective impact. Since change moves at the speed of trust, those cities are already positioned to achieve change at a rapid pace – though there will inevitably be challenges. Moreover, we are dedicated to finding individuals who will be the right fit for the program coordinator positions. These individuals would ideally have an arts-literacy, education, and/or performing arts background. Additionally, depending on the comfort level of an individual, the Rocket may have to be staffed by more than one individual when traveling to drive and/or set-up and break down of events.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

We believe our project is feasible based on the need, our organizational capacity, and the available fertile ground. Need: Low literacy rates exist nationwide, especially among children experiencing poverty. Too many children are not proficient readers by third grade, and third grade has been identified as the critical juncture between learning to read and reading to learn. If children aren’t reading proficiently by the end of third grade, they only have a 1 in 6 chance of succeeding. Unlike 30 years ago, today literacy is required to become a productive citizen, as 9 out of 10 jobs now require it. This compares to the 2 out of 10 in the late 1970’s. Poverty is the leading factor in determining academic success. In fact, the academic achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Thus, The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) has launched a National Campaign, which has challenged local communities to build awareness, and solutions that involve the entire community Organizational Capacity: The Learning Alliance operates in multiple educational spaces: 0-5 / kindergarten readiness, extended learning, community involvement, and teacher professional development. Our staff is composed of former educators, administrators, and resident experts in education (i.e. performing arts and early childhood development). A significant portion of our mission delivery is to provide professional development to teachers, support staff, and administrators. We partner directly with our local school district to provide professional development for over 200 teachers a year. The vast majority of the teachers who attend our professional development sessions regularly use the techniques and unit plans we provide in their classroom instruction and/or extended learning spaces. Therefore, we already have the capacity to provide customizable PD support to early educators in addition to the support from our program manager who has successfully implemented and grown the original Rocket. She would be available to mentor, coach, and support the new program coordinators for the Moonshot Rocket Nation project. Fertile Ground: The last and highly significant reason we believe our project is feasible is that we will launch The Moonshot Rocket Nation in our partner network of CGLR Pacesetter communities. Like our community, other Pacesetter communities are saturated with organizations working together in educational spaces that include the school readiness/early childhood space. We believe these communities will embrace the opportunity to have their own Moonshot Rocket, especially after Ralph Smith of CGLR endorsed the Rocket at a summit where those communities and others were represented. Smith stated, “We could not ask for a better representation of this campaign.” His remarks can be found here: https://youtu.be/kRZT-QBX4WM

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (1500 characters)

We believe our business model is viable based on the implementation and market test within our community. Our organization promotes community ownership of our Moonshot Goal of 90% reading proficiency by the end of 3rd Grade. This means that all businesses, community leaders, and citizens are responsible for the future of our children. In facilitating this philosophy, we have experienced unprecedented success in organizations working together than in previous decades in our community. We have also experienced apprehension in working with our organization as well. For example, organizations have expressed concerns about losing their personal identity in the community-wide initiative and/or potentially losing funding. However, The Moonshot Rocket has been able to garner cooperation and acceptance within areas of the community and with organizations that have not formally been part of our Moonshot Community Action Network (MCAN) or directly worked with our organization. Individuals within our community express sheer exuberance for the Rocket whenever they see it. Young children, youth, and adults flock to the Rocket at events to inquire about what it does and what it offers. The Rocket has truly become the embodiment of our vision and our community’s commitment to its youngest citizens. Thus, we believe The Moonshot Rocket Nation project will have the same impact and effect on other communities throughout the nation.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (1500 characters)

The Learning Alliance is an emergent learning organization dedicated to responsive change. Our emergent learning model in which the community and we have embraced is about identifying what does and does not work. We scale what works and redesign what does not work. We found through our implementation of the Moonshot Rocket within our community the Rocket works. The demand for the Rocket has been astounding and overwhelming. Additionally, as part of the emergent learning and human centered design process, we meet with all the organizations we partner with to conduct before and after action reviews. The purpose of the before action review is to design a customized experience that meets the needs of the end user and to envision the characteristics of a successful event. The after action review is conducted to evaluate if the metrics of the before action review were met and discuss ways to better implement the delivery and future possibilities.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

We believe our project is feasible based on the need, our organizational capacity, and the available fertile ground. Need: Low literacy rates exist nationwide, especially among children experiencing poverty. Too many children are not proficient readers by third grade, and third grade has been identified as the critical juncture between learning to read and reading to learn. If children aren’t reading proficiently by the end of third grade, they only have a 1 in 6 chance of succeeding. Unlike 30 years ago, today literacy is required to become a productive citizen, as 9 out of 10 jobs now require it. This compares to the 2 out of 10 in the late 1970’s. Poverty is the leading factor in determining academic success. In fact, the academic achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Thus, The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) has launched a National Campaign, which has challenged local communities to build awareness, and solutions that involve the entire community Organizational Capacity: The Learning Alliance operates in multiple educational spaces: 0-5 / kindergarten readiness, extended learning, community involvement, and teacher professional development. Our staff is composed of former educators, administrators, and resident experts in education (i.e. performing arts and early childhood development). A significant portion of our mission delivery is to provide professional development to teachers, support staff, and administrators. We partner directly with our local school district to provide professional development for over 200 teachers a year. The vast majority of the teachers who attend our professional development sessions regularly use the techniques and unit plans we provide in their classroom instruction and/or extended learning spaces. Therefore, we already have the capacity to provide customizable PD support to early educators in addition to the support from our program manager who has successfully implemented and grown the original Rocket. She would be available to mentor, coach, and support the new program coordinators for the Moonshot Rocket Nation project. Fertile Ground: The last and highly significant reason we believe our project is feasible is that we will launch The Moonshot Rocket Nation in our partner network of CGLR Pacesetter communities. Like our community, other Pacesetter communities are saturated with organizations working together in educational spaces that include the school readiness/early childhood space. We believe these communities will embrace the opportunity to have their own Moonshot Rocket, especially after Ralph Smith of CGLR endorsed the Rocket at a summit where those communities and others were represented. Smith stated, “We could not ask for a better representation of this campaign.” His remarks can be found here: https://youtu.be/kRZT-QBX4WM

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (500 characters)

We have a network of organizations through the Florida and National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading that will be willing to assist with the project. However, there is always a need for more organizations to purchase a Moonshot Rocket franchise, host events, or receive early childhood education training.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

Refer to the previous answer.

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters) [Relevant only for Early Submission Deadline]

N/A

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? [Relevant only for our early submission participants] (1500 characters)

N/A

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Barbara Hammond, CEO, Indian River County, is one of the three original founders of The Learning Alliance. She has a B.A. in Economics from Williams College and a Masters in Public and Private Management from Yale University. Barbara was a former consultant with Bain and Company in Boston and The Director of Strategic Planning for Shawmut Corporation in Boston. Prior to starting The Learning Alliance, Barbara was Chairman of the Board of the Mental Health Association in Vero Beach.

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

N/A

[Optional] Video: You are invited to submit a 30-60 second video that introduces you and/or your team and your idea.

Please see our Voices: A Tapestry of Stories video. Our Rocket Team is featured in the video.

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