On Tuesday, October 19th, Final Third Foundation (F3) and South Side Early Learning (SSEL) launched its Soccer & Literacy Pilot Program at their Reeb Avenue location. SSEL, a nonprofit organization, believes in providing a holistic, high-quality education to its early learners. The foundation of SSEL’s approach is the utilization of classroom practices grounded in the latest research in child development and early childhood education.
F3’s Director of Education, Leiah Groom-Thomas, is working directly with Jaclyn Dynia, Senior Director of Innovation and Research at The Center for Childhood Innovation at SSEL, to create and provide a world class soccer and literacy program to its 2-5 year-old students. Max Rosenthal, who has background in coaching at the youngest ages, and F3’s Director of Environmental Awareness, and is also helping drive the program forward.
With an expertise in early childhood education, Groom-Thomas is very excited about the program saying, “Coach Max and I were impressed with the level of engagement from the first two sessions! Our goal was to get young children excited about reading and soccer and familiarize them with the way our program is structured. Establishing a routine with young children will help facilitate learning on a range of emergent skills highlighted in our program, from executive functioning to alphabet knowledge to social-emotional development. Research indicates that early childhood (birth through age 5) is a critical time for all children, and our program utilizes targeted instruction and opportunities to apply this knowledge in practice, which reinforces learning.”
The program is utilizing three soccer-related children's books throughout the six weeks of soccer and reading instruction sessions:
Dr. Dynia says, “The Soccer and Literacy program provides a unique experience for the littles at South Side Early Learning. This pilot project will inform the development of the curriculum, provide feasibility data for the program, and examine gains in children's language, literacy, and self-regulation skills.”
This is a natural fit for Final Third Foundation, as it already provides an early childhood soccer program each season for its recreational soccer program, Columbus East Soccer Association (CESA). The CESA Tiny Tots program has an underlying philosophy and curriculum. Each season coaches focus on children learning basic soccer skills using a variety of techniques to engage participants, which include using colors, numbers, and specific words and phrases.
F3 hopes to develop the program with SSEL and provide it to the organization's four centers by the Spring of 2022.