Program Overview

The Jumpstart program model supports our mission to work toward the day every child in America enters school prepared to succeed by targeting this goal on three levels. Our program, in collaboration with our key partners, is designed to inspire children to learn, adults to teach and lead in their communities, and family members to get involved. Without any one of these program components, Jumpstart and our collaborative partners cannot be successful. Jumpstart’s program model reflects the importance of impacting individual children, their families, and future early childhood educators.

Each year, Jumpstart has the opportunity to train a dedicated group of volunteers, called Corps members, who spend more than 250 hours each working with young children from under resourced communities. It is an organizational imperative that the time investment be deeply valuable to children and Corps members. It is Jumpstart’s moral obligation to ensure that the techniques and practices used by adults are based on the most current research and drive the greatest results for children. Jumpstart’s curriculum represents the organization’s effort to maximize the impact of every moment that Corps members spend with children, expanding the boundaries of what a supplemental education program can achieve for children, and working in collaboration with existing early childhood programs to enhance the education of young children.

Jumpstart provides developmentally appropriate language and literacy curriculum delivered to young children through supportive relationships with caring adults during Jumpstart sessions.

What the Research Tells Us

The most recent publication from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) on developmentally appropriate practice highlights that “young children become more engaged and learn better when the curriculum is not skimming lightly over a great many areas but instead allows for sustained time with a more select set [of areas]. When learning is meaningful, integrated, and in-depth, it is also more likely to stick” (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, p.43). Through its unique collaboration with researchers, curriculum developers, and practitioners from within its own network, Jumpstart has developed a curriculum that creates a powerful supplemental education program to address a targeted set of outcomes for children.

The fabric of Jumpstart’s curriculum is woven with relationships between children and caring adults and ongoing adult support for children’s learning. Jumpstart’s beliefs about social-emotional development in children provide the blueprint for Corps members’ training and work with children.

Jumpstart’s Curriculum

Fundamental elements of the Jumpstart curriculum include Jumpstart’s philosophical foundation in developmentally appropriate practice, its belief that the family is the child’s first and most important teacher, and its respect for early childhood programs and the role that teachers play in children’s lives. Corps Members use a session plan to prepare for and facilitate each Jumpstart session. The Jumpstart session provides children with a balance of individual and group learning, quiet and active learning, and child- and adult-initiated learning. Every aspect of the Jumpstart Session and session plan links to the above domains and skills and allows customized learning opportunities for individual children. The following concepts are integrated into Jumpstart’s curriculum:

  • Session activities are targeted and intentional. Research supports that certain kinds of learning require some explicit explanations and instruction (Schickedanz, 2008). All components, from the organization and flow of the session to core storybook selections to materials used, are chosen to support an overarching sequence of skill development related to the key language and literacy domains of oral language, books and print knowledge, and phonological awareness.
  • Skill development occurs in a deliberate sequence so that children continually return to and build upon concepts and ideas introduced earlier in the year. The opportunity to revisit new knowledge even occurs within each session plan. For example, in Center Time, children have the opportunity to experiment with and refine skills introduced earlier in the day during adult-initiated activities at Circle Time.
  • Each session plan revolves around a core storybook. The core storybook directly connects to the overall unit theme and serves as the inspiration for many of the learning activities included in the session plan. One book serves as the focus for two sessions. All children read and experience the core storybook. One copy remains in the Jumpstart session library so that children have the opportunity to return to favorite books again and again.
  • Session plans scaffold instruction to meet the needs of all children. Ideas for how to provide additional support, as well as how to extend learning, are included.
  • Teachers and Jumpstart Corps members collaborate to engage an entire classroom of children in structured activities and play that support children’s development in the Jumpstart curriculum’s target language and literacy domains.

Jumpstart Session Routine

Every Jumpstart session follows the same routine, which supports the participation of children and adults in the following elements:

Welcome 2-5 minutes
Reading 15 minutes
Circle Time/
Introduction of Center Time Activities
15 minutes
5 minutes
Center Time/ Let’s Find Out About It 45-50 minutes
Sharing & Goodbye 5 minutes
  • Welcome: Children transition to Jumpstart from their previous activity and are welcomed to the Jumpstart session. Children build alphabet knowledge through exploration of name cards with other children and adults. Over time, children develop an understanding of meaning and use of print. Adults review the elements of the Jumpstart session and what comes next.
  • Reading: Adults read defined core storybooks with the same small groups of children they met with for Welcome. Children develop an interest in and enjoyment of stories, developing and deepening understanding of selected vocabulary and comprehension of the story through multiple readings of the same book.
    • Circle Time: Children participate in whole-group learning time that builds a sense of community among children and adults. Adults engage children in oral language, books and print knowledge, and phonological awareness practice as they sing songs, play word and letter games, and read poems.
  • Introduction of Center Time Activities: At the end of Circle Time, adults introduce and demonstrate Center Time activities. Adults use rich language and set children up to make choices.
  • Center Time: Centers are set up with materials and activities that support children’s language and literacy skill development. Activities are inspired by the unit theme and core storybook, deepening children’s understanding of the book and providing opportunities to use story vocabulary. Children actively engage with materials, make choices, explore, and play with peers and adults. Center Time activities include Writing, Books, Dramatic Play, Puzzles and Manipulatives, and Art or Science. Children choose the activities in which they will participate and direct their own movement between activities, space permitting.
    • Let’s Find Out About It: Let’s Find Out About It is a small group activity designed to build children’s concept knowledge and vocabulary. Let’s Find Out About It is about the exploration of new ideas, new information, objects and their use, and understanding how things work. Over the course of two sessions, all children take part in this activity in small groups with adult support.
  • Sharing & Goodbye: During this large group time, adults engage children in a dialog about children’s favorite session activities, using objects or examples of children’s work from Center Time and rich vocabulary to support the conversation. Adults also tell children what they can look forward to in the next session and conclude the session with a song.

Role of Adults in the Jumpstart Session

During Jumpstart, adults implement a consistent session routine and act as partners in play with children. “Teachers should respect young children’s curiosity and eagerness to learn and not be afraid to introduce information, model and coach on specific skills, use unusual vocabulary words, or challenge children to solve complex problems” (Epstein, 2007, p.130). Corps Members are trained to engage children in active learning, to promote literacy through play and to individualize and scaffold individual children’s learning. Corps members observe individual children’s skills, abilities and interests and engage children in conversations to stimulate new ideas and to build vocabulary and comprehension skills.

Jumpstart Fosters Social-Emotional Development

Social-emotional competencies allow children to learn from the world around them, overcome challenges, and form meaningful relationships with peers and adults. Children with high levels of social-emotional competence are equipped to face challenges in their academic and personal lives.

Elias et al. (1997) define social-emotional development as “The ability to understand, manage, and express the social and emotional aspects of one’s life in ways that enable the successful management of life’s tasks such as learning, forming relationships, solving everyday problems, and adapting to the complex demands of growth and development” (p. 2).

Jumpstart fosters children’s social-emotional development. Relationships between children and Corps members are central to Jumpstart’s program model. Through ongoing adult support and positive interactions between children and Corps members during two Jumpstart sessions per week for six to eight months, children develop secure relationships with caring adults. In addition, the themes and activities in Jumpstart’s curriculum provide children with opportunities to experience important social-emotional lessons. Jumpstart creates a caring learning community that allows children to thrive.

Social-Emotional Development and School Success

Jumpstart’s dedication to fostering social-emotional development is evident in the relationship between children and caring adults, which provides the framework for delivering Jumpstart’s curriculum. Jumpstart’s training and preparation for Corps members include in-depth review and practice of the curriculum along with approaches and strategies for delivering curricular elements that are consistent with strategies shown by current research to support children’s development of social-emotional competence. Corps members gain an understanding of how young children think and learn, how to create a supportive learning environment, and adult-child interactions that build relationships with children and engage them in positive learning experiences. Through this and other trainings, Corps members learn the importance of being consistent in their behavior and their expectations for children, and of establishing routines and modeling transition strategies that help children move smoothly from regular classroom activities to the Jumpstart session and through the session elements. They learn to apply strategies that allow children opportunities to respond to and ask questions and to make connections to children’s personal lives and experiences that allow for meaningful back-and-forth exchanges. In addition, Corps members use a problem-solving approach to conflict that engages children in defining the problem at hand, encourages children to share their perspectives, and prompts children to create a solution to the problem. During the Jumpstart session learning activities are carefully designed to facilitate children’s engagement in the learning process and allow them to explore new ideas and information.

At Jumpstart, we believe in a full-circle approach to early childhood education that recognizes the role of:

  • Preschool children, their families, and their communities
  • Early educators
  • College students and other aspiring early educators
  • Volunteers in preschool classrooms

Our Policy Principles

As outlined in Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Kindergarten Preparedness: Jumpstart’s Policy Principles (PDF, 2.5 MB), Jumpstart believes in and advocates for the following:

  • Accessible, high-quality early education
  • A professional, stable, and well-compensated early education workforce
  • Affordable higher education that incorporates valuable workforce training opportunities
  • A commitment to national service

Learn more about Jumpstart’s Policy Principles.

We know we can’t accomplish these lofty goals on our own. In addition to support from our alumni and network of leaders and champions, we benefit from our partnerships with Voices for National Service and America Forward to advance a public policy agenda that champions innovative and effective solutions to our country’s most pressing social problems.