A College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences (CEHHS) team recently joined forces with community members to launch the Omaha Urban Thinkscape project. Omaha Urban Thinkscapes will transform two public spaces in Omaha neighborhoods into opportunities for learning through scientifically- and artistically-conceived play installations.
The Omaha Urban Thinkscape project received initial funding from a $113K UNO Strategic Investment Social Justice, Inequality, Race and Class Grant.
Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read, a MOEC-supported project and a member of the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading, initiated the idea of Omaha Urban Thinkscapes to provide opportunities for children, parents, and caregivers to engage in hands-on activities that promote early literacy and early learning.
Early literacy is key to school readiness, positive school experience, and future life success. Research demonstrates that the years from birth to five are the most important for building brain architecture and developing executive function.
The Omaha Urban Thinkscape team includes:
- Dr. Debora Wisneski | John T. Langan Community Chair of Early Childhood Education and Associate Professor, UNO Teacher Education Department;
- Stephen Osberg, AICP | Director of Transportation and Urban Development at Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce ConnectGO;
- Kathleen Knudsen, MS. EdAd | Facilitator Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read at Metro Omaha Educational Consortium;
- Dr. Kristina Stamatis | Assistant Professor, UNO Teacher Education Department; and
- Mollie Stehl | UNO Graduate Assistant.
Sarah Lytle, Executive Director of Playful Learning Landscapes Action network (PLLAN) presided over a series of kickoff events on Oct. 29 to advise the team as to next steps and explore with community leaders some unique community engagement practices.
The final kickoff event featured a keynote address from Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Professor of Psychology at Temple University, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and creator of PLLAN, who asked those gathered to "imagine the new public square" where Thinkscapes "beautify your neighborhoods, villages, and cities in ways that build social skills and learning."
Next steps include community engagement and continued outreach to partners and Omaha leaders as the two neighborhood sites are identified.
Learn more about Urban Thinkscapes:
MOEC, the Metropolitan Omaha Educational Consortium, is a collaborative organization dedicated to public education and bringing Omaha-area educators together to meet our education commitments. MOEC is housed in the UNO Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center.