Learning Spaces aims to increase capacity and improve access to quality early childhood education.

About the Program

Learning Spaces is dedicated to helping early education providers access capital to renovate and upgrade their facilities, technical supports to identify priorities, and consult on and manage construction. IFF works hand-in-hand with center-based providers to support facilities improvements related to indoor air quality, temperature, ventilation, noise, lighting, classroom furnishing, and outdoor play areas. These areas are IFF priorities due to their contribution to high-quality learning environments, which are proven to positively impact young children’s learning, development, and well-being.

Applications are currently closed. Previously, Learning Spaces has been deployed in Chicago, Detroit, East St. Louis, Grand Rapids, and Milwaukee.

The Program Includes

Funding for Facility Improvements

Average funding is from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the unique needs of each facility. Improvements have included upgrades to lighting, flooring, HVAC, and more.

Technical Assistance

Air quality, color schemes, natural lighting — these are just a few of the issues our facility experts discuss with providers.

Consulting Services

IFF’s real estate consultants can help providers find a new location, assess the quality of a facility, and manage renovations so providers can focus on serving their families.

How do I Apply?

Applications for Learning Spaces are currently closed. Please check back later for updates.

Before-and-After Stories of Success

  • Kristy’s Development Center
  • Crystal Swann Child Care
  • United Children and Family Head Start

Tonya Briggs owns and operates Kristy’s Development Center and has been a childcare provider in Detroit for 22 years. She expanded out of her home into her current facility serving 60 children and is preparing to expand again. Her Learning Spaces application initially requested some new playground equipment, but after consulting with the IFF staff, she decided to update her lighting, ceiling, and roof. Specifically, she swapped out harsh fluorescent lights for indirect/incandescent lights and also uncovered some skylights. She explains the importance of this decision: “I was sitting at the desk the other day during naptime, and one of the children was laying under the skylight. She was just looking at it, and she eventually just faded away and went to sleep. It calmed her and relaxed her, and that’s the type of atmosphere I want here.”

“Red, green, blue – all on the walls and all on the floors. That’s how my daycare used to be. But how can a child learn if they’re over-stimulated?” asks Felicia Legardy, director of Crystal Swann Child Care. “I came in the day after the paint dried, and I was so happy. That was the best day of my life. All the work that I do, it seemed like it just paid off.” Legardy has been a highly-rated home-based provider for almost three decades, and her facility hadn’t been upgraded significantly since her first child enrolled. Through Learning Spaces, her home-based facility was re-painted in soft, neutral colors. Her facility also received significant physical upgrades – a larger egress window for emergencies, and new flooring, stairs, heating/cooling, and furniture.

“When we got inside, it was very dark and damp. There was a lot of debris on the floor. It was horrible. On that day, I didn’t know if it was going to happen — I knew it was possible, but maybe not probable. But today…today it’s absolutely beautiful.” That’s how Roxanne Campbell, executive director of United Children and Family (UCF), describes the before-and-after of what’s now the Regent Park community’s first early childhood education center serving children from birth to age 5. This full-scale development utilized a $500,000 Learning Spaces grant, as well as a $478,000 IFF loan to LifeBuilders, a nonprofit developer that partnered with UCF on the project.

Recent Program Participants

2022 Milwaukee Thriving Spaces
2022 East St. Louis QFA

Why are Quality Facilities Important for Early Childhood Education?

Safe and inspiring learning environments lay the foundation for positive early childhood experiences.

Improving facilities enhances provider capacity, children’s access to care and education, and parents’ ability to work and provide for their families. Furthermore, it helps ensure that the design and quality of early childhood education facilities reflect the dignity all children and their families deserve. A facilities-forward perspective can promote innovation in land usage, facility collaborations and building renovations. It could also set the standard of what learning environments for children should be reflective of regardless of their neighborhood or economic status and how academic success and pride in community can be cultivated.

Parents, providers, and facility experts alike know that safe and inspiring learning environments lay the foundation for positive early childhood experiences. IFF’s Learning Spaces is here to partner with community-based ECE providers to transform their vision for those spaces into a reality.

Special Thanks To

Our Partner