Learning Spaces

IFF Learning Spaces, operating in both Detroit and Grand Rapids, aims to increase capacity and improve access to quality early childhood education (ECE).

Early education providers who participate in Learning Spaces receive grants to renovate and upgrade their facilities, as well as the necessary technical supports to identify priorities and manage construction. Specifically, IFF works hand-in-hand with both center-based and home-based providers to offer the following supports:

  • Grant Dollars: Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the unique needs of each facility. Grant projects 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 early ed facility experts discuss with providers.
  • Consulting Services: IFF’s real estate consultants can help you find a new location, assess the quality of a facility, and manage renovations so providers can focus on serving their families.

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.


How to Apply

Applications are now closed. Please check back for the next opportunity.

Here is what to expect from the application process:

Step 1: The Application

Providers complete an online application that requests information about their business and their grant request, as well as some supporting documentation. Upon submission, providers receive an email from IFF confirming a complete application or requesting additional information.


Step 2: Eligibility Review

The IFF team reviews applications to ensure providers meet the basic eligibility requirements:

  • 2+ years in business
  • 3-star or higher Great Start to Quality rating
  • Preserving or expanding supply of child care slots in their community
  • Passion for bettering the quality of their childcare facility
  • For Learning Spaces Grand Rapids: be located in zip code 49507

Step 3: Site Visits

IFF schedules site visits with eligible providers in order to learn more about their facility needs. These initial meetings typically last about 1 hour and may include some photo documentation (e.g., photos of the lighting if the request might include new lighting). Mostly, we just want to start getting to know you!

Step 4: Grantee Selection

IFF selects grantees based upon our complete review of the provider’s eligibility, site visit, scope of work, and program fit. Providers will receive a denial or acceptance message via email; grantees will receive further information about next steps — which typically include mandatory Lunch & Learn sessions, further conversations with the IFF team, and a signed grant agreement letter.

Step 5: Project Implementation

The IFF team works in partnership with our grantees to create a scope of work — in other words, we work together to decide what renovations we’ll be doing (it’s very exciting!). Project work begins shortly after the project scope is finalized. In addition to regular contact from the IFF staff, providers will have many opportunities to engage with each other — facilitating a sense of community that makes us all stronger.

If you have any questions about the application process, please reach out to Elyse Remenapp at gro.ffi@ppanemere.


Before-and-After Stories of Success

Kristy’s Development Center

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.”

Crystal Swann Child Care

“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.

United Children and Family Head Start

“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.

Resources for Providers

Graphic: Quality Matters in Early Childhood Learning Spaces

Feel free to download and share this graphic!

Quality Matters in Early Childhood Learning Spaces


Graphic: How Facility Architecture Impacts Brain Architecture

Feel free to download and share this graphic!


Video: What does it mean to have a high-quality space?

Optimized square footage, thoughtful layout, indoor air quality, designated wet/dry areas, incorporated toilet rooms — these are just some of the factors related to creating a high-quality space for children to learn and develop. This video contains actionable knowledge for ECE providers looking to create or renovate their space.


Video: How to Find a Location for Your Facility

Where to locate and whether to lease or purchase are big decisions for early care and education providers looking to open or relocate a facility. This video contains actionable knowledge for ECE providers to find the right fit for them — one that puts children and families first.


Video: Research Shows ChildCare Gap in Detroit

Detroit has a shortage of 28,000 quality early education slots. Watch IFF’s video to learn more about the city’s child care gap and what we can to do to address this challenge.

Video: About IFF’s Learning Spaces Grant Program


Articles on ECE Issues

The importance of facility quality in early education

Big and small: Sharing early education wisdom from rural to urban communities

The high cost of limited access to early childhood education in Detroit

Prepared to learn: Why early education is so important for Michigan’s children

The positive signs, and challenges ahead, for early education in Detroit and Michigan

What Michigan can learn from Chicago about growing early childhood education

What will it take to make Detroit a “baby friendly” city?