Any time we have the opportunity to intervene and make positive impacts in children’s lives, we’re doing better than we were yesterday.

Cory Campbell

What would you do if you had access to a time machine?

Cory Campbell asked this question at two elementary schools as part of an after-school reading program she led through a local library. The schools were only about a mile apart, but the students responded very differently.

At one location, many children said they’d go back and invent something modern to make a lot of money, or they would go back to see their parents first meet.

At the other, the children focused on more immediate concerns.

“It was like, ‘I would go back and tell my dad not to do X, Y or Z so he didn’t go to jail,’” Campbell said. “‘I would go outside and go to the playground with my grandma.’”

The second school served a higher population of poverty-impacted families, while the first served predominantly white families with more resources.

The students’ comments started Campbell thinking about the interactions of family and early learning.

Now, years later, at the University of Washington, Campbell is pursuing a PhD in Learning Sciences and Human Development and has built on that initial curiosity of child development in informal learning spaces.

She’s one of three students in the first cohort of the College of Education’s Community Partner Fellows Program, launched this academic year. Selected by Boys and Girls Clubs of King County after interviews, Campbell is spending two years as an intern supporting the organization’s research goals, focusing on program planning and assessment.

Campbell describes the community partners as an alternative place to do research both within the College of Education and the community.

“It’s bridging some of the connections that I see in my work into places that wouldn’t normally have researchers,” she said.

Campbell’s role is currently split.

On one hand, she’s wrapping up Math Hoops which teaches fourth- through seventh-graders to learn math skills with real data about NBA and WNBA players. The curriculum is typically used in schools, and the Clubs are the first experimental after-school program to use it.

Campbell has conducted site visits to examine the different Clubs set ups. There are Clubs locations as far south as Federal Way and as far north as Kirkland and North Beach.

“One of the reasons I’m at Boys and Girls Clubs is to help them think about way to implement programs that maybe aren’t designed for after-school spaces and how they can be used in informal learning spaces,” she said.

The other project Campbell contributes to is an extension of the national Summer Brain Gain.

It’s week-long segments of themed activities aim at keeping youths’ minds engaged during the summer months and on track for the school year. The King County locations of Boys and Girls Clubs have adapted Brain Gain to include social-emotional learning. They tie the program not only to standard educational outcomes but to more whole-child approaches.

Campbell meets with staff to discuss how program assessments have gone in the past. Campbell and program staff collaborate to identify curriculum expectations and the changes they want to see. For example, Campbell and her colleagues are exploring how assessments can be more sensitive to how a child is doing in the Club beyond standard measurements of learning.

“If we’re looking at the whole child, then it’s easier to serve them and listen to what they’re saying to us,” she said.

In addition to making a different in the organization and in the lives of local families, Campbell says the projects are also a growth experience for herself.

The Clubs are the largest and most far-reaching organization that Campbell has worked with, and she says it’s exciting—especially when thinking about its impact on families and different communities.

“I am a big believer that research is not just for universities. It’s for community members, and it’s for the betterment of your field,” she said. “Any time we have the opportunity to intervene and make positive impacts in children’s lives, we’re doing better than we were yesterday.”

Story by Olivia Madewell, marketing and communications student aide.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications