Mother, home visitor and new baby

Launching Learners

High-tech program designed to empower parents to support the social and emotional development of their young children.

In 2018, Start Early partnered with PBS KIDS to design Launching Learners, an innovative high-touch, high-tech family engagement program. Launching Learners aimed to promote active parent engagement with young children’s social and emotional development, combining interactive web-based and mobile activities and in-person, relationship-based family engagement experiences.

Our research team served as an implementation partner for the program, providing research and content expertise around family engagement, social and emotional learning and relationships-based professional development. Our research team led the development of the Launching Learners logic model, which served as a foundation for project research and development. The team also led efforts to recruit and convene an advisory group of experts in social and emotional learning, behavioral economics, parenting behavior, child development and children’s media, who provided input on the program and professional development model, content and evaluation.

We designed and conducted an initial product test with approximately 100 parents and 35 staff in four Chicago-area Head Start centers. The product test was designed to explore how staff and families experienced the program and the extent to which parents and staff reported increases in confidence supporting social and emotional learning after participation.

Key Findings

The product test showed that staff and parents found Launching Learners to be fun, valuable, useful and relevant to their lives and work.

  • 100% of staff said it increased their confidence in their ability to support children’s social and emotional development and to help parents do the same
  • 93% of parents surveyed had a positive experience with Launching Learners and would recommend the program to others
  • 62% of staff reported that Launching Learners was easy to implement
  • 90% of parents surveyed said they enjoyed receiving the Launching Learners text messages
  • 82% of parents surveyed noted they would like to receive more text messages

Research & Evaluation Team & Collaborators


  • Anonymous Funder
  • Crown Family Philanthropies
  • Edelman
  • The Joyce Foundation
  • The Robert R. McCormick Foundation
  • Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation