Why Horizons?

At Horizons students step into a welcoming environment dedicated to academic success focused on low-income students in the Washington, DC Metro Area.  We make a 9-year commitment to students. Throughout that time students engage in a variety of project-based learning and educational experiences that develop Problem Solving, Creativity, and Critical Thinking skills. Experiential learning and swimming provide an engaging, high-energy program, balanced with numerous academic opportunities to ensure a lifelong love of learning.  Our areas of focus are:



The Problem: During summer breaks, the average student can lose over two months in reading achievement.  While middle-income peers make slight gains through greater access to summer learning opportunities, for low-income students this loss can be greater (Cooper, 1996). By 5th Grade low-income students, without access to summer learning, will be behind at least 1 grade level in Reading

The Solution: Horizons students are immersed in reading.  Teachers and reading specialists work with students in classrooms and one-on-one, developing their reading skills and bringing them up to grade level and above.  Students also have access to libraries and reading-focused experiential learning activities, such as book creation, author visits and DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) days.  

How we know it’s working: Data shows students who entered Horizons below grade level gain about 1.5 to 2 months in reading.  Students entering Horizons at, or near grade level begin the school year having gained about 1 month on average.


STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math)

The Problem: Students from low-income families have less access to computers, internet, and technology that benefit students’ ability to develop skills in STEAM disciplines.    

Female and minority students lack access to quality instruction and guidance toward success in STEAM pathways

The Solution: STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education fosters students’ ability to become better problem solvers, thinkers and effective team members. At Horizons, students explore each of these five areas through project-based learning and off-site experiences.

The Result/How we know it’s working:


Our Approach: Students use tablets in the 1st grade and are introduced to more complex technology as they grow.  By the time they arrive in 5th grade, students are programming robots and participating in a robotics competition.  Graduating students entering 9th grade will use multiple devices to code, create media and 3D print.

Example:  Students created a “city” of 3D printed objects.  This city was complete with streets, a castle, trees and numerous other “neighborhoods”, demonstrating their ability to collaborate and create. based on fantasy worlds.

Participants utilized their creativity to make objects that were personal to them, building off of their previous experience in their art classes.  Many students faced significant challenges in using the software and had to collaborate to solve problems in order to print their contribution to the city.

Math and Science

Our Approach: Students build Math and Science skills by way of hands-on learning and interactive experiences.  Through visits in the natural environment - from farms to mountain hikes - students learn about conservation, biology, and engineering in-person.  These visits not only enhance learning, but provide new experiences where students apply concepts introduced in the classroom to the real-world.  Students also write and design books and media, and play educational games using tablets to help them continue to grow their skill set in these subjects.

Example: 1st graders develop models of the circulatory system. 3-5 graders learn basic engineering through building Rube Goldberg Machines and flying paper airplanes.  Middle School students design a protective case to protect an egg from a drop of 4 ft, or more.


Our Approach: Horizons’ arts program develops students’ creative abilities and encourages them to think about who they are and what they will become.  Our team teaches students acting, dancing, painting and creation of 3D art.  Horizons Greater Washington is home to the Horizons 2015 Lynn McNaught Teacher of The Year Award winner, Elaine Edwards, who embodies the use of art as therapy in her classroom.  For all students, especially those facing difficult circumstances at home or with their peers, art provides a stable, safe environment to foster a sense of calm and healthy expression.  

Example:  Students create memory boxes as a way to identify and describe themselves artistically.  These boxes contain images and art that are personal to a child. The end result is a box that tells a visual story of a child’s identity and story.



The Problem: According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one in five fatal drowning victims are children younger than 14.  And in predominantly minority communities, the youth drowning rate is often 2-3 times higher than the national average.  

Our Approach: Swimming is a central component to the Horizons program.  This 9-year curriculum begins with developing comfort in the water and culminates in competitive-style swimming skills.   Students challenge themselves and push through adversity in the pool, which translates to their approach to work in the classroom.

The Result:  Every student leaves Horizons more confident, stronger emotionally and physically, and able to swim.