First lady Jill Biden and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, met Friday for the first time as the two embarked on a tour designed to highlight the importance of education and early childhood development.
The pair chatted briefly before embarking for their tour of Connor Downs Academy, a Cornwell-based school that works with students who have been affected by trauma.
School officials said the academy provides unique resources for students, such as outdoor classrooms and gardens, where they can plant flowers, vegetables, and work with animals.
The First Lady and the Duchess each visited with small groups of students, some as young as four years old.
“It’s the quietest class I’ve ever been into,” Duchess Catherine said.
Dr. Biden called early education “the foundation of everything.”
“I can tell you that as a teacher in the upper levels, if they don’t have a good foundation, they fall so far behind,” she continued. So this is amazing to see what these children are doing, and how far advanced they are at 4 and 5 years old.”
The students demonstrated their reading skills for the Duchess and First Lady and presented them with a bouquet of flowers. The duo also met the school’s bunnies, which the students help care for, while touring the “outside classroom.”
They later departed for a roundtable discussion centered on early education. Attendees included four British early-development experts, and three U.S. experts who joined via videochat.
The day sought to underscore a cause near to both of their hearts: Biden has spent more than three decades teaching, and will continue teaching while carrying out her duties as first lady. The Duchess, for her part, created a steering group in 2018 to research early childhood development, and has launched similar efforts designed to promote development in the first five years of a child’s life.
The Duchess called it a “huge honor” to host Dr. Biden in the United Kingdom, hailing her passion for early education.”
“I met some wonderful teachers and principals and most of all the children, who were so inspiring and so well behaved,” Dr. Biden said, adding that “early childhood education is so important to lay the foundation for all of our students.”
“It’s very important to the foundation,” Dr. Biden told reporters of early education. “As a teacher at the upper levels, if they don’t have a good foundation, they fall so far behind. This is amazing to see how far advanced they are.”
Dr. Biden was asked if she asked the Duchess for advice on meeting Queen Elizabeth II, which is set to take place Sunday at Windsor Castle.
“No I didn’t,” she replied. “We’ve been busy. Were you not in that room? We were talking education.”
The Duchess was asked about her newborn niece, Lilibet, the second child of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
“I wish her all the very best,” she said. “I can’t wait to meet her because we haven’t yet, met her yet, so hopefully, that will be soon.”
She has not yet met Lilibet over FaceTime, she confirmed.