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Eight, Arizona PBS picked to help youngsters with math, literacy skills

November 29, 2011

Eight, Arizona PBS has been chosen by the Department of Education to receive a one-year grant to help improve math and literacy skills in underserved children ages two to eight.

Eight’s Educational Outreach team will work with Balsz and Creighton School Districts in Phoenix, rural Coconino County schools and major Arizona partners to determine the efficacy of content designed to increase learning in youngsters using their favorite PBS KIDS characters. The total one-year stipend granted to Eight is $93,800.

Eight was chosen as a demonstration site by the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, funders of the year-long project titled “Expanded Learning Through Transmedia Content.” The CPB and PBS are leading the Ready To Learn initiative to develop content across many platforms – video, online games, mobile apps and off-line activities. The goal is to boost math and reading skills in children ages two to eight using their favorite PBS KIDS characters, such as Clifford, The Cat in the Hat and Curious George.

“This latest Ready To Learn initiative builds on public television’s original mandate to use the power of media for education,” said Kelly McCullough, general manager of Eight. “We are Arizona’s largest classroom. And by working with partners and local communities, we can offer resources for our earliest learners, families and educators that aren’t available anywhere else.”

Eight’s Educational Outreach team is serving a total of 14 schools within the central Phoenix corridor. Both districts have low-income families and high child poverty rates, and approximately three-quarters of the children under five are of Hispanic or Latino descent. Eight’s educators also will partner with the Coconino County Superintendent of Schools to reach the county’s often isolated and underserved rural population which is one-third American Indian and 16 percent below the poverty level.

“We believe that the parent is the child’s first teacher in literacy and math,” said Eight’s Kimberly Flack, associate general manager of education. “This effort supports that idea by engaging kids not only at school, but also in communities - after school and at home, to give us a better understanding of how technology and public media can work together to advance children’s learning.”

According to Flack, a key component of Eight’s educational project is developing a traveling iPad lab that can immerse youngsters in Ready To Learn content regardless of where they live and what resources they have available. Eight also will work with partners to host hands-on transmedia sessions at school conferences, family curriculum nights, open houses, community centers and out-of-school care settings.

At its PBS Early Literacy Workshop series, funded by the First Things First North Phoenix and Yuma Regional Partnership Councils, Eight will integrate the new Ready To Learn content to benefit both parent and child attendees. Additionally, Eight’s educational team will conduct professional development workshops for classroom teachers, early care providers and out-of-school providers on using the power of media for inclusive, intentional and engaging instruction including Ready To Learn resources.

Working with major partners, Eight plans to leverage the project’s impact through their reach and expertise. Its major partners include the Arizona Department of Education, Arizona Head Start, Balsz School District, Coconino County Superintendent of Schools, Creighton School District, Discovery Triangle Development Corporation, First Things First, Maricopa Integrated Health System, Latino Institute and City of Phoenix “Phoenix Afterschool Center” and Social Venture Partners of Arizona.

Eight will support partners in using the Ready To Learn content through curriculum mapping and alignment to Arizona Academic and Early Learning Standards. It also will track the project’s impact through survey and research mechanisms designed in collaboration with these partners.

Selected in 2006 as one of 20 “Raising Readers” PBS stations in the nation, Eight has literacy outreach experience providing hundreds of Early Literacy Workshops funded by First Things First. Eight also has delivered STEM-related outreach in Arizona, working with 110 pre-school teachers in a large suburban school district in the 2010-2011 school year using core content from Sid the Science Kid and Cat in the Hat Knows a lot about That. In addition, Eight has developed and deployed over 260 interactive, Web-based math modules called MathActive – among the most used resources on IDEAL, a statewide portal learning platform available to all Arizona educators.

Judy Crawford