Erica Cardenas

Ready to learn

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Eight, Arizona PBS is among 11 public television stations selected nationwide to work with children and their families, caregivers and educators to test the effectiveness of interactive content aimed at helping youth develop math and literacy skills. As part of this initiative, Eight will receive a $93,800 one-year stipend. 

Eight’s staff of certified educators, known as Eight Educational Outreach, will team up with several partners to connect this “transmedia” learning experience across home, school and community to reach kids in high-needs school districts in Phoenix and Coconino County. 

Eight was chosen as a demonstration site by the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), funders of the yearlong 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 offline activities. The goal is to boost math and reading skills in children ages 2 to 8 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,” says Eight’s general manager Kelly McCullough. “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.”

In Phoenix, Eight’s Educational Outreach team is partnering with Balsz and Creighton school districts, which encompass 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 5 years of age are of Hispanic 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,” says Kimberly Flack, Eight’s associate general manager. “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 to them. 

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Eight will also 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. 

In addition, 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 will also track the project’s impact through survey and research mechanisms designed in collaboration with these partners.

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