PBS Stations WHRO and WFSU Launch Successful Programs
Odd Squad “Be The Agent” camps reached children in high poverty, at-risk communities this past summer in Norfolk, Va., and Tallahassee, Fla., with successful results.
Funded by Ready To Learn grants awarded to PBS stations, WHRO in Virginia, and WFSU in Florida, the camps provided classroom materials, technology, and PBS Kids media in support of critical math objectives for young learners. As part of its grant, each station also received banners, Odd Squad badges, and a branded rug to decorate the classroom.
At WHRO in Virginia, half- and full-day summer camps ran for two weeks in July and August, and drew as many as 36 children. Twenty iPads were purchased through the station’s RTL Transmedia grant, and are now part of the station’s mobile learning lab. WHRO’s education staff travels to communities frequently with the mobile lab, setting up tables, Wi-Fi, and activities to engage children with fun digital learning experiences.
“To see them in action was wonderful. I think that the whole PBSKIDS.ORG product is excellent, and it is something for us to be very proud of and confident to take into our communities,” said Angie Callahan, Director of Children’s Services at WHRO.
WHRO has managed Super Why summer camps as part of its Raising Readers program. The Raising Readers program was originally funded by a Ready To Learn grant and has since found local funding to support it. The station has obtained local funding to support two Odd Squad camps for the summer of 2016, and Callahan sees a promising future for it.
“The children were engaged in all aspects of the curriculum. They watched the video clips intently, worked on their cases with enthusiasm, loved the hands-on, gadget-making activities, and looked forward every day to their digital experiences playing Odd Squad games on their iPads. We already have sites ready to host “Be The Agent” camps next summer, and several sites that want us to host one-day camps. When children get excited about learning, the word spreads. Educators (both formal and informal) as well as funders take notice,” said Callahan.
On the first day of camp, children complete a simple assessment to gauge their math skills, called the “Agent Entry Form.” That same assessment is given to the students on their last day of camp to review what they have learned, and is called the “Agent Exit Form.” Camp administrators use these forms as part of their overall program assessment.
For children, solving cases and receiving their Odd Squad badges is a special experience, says Felisha Williams, a 4th grade teacher who ran WFSU’s camps in Tallahassee, Fla.
“I really enjoyed the program as a whole. I felt that the content correlated well with what our school curriculum entails. The students were learning and didn’t even recognize it!” Williams said.
At WFSU in Tallahassee, Fla., the station’s education staff used their grant to support schools that are most in need. The station was already working with six different K-5 schools as part of Leon County Schools 21st Century grant programs. After receiving funding to support Odd Squad camps, WFSU went to the schools with this summer’s program. The station ran half-day camps for two weeks in July at Oak Ridge Elementary in Tallahassee and saw promising results.
The communities served are low-income, explained Tasha Weinstein, WFSU’s Education & Outreach Manager. Sixteen children attended the camps and loved playing the part of agent, wearing special lab coats the station purchased for them and working together to solve projects, said Weinstein.
Many of the schools are technology-challenged, and disconnect, or provide spotty Wi-Fi, over the summer. This made interactivity a bit of a challenge, Weinstein explained. The station has already implemented camps for many PBS Kids programs, including Wild Kratts, Electric Company, and now Odd Squad.
“Odd Squad is one of the most unique and fun ways children can engage with math. The cases allow them to explore math in a very non-traditional way. They look for unexpected creatures, create contraptions that are only limited by their own imagination and learn to work together to solve problems. WFSU is looking forward to solving many more Odd Cases with children in the years to come!” said Weinstein.
Having the pilot grant funding made this camp possible, said Weinstein, and WFSU will be looking for sponsors to support future camps in their community.
For More Information:
WFSU EDU link: http://wfsu.org/education/
WHRO EDU link: http://education.whro.org