Lab News

  • Odd Squad “Be the Agent” Camps

    December 15, 2015

    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:

    WHRO EDU link:

  • WQED’s math iQ and “The Big Gig” Musical

    August 17, 2015

    A new program funded by Ready to Learn is yielding impressive results.

    A pilot math program developed by WQED and supported by a Ready to Learn grant and CPB is showing promising results after its first year working with pre-kindergarten to elementary students, and their families, in at-risk communities around Pittsburgh.

    The program, called math iQ, launched in September of 2014 with a unique approach to stimulating and building math skills in early learners. The program was designed for educators to meet with students monthly over the course of the school year. In each session, older and younger students were paired to work closely on structured activities, media and games, developed around PBS KIDS programming, Peg + Cat and Odd Squad.

    The unique, mentoring piece to the program paired third graders, who were recommended by their teachers, with pre-k and kindergarten learners to encourage students to communicate what they had learned, and build confidence. A critical take-home component invited parents and students to work together on simple and fun math activities outside of the classroom to reinforce learning and empower parents around math.

    "The success of the math iQ program has exceeded my expectations of the outcomes when partnering high-quality digital media resources from Ready to Learn with hands-on experiences in a school setting,” said Cathy Cook, Manager of Digital Early Learner Projects and Professional Development at WQED. “Participation in math iQ has fostered gains in math skills, which I expected, but also in areas such as transition, collaboration with peers, family engagement, and English language acquisition. I am so incredibly proud of the impact of the math iQ program."

    Three schools in the Pittsburgh area were chosen to pilot the program, based on need. One hundred fifteen children (and their families) took part. The schools reflected the variety of exposure and experience that classrooms have with technology, and how teachers adapt. For example, one pilot school used media and technology frequently in the classroom, while the remaining schools had minimum to no access to technology. “math iQ was designed to be effective in all schools, regardless of the technological resources available to teachers,” explained Jennifer Stancil, Executive Director of Educational Partnership at WQED.
    Program toolkits were developed for the three pilot schools, and contained materials to support each of the nine monthly math interventions. Kits included nine learning modules and physical, color copies of the activities used. Many schools are unable to color-copy, and math activities often use color coding and shading to emphasize concepts, said Stancil. Nine additional toolkits were developed and will be distributed to chosen schools.

    Participating schools in the pilot program also received iPads and an Osmo, an educational gaming accessory for the iPad; ear buds, and a program toolkit.

    The program held community events to mark each phase, from a kick-off event in September, to a mobile media lab, “App-a-thon,” that allowed parents and kids to test iPads and games during the year, access training and free app codes, and download PBS materials to mobile devices.

    This first year of math iQ culminated in a hugely successful “Big Gig Musical” this past May. Kids wrote and performed their own mathematical musical incorporating their own ideas as well as songs from Peg + Cat and Odd Squad.

    The University of Pittsburgh has partnered with WQED to study the effectiveness of math iQ, specifically the take-home component. The study will look at how the program influenced or augmented the math that students did at home, while also assessing the parents’ anxiety with math. The results of the study are expected to be published in the fall of 2015 and will inform future iterations of the program, said Stancil.

    For more information on math iQ:

    Watch: WQED Remake Learning: WQED's math iQ

    Read an overview of the math iQ program

  • KBTC Partnership Creates Free Summer Camp for Low-Income Youth

    February 13, 2015

    A Tacoma community comes together to make summer learning fun
    Watch a video produced by KBTC about the 2014 Summer Camp.

    Parents and caregivers in the Salishan neighborhood of Tacoma, WA, struggled to find enriching, summer learning activities for kids, until a partnership between KBTC and Tacoma Public Schools provided an opportunity to create an interactive learning camp for kids in the neighborhood.

    Families in Salishan, like many working-class neighborhoods, faced many barriers when trying to access camps and other summer-learning opportunities, such as affordability, lack of transportation, family responsibilities, and even how to find programs. The closure of the local library branch further limited what was available to the community.

    As part of KBTC’s Ready to Learn outreach efforts to promote early learning opportunities through PBS Kids programs, and work within the community, the station partnered with Tacoma Public Schools to create a free summer camp for Tacoma’s most economically disadvantaged youth. A Comcast grant awarded in 2014 supported the partnership. 

    The summer camp was held over a three-week period in July of 2014 at Lister Elementary School in the Salishan Housing Project. Each day, more than 25, K-3rd graders engaged in hands-on, PBS KIDS learning activities, games, and other online resources that spanned reading, science, writing, and social studies.

    A computer lab, and iPads that were part of a mobile learning lab funded by the Comcast grant, introduced kids to new technology and PBS KIDS apps, while triggering discussions on what it means to create content.

    One of four camp teachers, Katia Olmeda-Rosa, who is also a teacher at Lister Elementary, explained that positive experiences at summer camps like the KBTC program creates can change the way kids think about school.

    “I was happy when I waked up this morning because I wanted to know what we are doing in Fetch today.  It was fun yesterday, and I know it will be even funner today.” – Jasmine, Grade 2

    Kids like Jasmine received breakfast and lunch plus a full day of activities that were designed to be fun, encouraging, engaging and interactive, as well as educational.

    Camp classes were designed to prevent “summer slide.” Studies show that more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.

    As summer camp came to a close, parents were encouraged to attend a final party, where they participated in a workshop to discuss how free PBS resources can extend summer learning and build learning and literacy skills.

    The 2014 Summer Camp supports the Foundation for Tacoma Students’ Graduate Tacoma! initiative, which has been working to increase the Tacoma Public School District’s graduation rate since 2010.


  • New Live-Action Math Show Premieres on PBS KIDS

    November 25, 2014

    New Live-Action Math Show Premieres on PBS KIDS

    Calling all kids with a math-focused mind and a knack for solving the silliest, strangest and most odd goings-on in town – Odd Squad, the newest PBS KIDS series, premieres Nov. 26 at 9 a.m.

    Agents Olive and Otto, the two stars of the blob-chasing, centigurp-scooping squad, solve the strange in their city with sharp math skills, quick wit and seriously impressive dance skills. When Soundcheck, the chart-topping boy band with lusciously gelled locks and cut-off tees, “take away four” from a baker’s dozen bagels – and several other sets of objects around town – the  Odd Squad agents take the problem to the Math Room.

    With a little addition and subtraction, the two crack the case. The oddities don’t stop there, though. There’s a step-by-step interrogation of a unicorn, a prehistoric pal trapped in headquarters and, of course, some reindeer games. Each and every problem is solved with a lot of humor – which both kids and parents can enjoy! – and math skills suited for ages 6 to 8: numbers and counting, operations, geometry, spatial sense, measurement, data collection and analysis, algebra and patterns.

    Check out the Odd Squad site, where you can watch videos, play games and meet the agents.  There are six 11-minute case files (each half of an on-air episode), a tour of the incredibly cool Odd Squad headquarters and a collection of agent training videos.

    Catch the Centigurps, an arcade-style game, lets kids work with Agent Oscar and a few of the Squad’s prized gadgets to wrangle 100 bouncing centigurps.  Special carrying cases used to scoop up the fuzzy pink creatures hold sets of 2, 5 or 10.  With each level, you have to catch more.

    Down the Tubes, takes you into the complex system of tubes that transport the Odd Squad agents from case to case.  The system is broken, so kids have to use their measurement skills to reconnect segments by combining the correct number of units.


    We want YOU to be the agent!  On the site, you can Become an Agent, earn agent awards and even make the wall of agents.

    Coming soon to the Odd Squad collection of digital games are Pie-nado! and  Creature Duty online, and the  Blob on the Job mobile app.  There will also be a series of parent and educator resources that follow the case files theme, and activities for out of school time.

    Watch now, play now, and then tune in for the extra special premiere on Nov. 26.

  • PBS KIDS Celebrates Summer Travel – Plus Reading and Math Skills!

    July 08, 2014

    PBS KIDS Celebrates Summer Travel – Plus Reading and Math Skills!

    It’s finally July, the heart and heat of summer, filled with fireworks, long days at the neighborhood pool and trips to the sunny, sandy beach. No matter where your summer travels take you – on a plane, train, boat or crowded backseat of the family van – PBS KIDS is here to help keep reading and math skills sharp on the go.

    Now, whether you have a tablet (iPad, Android, or Kindle Fire), or you’re willing to let the little ones borrow a smartphone, we have some seriously fun math- and literacy-based mobile apps. 

    Our favorite Peg + Cat app, Big Gig, just rolled out an update that now includes Cat Dance. Kids can help dear little Cat achieve his dancing dream – complete with pink tutu! – while practicing ordinal numbers. That app, for ages 3 to 6, supplements the collection of Peg games available through your mobile browser: Chicken Blast-Off (that practices shapes), Chicken Dance (patterns) and Peg’s Pizza Place (counting, fractions and numbers).

    Dinosaur Train is another go-to for early childhood math skills – and, the property has three apps to make on-the-go summer learning that much easier. All Aboard the Dinosaur Train has kids practice measurement by placing dinosaurs in the right-sized train car, while Classic in the Jurrasic Jr. works in sorting and classifying skills, too. One of the most popular apps in the Ready To Learn bunch, Camera Catch, gives kids control over the camera while learning patterns.

    Older kids will love Creature Math, a Wild Kratts app that pulls together all the animal adventure of the series, addition and subtraction. Build an animal habitat for Spartacus the Moose and Torpedo the Peregrine Falcon while building those essential math skills – the game’s difficulty adjusts as the player’s proficiency increases, too!

    The Cyberchase 3D Builder, another app designed for ages 6 to 8, is another math favorite. It practices shapes, 2-D and 3-D, while allowing children to tap into their architectural and design skills.

    There is not one, but TWO Martha Speaks apps designed to boost summertime (or anytime!) literacy skills: Word Spinner and Story Maker. Both are designed for the older kids, again, and give kids the creativity to grow their love of reading into a love for creative writing and storytelling.



    For more on-the-go game suggestions, visit On the games tab, you can sort by mobile to see all the fun options available for your summer travels.