Lab News

  • PBS KIDS Celebrates Summer Reading and Literacy

    May 05, 2014

    PBS KIDS Celebrates Summer Reading and Literacy

    After a long, long school year, it’s almost the sweetest time for students – those three months of summer reading lists and unlimited sunshine. May is summer reading and literacy month here at PBS KIDS, and we at Ready To Learn want to get children, parents and teachers in the swing of summer reading with a few of the best online games and activities out there.

    There are a few PBS KIDS characters that fall into the all-star reading category, like Martha and Whyatt. Whyatt and his Super Why! pals are masters of spelling and vocabulary – and their games are perfect for children 3 to 5 years old. Mix the batter, bake, frost and decorate your very own scrumptious cake with Super Celebrations: Cake Maker, all while practicing letter sounds. And no perfectly-planned party, even with the most scrumptious of cakes, is complete without a DJ. Match words with their beginning letters in Super Celebrations: Super Duper DJ.

    Martha Speaks, geared toward kids 6 to 8 years old, dives a little deeper into literacy with games, activities, and interactive books that emphasize more complex vocabulary and writing skills. There are TWO Martha Speaks iPad apps – also available through the Mobile Learning Program – that use open-ended play to encourage kids to tap into their creative sides: Story Maker and Word Spinner.

    Children can also put on their reporting hats and create their own newspaper with Town Crier, or help Skitts sniff out backpacks and hydrants and all sorts of treats that foster a fabulous vocabulary on In the Park with Skits.

    There is also an awesome new collection of Martha Speaks True Stories, which help parents and educators promote a love for non-fiction reading and writing. Four categories – environment, technology, inventions, and measuring – of online, interactive storybooks are supplemented by short videos, classroom and at-home teaching tips, and online games.

    Here are three at-home activities – each paired with a Martha Speaks game or video – that help build vocabulary and writing skills, too:
    •    Martha Speaks: Silly Sentences
    •    Martha Speaks: Sharing Family Stories
    •    Martha Speaks: Mixed-Up Headlines

    For daily reading activity suggestions, visit the PBS KIDS Island calendar here!

    In addition to all the summer-reading prep, there are also a few May holidays we can’t forget – Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day – and a few that are just plain fun (like Dance Like A Chicken Day).

    On Cinco de Mayo, practice counting by five with these two activities: Curious George: Hands Down! and High Five. For Mother’s Day, consider making mom an edible gift with two Peg + Cat special recipes:
    •    Peg and Cat’s Incredibly Popular Honey Cake
    •    The Pirates’ “Great Banana” Fruit Salad

    Now, in the most perfect way to wrap up May, we need to cover three of the kookiest, but definitely three of the most fun, holidays in the books. May 14 is Dance Like a Chicken Day, and of course, Peg + Cat have you covered with the Chicken Dance game. On May 13, in observance of Frog Jumping Day, take a turn with Curious George’s Ribbit. And, finally, May 23 is Penny Day and we have two more activities for you to try: Cyberchase’s Coin Toss and Fizzy’s cash register.

  • ODD SQUAD -- New Live- Action Math Show Coming to PBS KIDS This Fall

    April 14, 2014

    ODD SQUAD -- New Live- Action Math Show Coming to PBS KIDS This Fall

    By Chloe Gould

    Two math-savvy special agents, 11-year-old Olive and 9-year-old Otto, are stamping their strange-crime-fighting team seal on PBS Kids this fall in a new live-action series: ODD SQUAD.

    It’s a world full of the oddest occurrences. There are unicorns, dinosaurs and wizards that have escaped from the pages of the most magical storybooks, and days when all the zeroes disappear from town (the kind of problem that puts a 10-year-old back in diapers). There’s only one team in town, the ODD SQUAD, that’s equipped to set everything straight.

    The new series, funded in part by Ready To Learn, follows Olive, Otto, their 7-year-old boss Ms. O and a few other quirky characters through the most bizarre of special cases, each one focused on   a challenging math concept. The ODD SQUAD experience will extend beyond the screen as well, with opportunities for kids to join the Squad themselves and take on the math-based challenges online, at home and on mobile devices.

    The show, designed to help children ages 5 to 8 learn math, was created by Tim McKeon (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Adventure Time, The Electric Company) and Adam Peltzman (The Electric Company, The Backyardigans, Wallykazam!) and produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment and The Fred Rogers Company. Each episode includes two 11-minute cases, with each case followed by an agent training video, a guide to ODD SQUAD  headquarters or a demonstration on how to use some of Olive and Otto’s odd gadgets, like the “Pudding-Inator” or “The Make-Anything-Within-Reason-Machine.”

    There’s no case too nutty for this strange-fighting duo (including one where it’s raining nuts in town!) and each of the crazy and kooky days on the ODD SQUAD job is packed with some seriously challenging math problems, too. In one 22-minute episode, “Crime at Shapely Manor,” Olive and Otto test their geometry skills while solving a crime with Lord Rectangle, Lady Triangle, Professor Square and General Pentagon.

    The ODD SQUAD works from a 25,000 square-foot headquarters, with a second-story, octagon-shaped office for the boss lady, Ms. O.  A bullpen houses work spaces for the agents, including Olive’s very tidy desk and Otto’s very,  cluttered set-up  that’s big enough to host a prehistoric guest star in one episode. A complex underground system of tunnels allows the pint-sized agents to almost instantly travel from town to headquarters, and the futuristic “Mathroom” stores all the tools Olive and Otto need to solve the most overwhelmingly strange scenarios.

    It’s a show that packs core math skills into some very funny – for adults, too! – storylines. The characters are active problem solvers – they think out loud, ask questions and experiment. Supplemental resources for educators and parents, as well as apps and online games that follow the wild stories from the show, will help foster the same qualities in all ODD SQUAD viewers and fans.

    Chloe Gould is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism, and is working as an intern for the Ready To Learn Program at PBS.

  • PBS KIDS Celebrates Math in the Outdoors

    April 01, 2014

    PBS KIDS Celebrates Math in the Outdoors

    April is Math Awareness Month and Keep America Beautiful Month, so PBS KIDS is celebrating Math in the Outdoors. This month is dedicated to the green, green grass, the big blue sky, and all the creatures and critters in between – from National Wildlife Week (that starts April 14) to Earth Day on April 22 – and we want to help you celebrate in Ready -To- Learn style.

    Whether you’re planning a celebration for a classroom full of kindergartners, or an at-home family night, Ready To Learn has the online games, apps, activities and episodes to make it a fun, math-centered  party in, or just about, the outdoors.

    Let’s start with a few math games set in the outdoors – some available to play online, others for mobile, and a few for a classroom’s interactive whiteboard!

    Curious George is a monkey with a lot of questions, and a champion of the great outdoors. He counts each budding bulb that pops up in Flower Garden and practices number sequencing in Apple Picking.  He swipes the biggest, or the smallest, hot pink and yellow buzzing bugs in Bug Catcher, and tallies each carrot he scoops up in Bunny Ride. To brush up on his addition and subtraction skills, George checks in with the croak-croak-croaking frogs in Ribbit, and on his slower days, he divvies out biscuits to his favorite pups in the park in Fair Shares.



    All those Curious George adventures are perfect for kids ages 3 to 5, and if you’d prefer Peg and Cat, Sid, or the Cat in the Hat to be your outdoors tour guide, we have a few more games perfect for 3- to 5-year-olds:


    •    Cat in the Hat’s “Do You See My Seahorse?”
    •    Peg + Cat’s “Magical Shape Hunt”
    •    Peg + Cat’s “Hungry Pirates”
    •    Peg + Cat’s “Adventures”
    •    Sid the Science Kid’s “Vegetable Harvest”






    The always entertaining Kratt brothers and their wild animal friends are probably the biggest fans of the outdoors, and their gaming adventures are best suited for older kids, ages 6- to- 8. In Flower Flier, players have to use fractions to help the Kratts lap up just the right amount of nectar to keep their hummingbird power suits in the air. Their daredevil ways extend far beyond nectar-powered flying suits, though. The brothers measure the temperature of nested crocodile eggs in Croc Hatch! and dig underground holes to create just the right habitat in Aardvark Town.


    Wild Kratts has some of the coolest outdoor adventures, with sorting and classifying in Frogfish Feast, and lots of addition and subtraction while kids create their own animal habitats in Wild Kratts Creature Math, a popular Ready To Learn mobile app. To order free gift codes for this iPad app for your classroom or organization, visit the Mobile Learning Program website at You’ll also be able to order gift codes for all the other RTL apps, for both iOS and Android.

    Beyond all those fun, educational games that celebrate Math in the Outdoors, there’s a nice collection of off-screen activities for at-home or in the classroom. On the Wild Kratts track, for kids ages 6- to- 8, there is Adding Up Animal Habitats, Bird Feeder Fractions, and Temperature Scavenger Hunt. Each of these activities includes a short list of supplies, simple instructions and suggestions for a few related books to read.

    For 3- to 5-year-olds, we have three scavenger hunts and one hide-and-seek activity that encourage kids to put their math skills to use outside:

    •    Cat in the Hat’s “Shape Hunt Adventure”
    •    Cat in the Hat’s “Hunting for Treasure Up, Down, All Around”
    •    Cat in the Hat’s “Thinga-ma-jigger Hide-and-Seek”
    •    Dinosaur Train’s “Shape Scavenger Hunt”

    If you’re looking for videos themed around math or the outdoors, check out the Math and Earth Day topic pages in the PBS KIDS video player.

    All of the Ready To Learn resources, including each of the games and activities that will help you celebrate Math in the Outdoors, are available on PBS KIDS Lab.

  • Comcast Grant Funds Mobile Labs, Summer Camps for KBTC in Tacoma

    March 24, 2014

    Comcast Grant Funds Mobile Labs, Summer Camps for KBTC in Tacoma
    By Chloe Gould

    Comcast announced this March that it will provide a $50,000 grant to the Foundation for Tacoma Students through its Gold Medal Recognition Program, part of which will benefit the Ready To Learn efforts of KBTC in Tacoma, WA.  The grant recognizes organizations that work to connect families to high-speed Internet and bridge the digital divide.

    KBTC has been a champion for Ready To Learn resources, extending its work as a demonstration station into a greater fight to provide educational after-school and summer learning experiences for children and their families.  As one of the Foundation’s partners, KBTC will use a portion of the grant to provide mobile learning labs and summer camps to Tacoma students.

    In 2011, KBTC began its work in the Hilltop community of Tacoma as a Ready To Learn demonstration station. As a part of its outreach to the low-income community, it worked with several local partners, including the Tacoma Housing Authority and McCarver Elementary School.

    In partnership with both the Housing Authority and McCarver, KBTC started a Ready To Learn summer camp where children could play educational math- and reading-based apps and online games, write and perform a play, and report for a mock mini-newspaper.

    The Comcast grant will fund three of KBTC’s two-week camps this summer in the east side of Tacoma, for children in kindergarten through grade three. The grant will also give the station two mobile learning labs stocked with iPads—one for the summer camps and another to supplement summer literacy program twice a week in Salishan, a low-income neighborhood in Tacoma.

    The bulk of the Comcast grant has gone to the Foundation for Tacoma Students to create an online hub for summer learning opportunities: The goal of the site is to aggregate information about summer camps, arts and science programs, and summer schools in Tacoma, as well as the best websites for online learning games and programs (which will include PBS KIDS!).

    The Tacoma Urban League will also receive part of the grant to provide digital literacy classes for parents over the summer, which will be taught by local students for a small stipend.

    Each of these efforts supports the Foundation for Tacoma’s Graduate Tacoma! Initiative, which began in 2010 as a pledge to grow the Tacoma Public School District’s graduation rate from 57 percent to 87 percent by 2020. The graduation rate has grown each year since, reaching 70 percent in 2013.

    Chloe Gould is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism, and is working as an intern for the Ready To Learn Program at PBS.

  • PBS Stations Celebrate the 100th Day of School in their Communities, Peg + Cat Style

    January 31, 2014

    PBS Stations Celebrate the 100th Day of School in their Communities, Peg + Cat Style
    By Chloe Gould

    It’s the time of the school year celebrated with 1-double-0 glasses and long-winded counts to the big 1-0-0, a celebration that equals the excitement of New Year’s Eve for young kids. The 100th Day of School, celebrated between January and February (depending on the school district’s start date), is a big day for kids in pre-K and elementary classrooms, and PBS Kids is helping 45 local stations and their community partners celebrate in Peg + Cat style.

    WSIU 5Peg +Cat has perfected the art of counting to 100, hitting the big number with a brood of yellow chicks in outer space and some scrumptious pizza pies,  just to name two examples! So, for this year’s celebration, PBS Kids and Ready To Learn packaged a few of our favorite Peg + Cat resources for PBS stations across the country to share in celebrations at nearly 100 schools, Head Starts and libraries.

    The PBS stations – from WTJX in the Virgin Islands to PBS SoCaL in Costa Mesa, CA and WCNY in Syracuse, NY – each received three Kindle Fire tablets and three Peg + Cat hopscotch-printed reading rugs at the beginning of January.  The Kindle Fires were loaded with the new Android tablet-compatible Peg + Cat Big Gig app.   With the app, children (or adults, because it’s that good) can tap out a few tunes while following patterns and counting by twos.

    Each station put its own spin on the 100th Day celebrations. While some chose to host a station-sponsored event in the community, complete with characters and crafts, others worked the resources into activities local schools already had planned.

    WGBY in Springfield, Mass. included the resources in a math-focused family fun night at a community school for over 600 students. Ohio station WOSU  is working with 700 students in Columbus Public Schools for a celebration in mid-February.

    WSIUIn Southern Illinois, WSIU chose to work with two schools in Herrin, Ill. On Jan. 26, the station teamed up with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School to launch Catholic Schools Week.  Along with the Peg + Cat 100th Day of School activities, which included a visit from Super Why and the station’s literacy van,  there was a community blood drive and a Scholastic Book Fair.  A Peg + Cat reading rug led the way into the “Feria del Libro,” or book fair, and kids glued strands of orange yarn, and a long purple tail, onto Peg and Cat popsicle stick puppets.

    WSIU partnered with Ready To Learn’s Mobile Learning Program, as did many of the 100th Day of School stations, to send free gift codes home with parents so they could download several apps to their personal devices for free. The Mobile Learning Program offers eight free apps for iPad, two for iPhone and two for Android tablets, including the Kindle Fire.

    The same week, WSIU visited North Side Primary Center, a much larger public school in Herrin, to host another 100th Day celebration before closing out Catholic School Week at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel with a Peg + Cat-themed Grandparents Day.

    If your local PBS station, or your child’s school isn’t hosting a big 100th Day event, we still have you covered.  All of our 100th Day resources are available here, and the PBS Kids, PBS Parents and PBS Kids Lab sites are full of other Peg + Cat activities that fit right in with the festivities, like the Big Jig flipbook, the Pirates + Peaches board game, or the Chicken Coop activity page.

    Chloe Gould is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism, and is working as an intern for the Ready To Learn Program at PBS.