The following is part of a series of guest posts by leaders in the field of literacy and family learning. This guest post is by Gay Mohrbacher, Senior Project Manager at WGBH Education.
For at-risk children outside preschool, accessing science activities depends almost entirely on parents—but many parents have limited skills for supporting such learning. PBS station WGBH has recently launched a series of free family apps based on the Emmy Award-winning preschool science series, PEEP and the Big Wide World. The apps were developed to be used jointly by parent and child for a shared learning experience. Available on Google Play and the App Store in both Spanish and English, PEEP Family Science apps cover the topics of shadows, sound, color, and ramps, respectively.
Each app has four weeks’ worth of science activity in daily doses of about 20 minutes, combining a short PEEP video with a hands-on activity, and ideas to take an exploration further. Support for parents is built right into the apps, including videos with moms and kids in their own homes modeling activities and ways to help children learn. The apps also take advantage of a smart phone’s camera to document science play with video and photos for families to reflect on later.
Some educators and parents worry about using technology with young children, so it’s important to note that PEEP follows best practices for using media as outlined by NAEYC, the Fred Rogers Center, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The longest dose of media per day is an 8.5-minute animated story from PEEP. Parent and child are prompted to watch together, and parents are given questions to help a child connect what she’s seeing to what she already knows. Following the video, the parent and child move to an activity that is directly related. These practices represent positive, responsible use of technology.
Research during the apps’ development found families were quite positive about using the technology. They enjoyed the experience, found it motivating, made time for it, and recognized its educational value. Most importantly, parents and children were actively practicing science together—and using strategies like asking questions, sharing ideas, and taking investigations further. They also learned technology can be a real learning tool; one that can actually bring families together in a shared learning experience.
ABOUT THIS POST
Gay Mohrbacher is the Senior Project Manager at WGBH Education. She coordinates educational outreach to early childhood audiences for the PBS station, WGBH. WGBH is recognized as national leader in producing media-based resources to support learning and teaching. A top priority is service to under-resourced children, and working with national partners and local communities to overcome the barriers to educational success.
To learn more and download the app, click here.