Ready To Learn
WQED’s Ready To Learn initiative is the core of our educational mission for children and families, and we are proud to be one of only eleven stations selected to be Ready To Learn superstations. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Ready To Learn is dreaming big with projects that support early science and literacy learning for families. Ready To Learn is an indispensable resource for local teachers, and WQED is leading the charge to train educators on how to use the assets in their classes. Below are the current Ready To Learn and other activities of WQED’s Education Department.
WQED Smart Schools
WQED is teaming up with local schools to bring teachers, students, and families Smart Schools. The Smart Schools initiative infuses PBS resources into classrooms to create innovative and impactful learning experiences for school-aged learners. The partnership, made possible with financial support from Chevron, empowers teachers to create innovative, imaginative programing using researched-based, parent-trusted content from PBS.
PBS Kids Writers Contest
The contest is designed to promote the advancement of children’s literacy skills through hands-on, active learning. Partnering with WQED are West Virginia Public Broadcasting (WVPB); WPSU serving central Pennsylvania; and PBS 39 (WLVT) serving eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. The contest, made possible in part by local financial support from the EQT Foundation, empowers children in grades K-5 to celebrate creativity and build literacy skills by writing and illustrating their very own stories. In the last ten years, WQED’s PBS Kids Writer’s Contest has received over 12,000 entries from local students.
Design Lives Here
Design Lives Here is a student outreach program based on the PBS show Design Squad Nation, a reality-style program created to “inspire the next generation of engineers.” The original show featured teens engaged in challenges all over the United States and globe, vying for available scholarships by engaging in the engineering design process to discover solutions that addressed various challenges which occur in the complex, yet compelling, world of engineering.
Approximately 250 students in grades 5-8 represented these different southwestern Pennsylvania educational stakeholders in preparation for the culminating competition days of March 13 and 14 at WQED. Over the last nine years, WQED has engaged close to 2,000 middle school students through its Design Lives Here program aimed at encouraging area kids to learn more about and consider the value of a profession in engineering. Participating educators and students utilized provided materials and the engineering design process to address STEM challenges laden with content from Design Squad Nation episodes and interactive resources, with support from local engineering mentors.
Wash & Learn
The national program allows children waiting at the laundromat to have opportunities to participate in literacy workshops and take home free books and educational resources. The launch of the Wash & Learn program in Pittsburgh builds from a collaboration between Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA), Libraries Without Borders (LWB), Carnegie Library of McKeesport, Pennsylvania WIC, and WQED. The program aims to extend opportunities for literacy development to children waiting at the laundromat with their families as a means to address the “summer slide.” LWB installed tablets and WiFi hotspots at the laundromat, alongside bookshelves with curated materials that customers can read on site or check out and take home.
WQED’s Inquire Within library program continues to expand and now boasts 30 libraries in the WQED viewing area. Inquire Within aspires to re-imagine media-first partnerships with impactful educational experiences in learning for children and families. The partnership empowers librarians to create innovative, imaginative programing using researched-based, parent-trusted content from PBS. WQED works with local and national library partners to create and implement PBS-themed curriculum that leverages public trust with a thirst for innovation in service of 21st Century learners, by developing a community of practice that can experiment, lead and sustain a new approach to educational public media.
WQED Family Community Learning Workshops
PBS KIDS Family Community Learning Workshops is a series of sessions that engage families in project-based creative learning. The workshops are centered on the idea that children are innately curious and creative, constantly attempting to make sense of the world around them. STEM should be a direct extension of that curiosity.
Remake Learning Day
Remake Learning at WQED is part of the larger nationwide Remake Learning Across America that attracted 35,000 people over 500 hands-on learning events around the country. WQED hosted a multi-tiered event in the Fred Rogers Studio that focused on health and wellness and was connected to Sesame Street materials and resources.
Be My Neighbor Day
People all over the region geared up to help their neighbors with kindness by pledging their family to volunteer for the 6th annual Be My Neighbor Day, supported by the PNC Foundation through its Grow Up Great® initiative on April 13. WQED hosted Be My Neighbor Day, along with participating community partners in six counties, from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the Heinz History Center to area parks and libraries. Volunteers pitched in for gardening, park clean-up, washing firetrucks, and many more family-friendly activities. People were able to pledge their volunteer time by calling in during the WQED-TV volunteer pledge program on March 20 or they could go on-line at http://bemyneighborday.org/ to learn more about how to select a family volunteer opportunity.
Statewide Summer Reading Challenge
All Pennsylvania PBS stations joined together to host the first statewide summer reading contest. The Summer Reading Challenge invites all children who have just completed K-5th to participate, and readers will be divided into three categories: K-1, 2-3, and 4-5 graders.
National Education Summit
WQED presented a first-of-its-kind national survey about young children and science at an Education Summit in the Fred Rogers Studio on July 11. The survey, conducted by Education Development Center (EDC) and SRI International, found that while most parents are confident about teaching their children reading, writing and arithmetic, they feel far less prepared to help with science. The study was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready to Learn initiative and led by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.
Vietnam POW Bracelet Project
As part of its community engagement initiative in conjunction with Ken Burns' The Vietnam War, WQED partnered with North Hills Middle School on a project to collect stories through POW bracelets. Following a screening and panel discussion at North Hills Middle School, students were presented with bracelets with the names of POWs who did not come home. Nine of the students from North Hills Middle School conducted their own research to find family, comrades, or friends of the POWs to tell the story of those who were lost and the impact the war had.
World of Puppetry
WQED Education and Pittsburgh Puppet Works collaborated on May 19 to create a unique opportunity that gathers families in the Fred Rogers Studio to introduce children to the world of puppetry-making and media. This two-hour workshop began with the entire group participating in a puppet show/demonstration.
To support WQED’s education initiatives that serve parents, students and schools, please go to www.wqed.org/donate. Thank you.
My name is Liz and I am a member of the Education Team at WQED. One of the biggest parts of my job is to support public libraries and the tremendous work that they are doing within their communities. When the pandemic hit, libraries –like everything else –were forced to shut their doors and completely reimagine how they provided services to their patrons. And WQED was here to help. Embracing our role as a media mentor, I was able to work closely with our library partners to create innovative programming that best served the needs of their communities in a world that pivoted quickly from in-person to virtual without creating unnecessary barriers to access. Our library partners presented over 400 programs from April through December of 2020 that leveraged content and resources from PBS.
In addition to supporting their programming, we also stepped in to create original programming that could be used by our partners, modeling best practices for media use and easing some of the burden on our partners. The Library Explorers program was a completely virtual experience that featured beloved PBS characters and the ability to travel to new spaces without leaving the safety of home. We also created 22 original program videos that featured winning stories from our Writers Contest with extension activities as well as character driven activity videos.
Fred Rogers is often quoted as reminding us to “look for the helpers” when something scary happens. I don’t think that anyone could argue against 2020 being scary and uncertain. I am proud of the role we were able to play in helping people get through this scary time.
I work on the WQED Smartschools program, and it is meaningful to me because I get to work with school partners who are truly passionate about education and helping their students get to where they need to be. It is a lot of work, and I don’t always get to see the results of it but my enthusiasm for the program gets replenished when I speak with the wonderful teachers and administrators who let me know how much of an impact the program has had on their students.
In the face of the phrases that you often hear when working with schools such as “low-income” and “underperforming test scores,” getting to know the challenges and celebrating the successes of people who really care about their students and want them to succeed keeps me hopeful with the work we are doing together as a community.
Last March the Writers Contest was getting close to its deadline when the pandemic shut everything down. Teachers and parents were scrambling to get their kids' stories entered. For the first time in Writers Contest history, we accepted entries by email in order to prevent visits to the post office. Despite the health crisis, the Writers Contest still had a large number of entries. The huge celebration that announces and celebrates the winners of the contest had to be virtual. The education team, our funder EQT, and our partners Pittsburgh Puppet Works and Saturday Light Brigade huddled up and came up with a plan so these talented young writers would not be disappointed! Every winner was sent a prize box with the label Do Not Open Until June 27th, 2020.
On the day of the virtual celebration on June 27th, we had all the winners and their families gather around a computer screen in their homes to join the Zoom call. Pittsburgh Puppet Works streamed the recorded puppet show that featured all the winners’ stories. We then announced how the winners placed. It was amazing to see the kids all dressed up along with their families opening their prize boxes and holding up their framed certificates. Many families shared pictures as well, showcasing how important this moment was to them.
I just recently ran into two families who are former winners of the Writers Contest. They both thanked WQED for the Writers Contest and the lifelong memories they will have because of their experience.