Robust Community Partnerships Help KLRU Empower At-Risk Families for School Success

Posted by Anna McDonald on
A father and son participate in a KLRU coding workshop.
Courtesy KLRU

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a robot chef that could make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? You would have to program it by giving it very specific instructions.

That is how children and their parents start learning about coding concepts in KLRU’s Family Creative Learning (FCL) PBS KIDS ScratchJr workshops.  The families learn to animate their favorite PBS KIDS characters using the PBS KIDS ScratchJr app on PBS KIDS Playtime Pads, tablets that they get to keep at the end of the workshop.

KLRU and the local Austin children’s museum, Thinkery, hosted such a workshop in October 2017. Nine young children and their parents learned concepts of coding by reading books and participating in fun movement activities. They built paper airplanes to practice using the design engineering process (imagine, plan, build, test, repeat), as well as created animation projects together.  Parents learned from their kids as much as the kids learned from their parents. 

One child was very excited when he shared, “Now my mom knows technology and  can do it with me!”

This meaningful family engagement through science continued past the initial workshop, when KLRU and Thinkery offered a second workshop centered around PBS KIDS’ The Ruff Ruffman Show, in which families learned science by playing with mixtures, investigating material science, exploring force and motion, and creating structures. KLRU reinforced this hands-on learning by integrating short Ruff Ruffman videos and corresponding digital games on PBS KIDS Playtime Pads into the workshop curriculum. Like with the coding workshop, families left empowered and more likely to continue engaging with each other around PBS KIDS content outside of school.

The KLRU/Thinkery workshops were inspired by the success of a series of PBS KIDS-themed education events held earlier this year by KLRU and the Boys and Girls Club of the Austin Area (BGCAA). BGCAA worked with KLRU to engage local families around PBS KIDS STEM content throughout 2017, starting with a PBS KIDS ScratchJr workshop and continuing with sessions built around ODD SQUAD, DESIGN SQUAD and NATURE CAT content. This engagement was specifically designed for Boys & Girls Club members ages 5-8 as a project-based learning opportunity during out-of-school time. BGCAA also purchased 14 PBS KIDS Playtime tablets, which have been used to reinforce the PBS KIDS workshop curriculum in addition to BGCAA’s regular STEM curriculum at various sites. With KLRU’s help, and in an effort to empower its own staff to model engagement, BGCAA has also begun creating a catalog of corresponding PBS LearningMedia lesson plans to share with all of their club directors. 

KLRU is now closing out the year with yet another family engagement workshop, this time working with Communities in Schools (CIS), a nonprofit that, like KLRU, works directly with local schools to build relationships that empower students to succeed in school and in life. In November, 8 families that are part of CIS’ ASPIRE family literacy program (Achieving Success through Parental Involvement, Reading, and Education) participated in a PBS KIDS ScratchJr workshop, and kids and parents alike left empowered (and very happy!) with their new coding skills.

KLRU and its community partners are successfully energizing local families to engage and learn together outside of the classroom. Leveraging the respective strengths, assets, and reach of each organization, the collective impact of working together is greater for the community than each organization could begin to achieve on its own. 

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