With schools, preschool centers, and family childcare programs across the state closed in response to COVID-19, public media outlet WGBH in Boston is partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care to launch the Family Activity Initiative, a series of weekly activity resources featuring a carefully curated collection of videos to watch, free online educational games and apps to play, and non-digital hands-on activities for young children.
“Public media outlets across the country are playing an integral role in supporting educators, parents and caregivers with educational resources during these challenging times,” said Jon Abbott, president and CEO of WGBH. “As parents and caregivers of young children take the lead in supporting their child’s learning, we are partnering with the state to make trusted educational resources available for every family across the Commonwealth.”
The resources in the Family Activity Initiative will be drawn from popular WGBH and PBS KIDS brands, such as Arthur (health and emotions), Curious George, PEEP and the Big Wide World, Gracie and Friends,ÊandÊthe Ruff Ruffman Show (STEM) for preschoolers, and Molly of Denali(English Language Arts), and Plum Landing (environmental science). The activities will be highly accessible, require low/no cost, minimal materials or preparation, and will give families reasons to learn and explore indoors and out, offer strategies for talking through fears and anxieties, provide fun games that build math skills and much more. The resources will be offered in both English and Spanish and will be geared toward children from birth to age 8. Both WGBH and partner station WGBY, part of New England Public Media serving western Massachusetts, will help raise awareness about this initiative among families via a variety of social media platforms.
“The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care is proud to partner with WGBH to support parents in continuing early learning during this time,” said Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy. “Families with young children face a particular set of challenges right now. Our goal is to support them with easy-to-use, age-appropriate tools to ensure that our youngest citizens are still learning during this critical period of their lives.”
Major funding for the Family Activity Initiative is being provided by a generous grant from the PNC Foundation.
“The Family Activity Initiative is a shining example of how our state comes together to provide essential support to our communities, in innovative ways,” said Jon Bernstein, PNC Bank regional president in Boston. “While children and families are home together, it is critical that families have resources and support to create a rich learning environment for their children. We are committed to ensuring all children develop a love of learning that lasts a lifetime. ”
Each week, families will be invited to visit the WGBH Distance Learning Center where they can access that week’s activities. Families will be encouraged to complete as many activities as possible during a week’s time and then be eligible to enter a weekly random drawing for prizes that include books as well as gift cards for essential items donated by Walmart and Stop & Shop. The Distance Learning Center will also offer a collection of resources for parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers, including short-form videos, tips and strategies, and developmentally appropriate, easy-to-do activities, drawn from materials developed by WGBH and The Basics.
To reach families that do not have internet access, WGBH will work with the Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) grantees, a network of close to 90 programs providing services to some 350 cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth. Each CFCE will distribute theFamily Activity packets in their community in collaboration with their local community-based partners, such as food pantries, Head Start, drop and go food distribution sites, and shelters.
“While there is no shortage of information or online resources, many families are struggling to determine what resources best meet the needs of their child. For families with limited access to the internet, this challenge can be overwhelming,” said Seeta Pai, executive director of education at WGBH. “The Family Activity InitiativeÊis designed to offer high-quality, turnkey educational activities parents can feel good about and children will enjoy doing.”
Earlier this spring, WGBH announced a partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide students in grades 6-12 distance learning opportunities on broadcast television (WGBH’s WORLD Channel), to complement programming for young children available on the WGBH Kids 24/7 channel. This ensures students learning at home continue to have access to educational programs, regardless of their access to broadband internet. The broadcast programming is in addition to other resources from WGBH Education, including PBS LearningMedia, a free online service of thousands of compelling educational resources, aligned to state standards and contextualized for educational use in grades PreK-12, and the WGBH Distance Learning Center which makes these PBS LearningMedia resources more accessible to families, as well as educators, to support students PreK-12.