Students at Storm Lake Elementary Tornado Academy explore science with The Cat in the Hat.

Kids... paint... balls... ramps... laughter. What's going on at the Storm Lake Elementary Tornado Academy (ETA) after school program? This winter, ETA has welcomed Trista Peitzman of Iowa Public Television’s Education Services team to test new lessons based on the PBS series, The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!, designed to develop science inquiry thinking and engineering design skills. Sessions took place over the winter and all materials were left with the ETA program to be used again. Lynn Redenbaugh, Director of the ETA, had some staff take part in the sessions so they could learn how to implement the lessons with children. Teachers are able repeat the lessons with other age groups.

During each session, students watched an episode of The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! with the lesson of the day and read a related book. Then it was time to explore and play, which according to Redenbaugh was the highlight for everyone. 

“These kids have been able to observe and question basic science concepts, all while having fun. Who wouldn't love that?” Redenbaugh said she loves opening kids’ minds to new opportunities, science concepts, and hands-on learning.

In the first lesson, students learned what makes a boat float. They read a book about what materials can float and watched a video clip from The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!  Students used what they learned to experiment with materials to make their own boats. The kids learned about many factors that influence whether something floats or sinks.

In the next lesson, students learned about friction. They read a book about moving and rolling, then watched the episode, "Fact or Friction" from The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!, and played the Slidea-ma-Zoo game online. Students experimented using wood and cardboard ramps, along with other materials such as aluminum foil, cloth, and bubble wrap, to determine what makes a slide slip or stick. Students predicted which balls would roll the fastest and learned how to change speed.

In the third lesson, students learned more about visual perspectives. After reading a book and watching an episode about looking at things in different ways, students created their own art using torn paper and marbles dipped in paint. Students learned that sometimes accidents can become an opportunity. This lesson challenged students to think about how others may see things differently.

Through guided play and appropriate digital tools, students can enjoy learning. These activity sessions were a huge success in Storm Lake, and will be replicated in other parts of Iowa during the upcoming year.

“It has been great to have IPTV come to our after school program to engage our students in hands-on activities and at the same time train our staff how to implement these lessons,” Redenbaugh said.

This effort is part of a five-year grant awarded to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) through the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn Initiative. The Ready To Learn Initiative aims to advance new tools supporting personalized and adaptive content for children and parents, establish a network of community collaboratives and conduct efficacy research on the provided educational resources. The Ready To Learn Initiative is a cooperative agreement funded and managed by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement.

The CPB and PBS have partnered with IPTV to provide early learning resources to underserved communities through an innovative community engagement model. IPTV received a Community Collaboratives for Early Learning and Media (CC-ELM) grant to give young children from low-income families a strong foundation in early science and literacy by identifying and working with community partners. IPTV is working with the East Early Childhood Center and UDMO Head Start, as well as Storm Lake Elementary School, Storm Lake Elementary Tornado Academy, Lunchtime Solutions, Iowa State University Extension and the Storm Lake Public Library to promote effective educational uses of the PBS KIDS science and literacy-based programming, community-based outreach and research on educational effectiveness.

The Ready to Learn Activities Guide is an additional example of where to find a lesson experience that aligns with various programming. IPTV Education works to bring activities such as these to programs all over Iowa.