Posts Tagged ‘ early education ’

Don’t Miss the Premiere of PEG + CAT on PBS!

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Math just got a little more fun with PEG + CAT, the new animated series from PBS KIDS. The show premieres this Monday, October 7, and promises to make problem-solving skills a breeze for your preschooler.

In each 30-minute episode, Peg and her lovable sidekick Cat encounter dilemmas that require some big thinking. Whether they’re trying a hand at adding and subtracting or learning broader concepts like size and geometry, the pair never back down from a number challenge (or a catchy learning tune). With backdrops like a pirate island or futuristic planet, the program proves math can be exciting and happen in the most unexpected places.

PEG + CAT comes at a vital time when children’s math skills are in dire need. National assessments have shown that 60 percent of students are performing below proficient levels in math by the fourth grade, according to the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress Report.

Another inspiring element of the show: The main character is a young girl. While women make up 48 percent of the workforce, only 23 percent are in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). Let’s hope a character as spirited and outspoken as Peg will be inspiration for boys AND girls everywhere to get their brains calculating.

Beyond math, PEG + CAT shows young ones the process of trial and error, such as figuring out multiple ways to move 100 chickens back to their coop. She may not get it right the first time, but Peg eventually learns from her mistakes and seeks help from friends along the way, both awesome life skills for the real world as well.

Want to get a sneak peek this weekend? Visit the show’s interactive website, where you can also find local listings for the show, or download the PET + CAT Big Gig app for games and learning resources now.

Check out the video below to see how PEG + CAT was created!

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Pushing For More Preschool

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a small round table for editors in Washington D.C. Monday, and I was among those in attendance. Duncan invited us to discuss what he and President Obama hope will be their biggest legacy in the area of education: the vast expansion of public preschool availability for America’s children. In particular, the proposed initiative is designed to reach underprivileged kids who have no other quality early-education option. “The average child from a disadvantaged community enters school 12 to 18 months behind,” says Duncan, who adds that the U.S ranks 25 out of 29 industrialized nations in offering quality public preschool. Only 28 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded programs. And, sadly, the trend appears to be headed in the wrong direction. According to a study released yesterday by the National Institute for Early Education Research, state funding for pre-K fell by more than $500 million dollars last year, the largest one-year drop ever. Funding has fallen more than 20 percent during the past decade.

To change that, Duncan is proposing a $75 billion plan over the next decade to support states that expand their preschool offerings, at first to those that live near the poverty line but also, eventually, to middle-income families as well. The Administration has proposed funding the program with a 94-cent tax on tobacco products, in part because he cites projections that the added tariff will prevent nearly 250,000 kids from developing a smoking habit during that time.

At a time when Washington is mired in legislative gridlock, the preschool plan seems ambitious at the least. But Duncan believes it is essential to help our nation make up ground with other countries so that our kids are well-prepared for school and ready to succeed in an ever-more-competitive global economy. Duncan cites surveys showing that for every dollar that goes into preschool and early-childhood education, there’s a 7-to-1 return in the future payoff. “It’s the best bang for an educational buck,” he says. Children who attend quality preschool enter kindergarten with better prereading and social skills, stronger vocabularies and math knowledge, and a greater chance of graduating from high school and becoming productive members of the work force later on. That’s why the Federal government would pay states up to 90 percent of the preschool expansion costs at first (though that figure would diminish over time). In return, the program would require that the pre-K programs be high-quality and, ideally, full-day, taught by certified teachers and with an instructor-to-student ratio of 10 to 1 or less. Can Duncan and the Administration rally Congress to allocate the money and convince states to play ball? Duncan concedes it’s a challenge. But as he and other supporters are quick to point out, this is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is an American issue.

What do you think—would you support a tobacco tax to be used to expand quality public pre-K programs?

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End the Mommy Wars With Care Cards

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

If you’re as sick of the Mommy Wars as I am, I’ve got something sure to brighten your day: Care Cards. That’s right, we’re going to kill the nastiness of judgmental mommies with kindness–and help kids in need while we’re at it–all without spending a dime.

Here’s the deal: the awesome people over at Johnson’s Baby Cares have launched a collection of empowering, super thoughtful e-cards to cheer on moms who need a little extra boost. (And if you know a mom who doesn’t need a boost . . . well, I’d be surprised!) When you create one, share one, or like one that someone else posted, they’ll donate a dollar to Save the Children–up to $150,000!

If you’re wondering what they’ll do with all that money–the answer is pretty astonishing. They’re giving new parents the tools to raise curious, smart, kids who will not only survive, but thrive in school and in life in general. Did you know that disadvantaged kids who don’t participate in high-quality early education programs are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent, and 70 percent more likely to eventually be arrested for a violent crime? True facts. The great thing is that we can turn those numbers around by empowering the moms who need it most. “A lot of moms think they’re not smart enough to do well by their children,” Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, told me. “It’s our job to show parents that they are their kids’ best teachers and that there are very easy things they can do to give their kids a better chance at life.”

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get to hang out with some of the moms and kiddos that Save the Children helps—and my mind was officially blown. (Thanks, Johnson’s Baby Cares for making that possible!) Let me introduce you to a couple of the most awesome duos I met:

Desi and her son, Ruben
Care Cards Save the Children Desi
“When I was pregnant with Ruben, I didn’t know how I’d support him–how I’d get diapers for him or anything. I felt totally alone, especially since my mom’s in the hospital. She doesn’t know who anybody is, so she really couldn’t help me,” Desi said. “But you have to know you’re not alone–there’s always someone out there to help if you just ask. When I reached out to Save the Children, my life changed. They’re really helping me to be a good mom–and it’s the best thing I can think of.”

Chelsea and her daughter, Peregrine
Johnson's Baby Cares Care Cards Chelsea
“We’re military, so there’s not a whole lot of family here to help me figure out the right things to do,” said Chelsea. “But the woman we meet with through Save the Children has children and grandchildren of her own and can really tell me how to handle things. It’s already making such a difference.”
Jenna and her son, Jace
Johnson's Baby Cares Care Cards Jenna
“I’m still in school, and being a new mom and trying to handle everything else was just really frustrating. Sometimes I’d get so mad at the world and not know what to do,” said Jenna. “Save the Children has shown me how to be a good mom, and they’ve even helped me get to know Jace better. He’s the funniest little guy. I can’t not be happy when he’s around!”
I am so totally rooting for Dezi, Chelsea, and Jenna. So for them–and moms who are trying their best everywhere–I’ll be sending out more than a few Care Cards starting today. I hope you’ll join me and Johnson’s Baby Cares by pitching in with a little mommy love of your own. I know a lot of mamas out there could use it!

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