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ParentChild+ Partners with WGBH to introduce PEEP Family Science Apps


This post was written by Gay Mohrbacher, Senior Project Manager, WGBH Education. 

Last summer, WGBH (Boston’s PBS station), invited ParentChild+ to learn about a new series of digital apps designed to engage families in science learning. These PEEP Family Science apps introduce STEM content and skills to 3-5-year-olds and their parents in an interactive format that limits video viewing, suggests family activities away from the screen, and provides supports for parents. The National Science Foundation funded WGBH’s work on the project and had a special interest in our testing the apps with families served by home visiting organizations. We were glad to welcome ParentChild+ as a dissemination partner for PEEP Family Science shortly thereafter.

The apps leverage video from the Emmy Award-winning preschool science series, PEEP and the Big Wide World. And while educators and parents worry about using media with young children, it is important to note that PEEP follows best practices as outlined by NAEYC, the Fred Rogers Center, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. (For example, the app’s longest dose of video per day is an 8.5-minute animated story.) Parent and child are prompted to watch together, and parents are given questions to help the child connect what she’s seeing to what she already knows. They then move to a directly related activity offline. These practices represent positive, responsible use of technology. While media is never a substitute for the hands-on science learning children get through play and exploration with physical materials, it can inspire interest in science topics, model how to explore sciences, show things children can’t experience in person, and engage their imagination. In fact, Common Sense Media has given the app a 5-star rating as a “tool for co-use on and offscreen”.

Available for free on Google Play and the App Store in both Spanish and English, PEEP Family Science apps cover the topics of shadows, sound, color, and ramps, respectively. Each app has four weeks’ worth of science play in daily doses of about 20 minutes. Supports for parents are built right into the app, including videos with parents and kids in their own homes modeling activities and ways to help children learn. The apps also take advantage of a smart phone’s camera to document science play with video and photos for families to reflect on later. Support materials for home visitors were also created and can be downloaded for free from PEEP’s website.

Research during the apps’ development found families were quite positive about using the technology. They enjoyed the experience, found it motivating, made time for it, and recognized its educational value. Most importantly, parents and children were actively doing science together—and using strategies like asking questions, sharing ideas, and taking investigations further. They also learned technology can be a real learning tool; one that can actually bring families together in a shared learning experience.

ParentChild+ has provided its sites with special suggestions for how they could choose to engage with PEEP, including:

  • Embedding PEEP Family Science units (sound, ramps, color, shadows) in the curriculum in an intentional way that would include early learning specialist prep and designated visits structured around the app and/or the interactive activities.
  • Sharing information on the app with families, spending time explaining it to them, and suggesting ways parents can use the app on their own.
  • Using the app in group parent-child activities, introducing it along with some of the homemade activities together.

WGBH presented PEEP Family Science at ParentChild+’s 2019 Annual Conference in May 2019.

About WGBH and PEEP
WGBH is a public media station based in Boston. It produces content for PBS including NOVA, MASTERPIECE, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, and FRONTLINE. WGBH also researches, creates and distributes media-integrated resources to support healthy development and educational impact for children. Its award-winning children’s programming includes Arthur, Curious George, and PEEP and the Big Wide World.

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