The National Science Foundation Awards Major Support for The WNET Group’s Cyberchase: Mobile Adventures in STEM
New funding will significantly expand innovative bilingual program that uses text messages and media from the Emmy Award-winning PBS KIDS series to engage Latinx and low-income families in math and environmental learning
(New York September 1, 2021) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded The WNET Group a $2.9 million grant to expand Cyberchase: Mobile Adventures in STEM, a pilot project that reaches families through their mobile phones. Decades of research has shown the benefits of early exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) for young children. Families need more opportunities and confidence to engage in informal math and environmental science learning at home, especially in populations underrepresented in STEM.
The NSF grant will enable The WNET Group and Education Development Center (EDC) to advance STEM learning in 6-8-year-olds by helping parents, particularly Latinx and low-income families, engage with their children in fun environmental science and math activities. Mobile Adventures in STEM combines the impact of Cyberchase, the award-winning PBS KIDS series, with the potential of mobile texting to deliver new informal learning opportunities. The successful pilot program, also funded by NSF, encouraged families to spend time learning together while boosting their knowledge about caring for the environment.
Over the next three years, The WNET Group’s Kids’ Media & Education team will significantly expand the reach and impact of Cyberchase: Mobile Adventures in STEM by producing new Cyberchase videos focused on using math to learn about the environment and implementing a bilingual family learning program in 15 communities nationwide. Weekly texts will serve up activities and strategies that encourage STEM learning at home and are designed to be culturally responsive and inclusive. EDC will conduct research into the use and impact of the program among diverse low-income Latinx families and assess their needs and interests regarding informal learning and media.
“We are grateful for the continued support from NSF for Cyberchase: Mobile Adventures in STEM,” said Sandra Sheppard, executive producer of Kids’ Media & Education for The WNET Group. “We are excited to bring even more children and families engaging environmental and math learning opportunities through the convenience of mobile devices. And we know from our pilot that families appreciate Cyberchase’s environmental content, which reflects life lessons they want to share with their kids.”
“By deploying innovative outreach strategies through its mobile texting program, Cyberchase: Mobile Adventures in STEM has great potential for engaging families and children in STEM content and activities,” said Dr. Lori Takeuchi, program officer at the National Science Foundation. “The earlier you can inspire children’s interests in STEM, the greater the chances they will pursue STEM pathways. This project opens up new possibilities for igniting these early interests and broadening future participation in STEM learning and careers.”
Cyberchase is America’s longest running math series, which has engaged millions of children ages 6-8 in the fun and challenge of math for nearly 20 years. The animated series tells the story of three kids – two girls and a boy – who are summoned into cyberspace to foil the dastardly Hacker. Each episode sends the team on an adventure driven by a STEM concept and the CyberSquad must work together to apply the math that saves the day. Featuring diverse role models who approach math with persistence and confidence, Cyberchase has recently expanded its focus to highlight math as a tool to learn about the environment. Multiple studies prove that Cyberchase improves children’s knowledge, skills and enthusiasm for math and problem-solving.
Cyberchase is a production of The WNET Group. Sandra Sheppard is executive producer and director of Kids’ Media & Education. Melinda Toporoff is series producer.
Funding for Cyberchase is provided by The JPB Foundation, the National Science Foundation, EY, and Overdeck Family Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Lemberg Foundation, Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, the Tiger Baron Foundation and Dr. Shailaja & Umesh Nagarkatte.
Education Development Center (EDC) is a global nonprofit that designs, implements, and evaluates programs to improve education, health, and economic opportunity worldwide, with a focus on vulnerable and underserved populations. Since 1982, its New York City-based Center for Children and Technology (CCT) has been a national leader in the study and design of digital media that improve teaching and learning in and out of schools.
About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider; and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading nonprofit public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.