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Q&A: What’s New This Autumn in the World of PBS Wisconsin Education?

October 7, 2021 Marci Glaus Leave a Comment

The school year is well underway, and PBS Wisconsin Education is hard at work supporting educators, students and parents with our free, kid-tested, standards-aligned educational content. PBS Wisconsin Education spoke with education engagement manager Jen Kobylecky about what’s new, exciting and what’s coming in the world of PBS Wisconsin Education.

PBS Wisconsin Education: What new educational media from PBS Wisconsin Education are you most excited about this fall?

Jen Kobylecky: Meet the Lab is one of our newest collections, and it will be expanding this fall with some amazing resources I can’t wait to share with middle school science teachers!

This winter, we worked with an advisory group of educators that helped shape the new additions, and one of the things they loved the most is how Meet the Lab provides so many examples of what being a scientist can look like. It’s so important for kids to see that diversity, not only so they can see themselves reflected back, but so they can understand what endless possibilities there are with research. It’s not all beakers and lab coats.

In one of the new labs, you get to meet a biologist studying wildlife biodiversity in tropical forests, primarily by reviewing sound recordings of all of the animals. But listening to the hours and hours of recordings she captures could take her an entire lifetime. So she’s partnered with a lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that has developed a powerful computer program that does that for her using the power of data science. It’s so fascinating to think about science in so many places and in such a bigger way, solving problems from the forest to the computer lab.

PBS Wisconsin Education: How could someone outside of an education setting enjoy the Meet the Lab collection?

Kobylecky: Well, I think anyone reading the PBS Wisconsin blog would probably self-describe as a lifelong learner! But you know, part of what makes Meet the Lab so great is the way it makes really sophisticated research so accessible and relevant, even for 11-14 year olds. And it does the same for regular people like us, too!

Each lab includes a short video that tells the story of someone who is personally affected by the problem the lab is trying to address through their research. Meeting those people and understanding their struggles is such a powerful way to make those connections about why research matters to everyday people. We all have a shared experience of being human, and stories are such a powerful way to help spark our empathy and curiosity.

PBS Wisconsin Education: How is PBS Wisconsin Education engaging with educators as the school year gets underway?

Kobylecky: The PBS Media Literacy Educator Certification is a program for educators to earn credentials connected to teaching media literacy in the classroom. PBS Wisconsin Education is one of a handful of stations around the country that has created a customized program of support for educators working on becoming certified, and we’ve just kicked off our second cohort with 30 educators from around the state.

As of today, there are only about 50 educators nationwide that have completed the entire certification, and I’m proud to say that five of those went through our first year of the Media Literacy Cohort program! We’re particularly thrilled to be working with one of them (Peg Billing, library media specialist at Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua) to co-lead this cohort alongside our engagement staff.

PBS Wisconsin Education: Why is media literacy such an important topic for educators and students?

Kobylecky: Today’s information landscape is very busy. Students are far more likely to get information from social media than from the newspaper, a television network or other more traditional media sources. The media literacy credentials cover everything from how to evaluate online information to sharing actual media production skills for teachers and students. When educators engage their students with those topics, it empowers them to be critical thinkers and makers, especially with media production. When you put young people behind the camera, it has an incredible way of leading to them being more effective communicators and active citizens. 

PBS Wisconsin Education: What’s new in the early learning world for PBS Wisconsin Education?

Kobylecky: Fans of Sesame Street will be thrilled to know that Sonia Manzano, otherwise known as “Maria,” launched her own brand-new series for PBS KIDS on Oct. 4. It’s called Alma’s Way, and it features a young Puerto Rican girl and her family living in the Bronx. The show is designed to encourage kids to use their brains. Alma’s trademark “I need to think about this” phrase brings that to life as she applies problem-solving skills to everyday challenges.

The educational materials that go along with the show support those same skills with young learners, in addition to supporting their social and emotional development and building early literacy. We’re just in the process of welcoming some new staff members to our team, and we’re excited for them to begin sharing all of the free, standards-aligned lessons and activities that go along with Alma’s Way and other programs with early childhood educators across the state.

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