New Study from EDC and SRI International Demonstrates Positive Effects of PBS KIDS Digital Media on Young Children’s Science and Engineering Learning
WALTHAM, MA, AND MENLO PARK, CA, NOV. 7, 2019—Education Development Center (EDC) and SRI International (SRI) announced the release of their new study Early Science and Engineering: The Impact of The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! on Learning. The study’s goal was to understand the extent to which providing access to media resources focused on critical science and engineering concepts can help children living in low-income households learn.
The study was commissioned as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn Initiative, a federal program that supports the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS. Through the initiative, programming for season three of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! was reimagined to meet the learning needs of today’s children. Media resources were designed to be developmentally appropriate, target important school readiness concepts and skills, and encourage active early science and engineering learning. The study found that providing four- and five-year-old children with access to these new resources had positive, meaningful effects on their knowledge of physical science and their ability to engage with science and engineering practices.
Many children, while innately curious about the natural and built world, do not have the support that allows them to explore important and age-appropriate science and engineering concepts and practices. A 2017 national survey of parents, also conducted by EDC and SRI, found parents wish to support children’s science learning but wanted more help to do so. This new study was conducted to investigate the premise that digital media platforms—television, video, apps, and digital games—can be powerful tools to support young children’s science and engineering learning.
The eight-week study involved a diverse sample of 454 children, all living in low-income households. The study team randomly assigned each child to either a treatment (The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!) or control condition.
- Access to The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! digital media resources had a clear, positive impact on children’s understanding of core physical science ideas of matter and forces.These concepts include the role of material properties (strength and length) and forces in structural stability (e.g., bridges), as well as the role of material properties (texture) and forces (friction) on movement down an incline (e.g., slides).
- Access to the resources had a clear, positive impact on children’s interest and engagement in science. Parents in the treatment group rated their children’s excitement about science higher than did parents in the control group. These parents also reported that children engaged in more science activities over the past month than were reported by control-assigned parents.
- The study found suggestive evidence that the media resources improved children’s broader understanding of physical science concepts, science and engineering practices, and material properties, as well as the use of science-related vocabulary.
“Digital media represent valuable tools in the growth and education of children, but up until now, there have been few rigorous studies on young children’s learning, especially science and engineering learning,” said Shelley Pasnik, EDC vice president and principal investigator of the joint EDC-SRI research team. “This in-depth study provides clear evidence that media that model science practices can help children from financially under-resourced communities learn real-life science. This is promising news for anyone giving serious thought to opportunity gaps and affordable ways to address them.”
The full report is available online: edc.org/early-science.
Education Development Center (EDC) is a global nonprofit that advances lasting solutions to improve education, promote health, and expand economic opportunity. Since 1958, it has been a leader in designing, implementing, and evaluating powerful and innovative programs in more than 80 countries around the world. For more information, please visit www.edc.org.
About SRI International
SRI International is an independent, nonprofit research center that works with clients to take the most advanced R&D from the laboratory to the marketplace. For more than 70 years, SRI has led the discovery and design of ground-breaking products, technologies, and industries—from Siri and online banking to medical ultrasound, cancer treatments, and much more. For more information, please visit www.sri.com.
About The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!
PBS KIDS’ series The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! supports learning by modeling science practices and language and exploring science and engineering content through animated stories. Study resources included videos, digital games, and hands-on activities from the third season embedded in a game app, and printed activities available from PBS KIDS. The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! is a PORTFOLIO ENTERTAINMENT INC. production and is derived from properties held by Penguin Random House and Dr. Seuss Enterprises.
About the Ready To Learn Initiative
The Ready To Learn Initiative is a cooperative agreement funded and managed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). It supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted to preschool and early elementary school children and their families. Its general goal is to promote early learning and school readiness, with a particular interest in reaching low-income children. In addition to creating television and other media products, the program supports activities intended to promote national distribution of the programming, effective educational uses of the programming, community-based outreach, and research on educational effectiveness.
The contents of The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. The project is funded by a Ready To Learn grant (PR/AWARD No. U295A150003, CFDA No. 84.295A) provided by the Department of Education to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.