FETCH with Ruff Ruffman, produced by WGBH, is a daily half-hour PBS television series with accompanying Web and outreach activities targeted to 6- to 10-year olds. The program brings science learning to young children by uniquely blending live-action with animation, game show convention with reality programming, and humor with academics. The intended impacts of this new season are to 1) help the target audience, especially girls and minorities, develop an interest, knowledge and skills necessary to do science; 2) help kids develop the math skills and knowledge necessary to solve science and engineering problems; and 3) bring FETCH's unique brand of informal science learning to camps across the country. The requested funds will allow the project to expand the science curriculum with 20 new half-hour episodes and expand the Web site, focusing on three new science themes that highlight topics of interest to this age group: "Animal Universe," "Science of Art," and "Adventure Science." The Web site will include four new science-based Web games that will allow kids to create and post content of their own design and interact with other FETCH fans online. In addition, funds will support new educational resources for camps, including a Camp FETCH Guide. The project will continue to work with the project's established collaborators like the Boys and Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts of America, and YMCA, as well expand the outreach via new partnerships with the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University and the American Camp Association. Christine Andrews Paulsen & Associates (CAPA) will conduct summative evaluation of both the television show and the Camp FETCH Guide.

Project Report

Part live-action, part animation, and 100% fun, FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman is a daily, half-hour PBS television series with accompanying outreach and web activities for 6- to 10-year-olds. FETCH features real kids facing real challenges assigned by an unreal host—Ruff Ruffman, a hilarious, slightly neurotic, and entirely lovable animated dog. Through its innovative format and carefully-constructed curriculum, FETCH is helping kids develop the knowledge, curiosity, and know-how to achieve in science. NSF funded the following major accomplishments in FETCH's fifth season: (1) Expanding the FETCH curriculum with new science themes and a new focus on mathematics. In Season V, we introduced three new science themes: "Art and Science," "Animal Universe," and "Adventure Science." We chose these themes because they hold universal appeal for kids and offer opportunities for showing scientists and engineers at work in "real world" contexts. Our first theme, "Animal Universe," focused on animals and their environments. Challenges related to our second theme, "Science of Art," showed how science can be used to create or investigate art. Our final theme, "Adventure Science," featured challenges that touched on navigation, mapping, and transportation. At the same time, we also broadened the curriculum in Season V to incorporate a greater focus on mathematics. Math has always been a part of FETCH, with cast members collecting and analyzing data to answer questions and using numbers to measure progress towards their goals. In Season V, we set up more deliberate math goals for each show and made links between math and science more explicit. To help us achieve these goals, we brought on two math content directors. They, along with our larger advisory board, offered guidance in developing challenges that show how math can be used as a tool to solve science and engineering problems. (2) Creating high-profile television programs that engage children in STEM learning. Building on the knowledge that children's learning is enhanced when their interest is engaged, we continued our efforts in Season V to leverage FETCH's growing reputation to gain access to high-visibility people and places. We filmed two segments at Disney World, one at Yellowstone National Park, and one with Penn and Teller. We also partnered with organizations like Earthwatch, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, and Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium to gain access to engaging scientists and venues. As in past seasons, we designed television segments to illustrate both content (facts) and process (things you do to find out). This involved working with adult experts to introduce science concepts in age-appropriate ways, editing to highlight cast members' use of process skills, and adding relevant commentary from Ruff. We also debuted a new feature in Season V—a 30-second clip at the end of each show that reinforces science ideas or presents new information that did not fit into the edited segment. Our evaluator, Concord Evaluation Group (CEG), found that watching FETCH Season V video significantly improved children's attitudes towards math and their knowledge of math concepts. In addition, the majority of the kids in the study said they enjoyed learning from the episodes, and reported that they learned both math and science concepts. (3) Creating a new resource for outreach partners: The Camp FETCH Guide Over the years, FETCH's outreach team has produced a variety of resources that provide informal educators with science programming for the children they serve. In our fifth season, we created the Camp FETCH Guide, designed to help camps bring FETCH hands-on math and science activities to their kids. In developing the Camp FETCH guide, we worked with the American Camp Association and the National Summer Learning Association to tailor the resources and format of the guide to meet the unique needs of camps. We distributed approximately 7,500 copies of the Guide. Evaluation conducted by CEG found that camp counselors rated the Camp FETCH Guide highly, and that campers who took part in the activities demonstrated greater knowledge of science concepts that those who did not try the activities. (4) Creating new interactive experiences that teach STEM The FETCH Web site has been an integral part of the FETCH series since the project's inception. In Season V, we created two "webisodes"—narrative-driven interactive experiences that each include an introductory video clip, tiered online activity, and an opportunity to create or influence content in the storyline. CEG designed an evaluation study to determine the overall appeal and usability of this new format. Findings indicated that kids enjoyed the webisode, particularly the video and the opportunity to create their own content. Evaluation also showed that children learned about the featured mathematical concept (combinations) and adopted a more systematic approach to problem-solving over time. Overall, the evaluation provides evidence that this format is an effective and appealing option in STEM education.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL)
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Valentine H. Kass
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Wgbh Educational Foundation
United States
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