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Teacher development, healthy eating app, more coming from Early Learning Environment

A year after the Early Learning Environment website debuted from the Fred Rogers Center, it is poised to grow with new activities, directions and apps.
The Rogers Center and the "ELE" focus on children's media for kids through five years old, and digital media-based learning in particular. Too often in years past, notes Michael Robb, the Center's director of education and research, parents and other caregivers had thought of such media as mere babysitters.
"We try to encourage caregivers of young children to think about digital media learning more like they'd think of books … [and] think of digital media as a word-rich experience," Robb says. "That's time you spend having a conversation with your child and having fun with your child. The more language children in the early years hear and are exposed to, it has pretty substantial impact on their early literacy and school success."
The ELE offers caregivers multiple fun learning activities for kids: some best for home use, others for the classroom; some for adults to lead or teach, others for kids to undertake on their own. About 40,000 visitors from all 50 states and around the world have used the free site, while its 1,200 registered users are able to post and comment on the site and create their own curated sets of activities to send to fellow caregivers or fellow moms and dads.
Among the most popular activities are several Rogers Center-designed game apps -- Alien Assignment, Everyday Grooves and Home Superhero -- as well as finger-play videos by Reading is Fundamental and nursery rhyme videos by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, called Rhyme Time. Since debuting, the site has added new literacy-boosting activities that also focus on health-science topics.
"We're always looking to increase the number of quality offerings," says Robb.
Set to be released officially next week is a new app. Go NiNi, in which kids can help NiNi eat the right foods in the right quantities to run, play and maintain her active and healthy life. Kids will steer Nini toward Go Foods (those recommended for everyday eating) but not as many Slow Foods (those to eat in moderation) and the fewest Whoa Foods (all that junk we love to consume).
Next, Robb reports, ELE hopes to put in place more activities based on STEAM topics (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics), and more Spanish-language content. In the near future, the ELE will be starting professional development activities in the region for teachers as well as family and other childcare providers around digital media technology.
Do Good:
Searching for more ways to help kids learn? Get involved with the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Michael Robb, the Fred Rogers Center
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