Informal science education supports people of all ages and walks of life in exploring science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
How does a simple yellow circle with stick legs become an irresistible television character? How can a “big wide world” that encompasses not much more than a pond, a bush, and a tin can, be so endlessly fascinating? And how does a television series for children make its adult viewers laugh out loud? The answer is the magic, wit, and wry humor of Peep and the Big Wide World, a multi-award-winning public television series teaching science to preschool children. Funded since 2004 by the National Science Foundation, the main character (Peep) is a curious and newly hatched chick who, with his friends, Quack (an irascible blue duck) and Chirp (a red robin), explores a child-sized world of wonder, adventure, and mystery. Along the way they learn basic science and math concepts, including the nature of the moon, shadows, water, bridges, levers, patterns, balance, and much more.
Peep and the Big Wide World serves as the springboard for a robust web-based digital hub (with both English and Spanish assets) that provides a wide variety of free resources for children, parents, and educators. In addition to a weekly selection of Peep videos, the website features more than a dozen engaging games and close to 100 family activities that turn a walk in the park or a sink full of water into simple and engaging science explorations. The Peep Explorer’s Guide, a year-long curriculum with hands-on activities across six content areas (shadows, water, plants, color, sound, and ramps), has been embraced by preschool educators across the country and has recently been included as a component in two of the winning state proposals (Maryland and Massachusetts) for Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grants. The Peep initiative also supports educators with a professional development webinar introducing teachers to the Peep Explorer’s Guide and reviews the fundamentals of preschool science inquiry instruction. The most recent addition to the website is an informative weekly blog by a Head Start teacher who describes her personal experiences using Peep in the classroom.
Independent evaluation by Goodman Research Group (GRG) of the Peep initiative has found Peep and the Big Wide World to have a significant impact on children’s (and teachers’) comfort level with science concepts and the scientific process. “When presented with materials to manipulate and freely explore,” GRG reported, “children who were exposed to Peep interacted with these materials in ways that were significantly more grounded in science inquiry processes than children who were not exposed.” Teachers reported that the Peep approach of repeated exposure to one topic over time was unique compared to their typical science teaching. In an era where STEM education is recognized as a critical component to U.S. economic prosperity and national security, Peep and the Big Wide World is making an important difference by successfully nurturing innovative thinking and the innate curiosity of our youngest citizens. Visit peepandthebigwideworld.com and find out for yourself!