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Education Outreach

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Preschool and Elementary

In addition to providing the area’s children and families with a variety of educational programs such as Sesame Street, Curious George, Dinosaur Train and Clifford, WUFT-TV also supports several education outreach programs, headed by Mary Brandenburg, WUFT’s education outreach coordinator. WUFT-TV is the only local media outlet committed to providing children’s education programs.

Martha Speaks Reading Buddies ProgramMartha Speaks

Developed to accompany the Martha Speaks television series, this cross-age reading program is an innovative way for kindergarten and upper-level elementary students to increase their vocabulary, develop their self-esteem and social skills, and enhance their love of books and reading.

Little Buddy and Big Buddy teachers, along with support personnel, from each participating school train for the program and receive supplies for implementation at a workshop held at WUFT-TV each fall.

The program is currently in nine schools throughout Alachua and Marion counties, with plans to expand to more schools in more counties as support grows. For information on how to sponsor a school, please email nsautter@wuft.org.

Stop Children’s Cancer and WUFT: Best Friends for Life

WUFT-TV created a partnership with Stop Children’s Cancer by creating Best Friends to support literacy at UF Health Shands. Best Friends is a partnership that will enable children in the 18-bed Pediatric Immune Compromised Unit to benefit from quality children’s programming on WUFT-TV by providing books, tablets, and ancillary materials.

Seriously ill children undergoing long term treatment are isolated from friends and many family members for extended periods of time. This isolation, combined with their treatments, cause children to experience considerable stress and anxiety. The goal of Best Friends is to provide children with activities that will not only educate them, but brighten their world and help alleviate their anxiety…much like a best friend would do!

Among these Best Friends will be the characters featured in the programs on WUFT-TV (Martha Speaks, Curious George, Cat in the Hat, Clifford, Arthur, Sesame Street) who will come into each child’s room daily. Through the use of tablets (donated by our friends at Stop Children’s Cancer), WUFT developed a link for our Best Friends in the Pediatric Immune Compromised Unit to use to access one of these TV programs. Each child will receive a book to keep, along with an activity book that WUFT-TV created, that accompanies the shows that the child has selected to watch. The materials all are related to friendship and best friends.

Best Friends is coordinated through the Child Life Office for the unit and through the use of medical students and pediatric residents. The medical teams for this unit are provided with small activity booklets, created by WUFT-TV, to carry and give to the children upon visiting their rooms on rounds. The doctors are provided with background information on the shows the children are watching so that they will have something fun to talk about with each child.

Higher Education

INCWUFT-TV also serves as the training ground for future generations of journalists and multimedia professionals at the UF College of Journalism and Communications. Student reporters, producers and editors under the direction of College faculty members and staff produce daily local newscasts for the citizens of North Florida. Students work in all areas: news, sports and weather, and learn to report on multiple platforms.

A new Innovation News Center opened in 2013 that provides nearly 100 seats for reporters, producers and editors working together to report the news for the College’s many distribution channels, including WUFT-TV and wuft.org. The College’s students learn to report from multiple platforms, using the ROPE model – report once, publish everywhere.

These WUFT newscasts provide professional-level training and real-life experiences for hundreds of students on an annual basis and provide citizens with thorough coverage of important area events and issues. In 2013, the television station produced more than 300 live newscasts and more than 100 short-form news briefs and content products.

Mary Brandenburg, WUFT Education Outreach Coordinator

Mary Brandenburg and MarthaMary Brandenburg and MarthaMary Brandenburg uses Curious George and Clifford to teach elementary students how to read.

In her role as WUFT’s Education Outreach Coordinator, Brandenburg works with school administrators and teachers to impact children’s education through the “Martha Speaks” Reading Buddy program. A former teacher, Brandenburg had been retired from the school system when she heard about the opportunity to work with “Martha Speaks.” She said the position felt like a good fit because of her experience in education.

“I’ve always had a passion for reading and for teaching children how to read,” Brandenburg said, “working with children for whom learning to read is hard for them, is very rewarding.”

More than 120 students at the three Alachua County Elementary Schools participate in the program. Through educational games and activities inspired by PBS programming, students increase their oral vocabulary by understanding more than 40 new words.

“I’ve gone out to look at lessons and watching older students who come from difficult and challenging situations mentor the younger ones is very inspiring,” Brandenburg said.