PBS in the Classroom

Ruff Ruffman Helps Kids Discover Science in Their Everyday Life

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November 06, 2017

Our day-to-day lives depend on a variety of materials to help us -- from waterproof raincoats to the plastic bag we carry our groceries in -- and the relevance and ubiquity of these materials makes them an easy and inspiring source for everyday science learning. 

That’s the motivation behind a new app from PBS KIDS called Photo Stuff with Ruff (available on Android and iOS mobile devices). Based on PBS KIDS’ new short-form animated digital series, The Ruff Ruffman Show, the Photo Stuff with Ruff app is designed to inspire students (grades K-2) to observe what the “stuff” in their world is made of and to document what they find in a fun and novel way. In this camera-based photo hunt, students are prompted to take pictures of materials with different properties (ex: “waterproof” or “natural”) and think about their applications. There are 80 unique properties featured in the app! For some added fun, your students can use the pictures they’ve taken to complete silly scenes featuring Ruff, the loveable canine host.

This app can flexibly support a variety of classroom needs: it can be played individually, with partners or in small groups. Using the gallery feature, learners can revisit their images, share them with others and be inspired to talk about the materials they’ve collected. 

This app supports Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) inquiry practices by encouraging kids to observe, document and reflect on their discoveries, and share them with others. The app was built specifically to support the following NGSS standards:

    • Understand that different kinds of matter exist and these can be described and classified by their observable properties
    • Understand that different properties of materials are suited to different purposes
    • Distinguish between an object and the material(s) that make up an object
    • Explore familiar objects to determine and describe how the materials that make up objects are related to their properties (e.g., a wooden block is hard, solid, and has smooth sides while a foam ball is soft, squishy, light and has a rougher texture)
    • Determine whether an object is human-made or occurs in nature, based on observable properties
    • Identify the uses of various natural or human-made objects based on their properties

Finally, in addition to this app, your students can explore the series of related material science video clips that reinforce similar concepts while introducing engaging engineering challenges (ex: How to make a leash from plastic bags or a costume out of mop heads). These videos are available on the PBS KIDS Ruff Ruffman Show website and in PBS Learning Media. In addition to videos, the collection in PBS LearningMedia includes interactive activities, educator guides, and more. 

Jennifer is the Director of Digital Learning at PBS KIDS where she has worked for the past 10 years designing play experiences to help teach literacy, math, science & inquiry, and SEL skills and practices.  She holds a Masters in Technology in Education from Harvard University and is the proud mother of three kids. Jennifer and her colleagues are hard at work making adaptive and universally designed games and apps to better personalize learning for America's kids.

Jennifer Rodriguez

Jennifer Rodriguez Director of Digital Learning

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