In the Studio: Civic Summit Austin’s Asian-American Identity 9/16

Civic Summit Taping Announcement

Join us in studio for a taping of Civic Summit, where we’ll explore the challenges Asian-Americans face and common misconceptions about this diverse community.

DATE: Wednesday, September 16
TIME: 6:30pm Doors | 7pm Start
LOCATION: KLRU Studio 6A (map)
RSVP: This event is free but an RSVP is required. RSVP now

Civic Summit: Austin’s Asian-American Identity will air on KLRU on October 8, 2015 at 9 pm, moderated by Esther Chung Martin, Executive Director of the Asian American Resource Center Nonprofit. Have a question you’d like to ask our panelists on this subject? Email us at:

Want to learn more about Austin’s Asian-American heritage? KLRU’s Austin Revealed: Pioneers from the East profiles three of the first families of Chinese origin to settle in the Austin area – the Sing family, the Wong family and the Lung family. Watch and learn more about the project

KLRU shares Play to Learn™ program at White House conference

On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, KLRU took part in a White House convening around the ConnectHome initiative, the plan to provide low-cost/free high-speed connectivity in over 275,000 low-income residences across the US and on tribal lands. Austin has been selected as the mentor city for the project due to collaborations including the City of AustinHACAGoogleAustin FreeNetUnited Way for Greater Austin, and KLRU, among others.

KLRU’s role in the panel was to share our work on Play to Learn™, the United Way-led initiative that brings parents and youth ages 2-4 together for a variety of fun learning activities, including the use of digital tablets. Throughout the 10-week program, the families take home books and learning materials and upon successful completion of the program, they take home a digital tablet loaded with educational apps for the whole family. We utilize PBS resources to illuminate at-home learning experiences, including video from PBS Kids, apps like PBS Parents Play and Learn and Daniel Tiger’s Day and Night, and KLRU’s own Smart Screen Time®/La Pantalla Inteligente messaging. Play to Learn™ is a powerful example of the kinds of programs that can occur once a low-income community gets reliable and affordable access to the Internet.

Austin Pathways, Housing Authority of the City of Austin, KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, Austin Free-Net, Everyone On, and Google Fiber at the National #ConnectHome Summit in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Austin Pathways

Austin Pathways, Housing Authority of the City of Austin, KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, Austin Free-Net, Everyone On, and Google Fiber at the National #ConnectHome Summit in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Austin Pathways

KLRU’s vice president of education, Ben Kramer (pictured on the far left above), represented Play to Learn™ at the conference. Below is a Q&A with Ben describing the Play to Learn™ program, what its effects have been, where he sees it headed in the future and what his role was at the ConnectHome conference.

Q: How did Play to Learn™ start?

A: Play to Learn™ was developed about five years ago. The United Way had done some research to try to determine where the greatest pockets of need were in the Austin area in terms of school readiness. Not surprisingly, they’re all in low-income zones, but they could go even deeper to say there are specific hot spots where 75 percent of the kids are entering Kindergarten not deemed “ready.” And “ready” doesn’t just mean academic skills, “ready” means the ability to follow group instructions, the ability to play nicely with others, the ability to hold attention to get through a developmentally appropriate activity as well as fine motor and gross motor skills, some awareness of letters, a concept of print, things like that.

In addition to funding quality childcare programs, what can we do? In these pockets, large numbers of families did not have their kids in sanctioned early childhood programs. They had their kids at home with them, or they had them in what we call informal family, friends and neighbors networks of childcare. Well, what do we do about that? And that’s how Play to Learn™ kind of got its start.

For years, there have been programs or workshops offered to families about how to foster learning activities at home, but number one, even when these are free, you tend to see an attendance drop. For example, we were trying to run six workshop sections, but we’d see attendance fall off a cliff after about three or four sessions. The other piece is that we were just then seeing the explosive growth of tablets in the early childhood arena. Given that the seed funding from this entire investigation and project had come from Samsung, United Way went to Samsung and said, “You know, we think we want to try to incorporate tablets.” And that’s where we came in. PBS Kids had shifted its strategies to focus more on the online and tablet-based world for early childhood games and video. So we joined them in the design of the Play to Learn™ curriculum, and in its general approach and outreach.

Q: How does Play to Learn™ work?

A: The program is 10 weeks long. The first and last sessions are tablet-oriented, where you commit to attend at least eight of 10 sessions in order to get the tablet, you’re committing to allow us to film and gather and use data. In the end, we sign over the tablets to the families. All the rest of the stuff in the middle is this pretty standard workshop model, where there are a variety of activities that are all designed to replicate what’s going to be their pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten experience but maybe more developmentally appropriate, and that are designed to get the kids and their parents interacting in the moment. That includes story reading, play with blocks, water colors, markers, puzzle pieces, toy cars — all the kind of stuff that you would see in an early childhood center, but the big difference is we’re asking the parent to let the child take the lead on those activities and for them to follow along and also for them to infuse a whole lot of dialogue, so it’s not just playing silently.

Also included are uses of media. We show clips from our own shows and from educational videos directed at childcare folks. We use the tablets every time, there’s at least one app that the families are asked to explore together that are related to the themes of that session.

Every week, the family goes home with a take-home bag which includes some of the manipulatives, the toys they’ve been giving to play with at home, and at least one book. And then at the very end of the session, they take home the tablet.

Q: How did your work on Play to Learn™ lead to speaking on a panel at the White House?

A: In the summer, we had just signed a contract with the United Way, based upon a grant they had received from the City of Austin, to provide Play to Learn™ in Housing Authority sites around the city, serving approximately 40 families at four different sites around the city. The first round of Play to Learn™ took place at Meadowbrook Housing, which recently opened, and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary, Joaquin Castro, was there in November for the grand opening of this new educational facility on the grounds. This summer, there was a HUD conference in Austin, and they went up to see the different programs in Austin, it wasn’t just Play To Learn. Austin FreeNet and Austin Boys And Girls Club both have programs there. Simultaneously, President Obama this summer went out to a housing development on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma to promote the ConnectHome initiative, which is their goal, before they leave office, to have all public housing in the United States hard-wired for high speed internet. This ConnectHome conference was what we were invited to in Washington.

The idea was that largely because of Google Fiber and Austin’s general pace of tech development and tech infrastructure, the work being done at that Meadowbrook site is in many ways a template for what the Obama Administration and others would like to see happening in these other sites and housing developments as they come online in the upcoming year.

We were asked to be on a panel to help answer the question, “You’re wired, now what? What can you do with that that you couldn’t do before?” In a way, it was interesting because the tenor of the conversation was about the work with the hard-wiring. Our work with the tablets doesn’t need a hard-wire connection, you just need a strong WiFi signal. So one of the follow-ups I had was to connect back to the conference leads to say, “That’s a very short time to get 275,000 hard-wired. Let me offer this as an alternative, if you can get a strong WiFi signal in your housing communities and you can go to tablet-based technologies, you’re able to tap into resources a heck of a lot quicker.”

Q: What have we learned from Play to Learn™?

A: Research was done on the first 200 families we served, and we saw some really positive outcomes. Attendance was through the roof, and at one level, we credit the tablet. But at the other level, that longer time period allowed us to build community, and a sense of collaboration and trust and the fact that these sessions are meant to be fun. They’re very lively, a lot of laughter, a lot of goofiness. When we follow kids, that’s what’s going to result. Some of the other research results were parents indicating positive trends in some of these very same school readiness qualities that we’re after. One surprising research result was an actual decline in parents’ depressive symptoms, and we contribute that to two things: that sense of community and the notion that they’ve heard this idea that you have to go into American schools ready, and this helps to shed a light on what that readiness really means. It doesn’t mean that your child entering pre-Kindergarten knows how to write their name. It means that your child can follow directions and sit still and cooperate and collaborate with others and be curious and explore. So, for all those reasons, we’re really proud of the work that we’ve done.

Q: What’s next?

A: Since that original study of 200, we’re now up to about 500 families served in the Austin area, and we’ve just signed contracts to serve approximately 100 families per year for the next five years. In addition, we’ve brought along some other partners who are implementing either the Play To Learn model as it was designed or they’re modifying it and folding it into their own curricula. The other thing we’re hoping to do is to explore making social media more interactive for the parents in the program.

Labor Day weekend events in Central Texas

Austin Skyline

Happy three-day weekend, Austin! If you’re still making plans for the holiday weekend, here are our suggestions.

Watch Cirque du Soleil performers fly and flip

Cirque du Soleil’s “Kooza” features acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. “Kooza” tells the story of The Innocent, a melancholy loner in search of his place in the world. Before you go, watch the story of a San Antonio television news producer and reporter who gave up journalism for a career in the “circus of the sky.”

Hours: Daily shows through Sept. 6. Admission: $42 to $84. Details here.

Celebrate Freddie Mercury’s birthday

AIDS Services of Austin is presenting a celebration at the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company (The ABGB) Friday night for Freddie Mercury’s birthday featuring Austin’s own Queen cover band, Magnifico. The event supports The Mercury Phoenix Trust, an organization that helps fight AIDS worldwide and was established in memory of Freddie.

Freddie died in November 1991, but could you have the chance to see him again? Maybe, thanks to holograms. Is this hologram mania just nostalgia, or is it part of an art movement called “New Aesthetic” that blends art and technology? PBS Idea Channel discusses in the video below.

Hours: Starts at 9 p.m. Admission: $10 suggested donation, but $15 gets you a Freddie shirt! Details here.

Fun Fun Fun for the whole family

In honor of Fun Fun Fun Fest’s 10th anniversary this year, the Austin festival is throwing the first official Fun Fun Fun Fest Family Funday Saturday at Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, featuring four hours of free roller skating, bowling and a double feature courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse. There will also be an arcade, DJ sets, “heavy metal face painting” (we’re not sure what that is, but it sounds awesome), snacks and a rock n’ roll instrument clinic from Girls Rock Austin. There will also be the first ever FFF Bowling Tournament, with the winning team getting USP passes to this year’s fest. Teams of four can sign up. Sounds like a fun fun fun time.

If you’d like to know more about Fun Fun Fun Fest and how one of Austin’s most successful festivals has come together over the last 10 years, check out Arts In Context’s “There Will Be Fun.”

Hours: 4 to 8 p.m. Admission: Free! But donations to Girls Rock Austin will be accepted. (Suggested $5 donation.) Details here.

Splash Jam in Cedar Park

It may be September, but it still feels like summer in Texas. Cedar Park is throwing a splash party Sunday at Milburn Park. There will be a washer tournament, inflatables, face painting, hamster balls, carnival games, live music and fireworks! Before you go, make sure your kids are prepared. PBS Parents has some summer safety tips for making sure your little ones stay safe.

Hours: Milburn Pool is open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., but Splash Jam starts at 5 p.m. Admission: Free (but pool fees apply if you want to take a dip). Details here.

Go “under the sea” at the Bullock

Families can explore the vast world that lies underneath the surfaces of Texas’s Gulf, rivers, and lakes with Bob Bullock Museum family programs on Sunday combining art, presentations and other activities. Before you go, get in the Gulf Coast spirit with this episode of Nature Adventures exploring Texas’ coast.

Hours: 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Admission: Free. Details here.

For more weekend fun, check out suggestions from our friends at CultureMap Austin, Free Fun In Austin and Austin360.

Arts In Context Shorts: Sweet Art

AICS SWEET ART ANNIE DECORATINGEach time Annie Varghese starts a new cake, she feels like it’s her first one, and she won’t stop until she reaches perfection. She found her passion for cake sculpting from baking cakes for her children’s birthdays, and now she uses traditional flavors and ingredients to transform her cakes into a limitless, fictional world. She believes that every cake is a chance to explore her imagination, and she uses clean lines and balanced color tones to add details and create larger, more extravagant cakes. Her passion shows that cake isn’t just a sweet treat but an exciting art medium.


Highlights September 6 to September 12

KLRU Highlights

Spend a day at Prune as Gabrielle cooks smoky eggplant, celery salad and sweetbreads on The Mind of a Chef Prune at 5:30 pm on Sunday.

On Great British Baking Show Cakes at 6 pm on Sunday, meet the 13 bakers who make simple sandwich cakes in the Signature challenge, angel food cakes in Mary’s Technical challenge and all things chocolate in the Showstopper.

Asked to clear a man convicted of animal mutilation, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle finds there’s more to the case than meets the eye on Masterpiece Arthur & George Part 1 at 7 pm on Sunday.

Mycroft calls Sherlock back to London to investigate an underground terrorist organization on Masterpiece Mystery! Sherlock: The Empty Hearse at 8 pm on Sunday.

The gang decides to join Ash and Jess at a ballroom dancing class on Vicious Ballroom at 9:30 pm on Sunday. Nimble on his feet, Stuart quickly becomes teacher’s pet, leaving Freddie in a huff, while Violet becomes a hit with the amorous teacher in other ways.

When an alcoholic woman is found drowned near her home, Father Brown suspects murder, although the police think it’s an accident on Father Brown The Flying Stars at 10 pm on Sunday.

Many years have passed since Dr. Blake first returned home from war to run his father’s old practice. But Ballarat is no longer the sanctuary from the outside world it used to be on Doctor Blake Mysteries Still Waters at 11 pm on Sunday.

Antiques Roadshow Myrtle Beach Hour 3 at 7 pm on Monday visits the Waccamaw River with host Mark L. Walberg and militaria appraiser Christopher Mitchell as they discuss an important 19th-century blockade rifle. Other discoveries include an 1884 Courier & Ives print; a Pennsylvania folk art whirligig; and a 1936 first edition of Gone With the Wind, valued at $12,000-$15,000.

Beginning with an examination of slavery, Civil War The Cause – 1861 at 8 pm on Monday looks at the causes of the war and the burning questions of union and states’ rights. Significant events include John Brown’s rebellion at Harper’s Ferry, the election of Abraham Lincoln, the firing on Fort Sumter and the jubilant rush to arms on both sides.

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proved himself a master of a new frontier-not on the battlefields of the Civil War, but in his “high-tech” command center: the War Department Telegraph Office, America’s first “Situation Room.” Lincoln@Gettysburg at 10 pm on Monday will unfold the greatest turning point in American history: the rebirth of a nation and the dawn of the information age.

Follow Muhammad Ali’s path from a gym in Louisville to boxing successes, conversion to Islam, opposition to the draft, exile from the ring, comeback fights, Parkinson’s disease and his inspirational re-emergence at the Atlanta Olympics on In Their Own Words Muhammad Ali at 7 pm on Tuesday.

On Civil War A Very Bloody Affair – 1862 at 8 pm on Tuesday, see the birth of modern warfare and the transformation of Lincoln’s war to preserve the Union into a war to emancipate the slaves. Then, on Civil War Forever Free – 1862, convinced by July 1862 that emancipation was now morally and militarily crucial to the future of the Union, Lincoln must wait for a victory to issue his proclamation.

Watch interviews with prominent Austin citizens about their experience during Austin’s civil rights period, the effect of segregation and what gentrification has meant to the city on Austin Revealed Civil Rights Stories at 10:30 pm on Tuesday.

Legend paints the wolverine as a solitary, bloodthirsty killer that roams the icy heart of the frozen north, taking down prey as large as moose, crushing bones to powder with its powerful jaws. Nature Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom at 7 pm on Wednesday takes viewers into the secretive world of the largest and least known member of the weasel family to reveal who this dynamic little devil truly is.

On Civil War Simply Murder – 1863 at 8 pm on Wednesday begins with the nightmarish Union disaster at Fredericksburg and follows two clashes: at Chancellorsville in May, where Lee wins his most brilliant victory but loses Stonewall Jackson; and at Vicksburg, where Grant is prevented from taking the city by siege. Then, on Civil War The Universe of Battle – 1863, learn how the Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the war.

Overheard with Evan Smith at 7 pm on Thursday talks with Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy.

Since 1995, Rude Mechanicals have created original theatrical productions that represent a genre-defying cocktail of big ideas, cheap laughs, and dizzying spectacle. On Arts In Context Rude Mechs at 7:30 pm on Thursday, learn how the group has jumped into the national spotlight.

Civil War Valley of the Shadow – 1864 at 8 pm on Thursday begins with a biographical comparison of Grant and Lee and then chronicles the series of battles that pitted the two generals against each other from the wilderness to Petersburg in Virginia. Then, Civil War Most Hallowed – 1864 teaches you how the presidential campaign of 1864 set Abraham Lincoln against his old commanding general, George McClellan.

William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea brings war to the heart of Georgia and the Carolinas and spells the end of the Confederacy on Civil War War Is All Hell – 1865 at 8 pm on Friday. Then, Civil War The Better Angels of Our Nature – 1865 recounts the final days of the war, the capture of John Wilkes Booth and the fates of the series’ major figures.

The best contemporary rock hits the Austin City Limits stage with the Black Keys and J. Roddy Walston & The Business at 10:30 pm on Friday. The Black Keys play hits from their #1 album Turn Blue, while Walston and his trio highlight their record, Essential Tremors. Then, ACL features soulful pop from Sam Smith and Future Islands on Saturday at 7 pm.

How do organic techniques improve homegrown food? Learn more, plus see how gardens help a high school keep students at risk for graduation on Central Texas Gardener Why Grow Organically at noon on Saturday.

Science Night September 9

This week’s Science Night takes you into the world of a mysterious creature and a historic war. On Nature, the complex image of the wolverine that is just beginning to emerge. And then, Ken Burns’ The Civil War examines the pivotal year of 1863.

Nature Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom at 7 pm
Its name stirs images of the savage, the untamable. Legend paints it as a solitary, bloodthirsty killer that roams the icy heart of the frozen north, taking down prey as large as moose, crushing bones to powder with its powerful jaws. Enter the secretive world of the wolverine to find out who this dynamic little devil truly is.

The Civil War Simply Murder – 1863 / The Universe of Battle – 1863 at 8 pm
In this piece of Ken Burns’ Civil War, Simply Murder covers the nightmarish Union disaster at Fredericksburg and follows two clashes that spring: at Chancellorsville in May, where Lee wins his most brilliant victory but loses Stonewall Jackson; and at Vicksburg, where Grant is prevented from taking the city by siege. Then, in The Universe of Battle, learn how the Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the war.

In this interview, watch Ken Burns discuss his revolutionary documentary, The Civil War.

In the Studio: Robert Reich tapes Overheard 9/8

Overheard taping announcement

RSVP NOW for a taping of KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith with Robert Reich

Tuesday, September 8 at 3:15pm in KLRU’s Studio 6A
Doors open at 2:45pm
Tapings are free to attend but an RSVP is required. Admission is based upon capacity. 

Reich_Robert_small (1)Robert Reich is a leading expert on work and the economy. He served in 3 U.S. administrations, including as Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and on President Obama’s economic transition advisory board. In 2008 TIME magazine named him one of the 10 most successful cabinet secretaries of the past century. Reich has written 14 books and stars in the 2013 documentary Inequality for All. Reich is in Austin to deliver the The 2015 Liz Carpenter Distinguished Lecture in Plan II. The lecture is free and open to the public at 7pm on September 8th in the LBJ Library’s Lady Bird Auditorium.

We hope you’ll be there as Overheard with Evan Smith begins a sixth season of interviews featuring engaging conversations with fascinating people. The show airs on PBS stations nationally and presents a wide range of thoughtmakers and tastemakers from the fields of politics, journalism, business, arts, sports and more. Please join us and be part of the studio audience at this taping with Robert Reich. And don’t forget you can watch past episodes anytime at

KLRU is proud to partner with the Texas Tribune Festival 2015!  Registration is now open for the fifth annual event at UT Austin October 16-18. Get more information at

September 2015 Family Choice

KLRU chooses three to four programs each month for your family to enjoy and view together. In September 2015, we have the following lined up:

Tuesday, Wednesday, September 1-2 at 7:00 pm: BIG BLUE LIVE
Scientists, filmmakers and photographers, animal behaviorists and other experts will come together to document the extraordinary rejuvenation of the once endangered and now thriving ecosystem of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in California. Some of the world’s most charismatic marine creatures — humpback whales, blue whales, sea lions, dolphins, elephant seals, sea otters, great white sharks, shearwaters and brown pelicans — convene in this once-a-year confluence.

Wednesday, September 2 at 8:00 pm: NOVA “Bigger Than T. Rex”
NOVA joins paleontologist Paul Sereno on the trail of Spinosaurus — the biggest and most fearsome predator of all time.

Tuesday, September 15 at 7:00 pm: IN THEIR OWN WORDS “Jim Henson”
This film follows Jim Henson’s career from his first work with the Muppets in the early 1950s during television’s Golden Age up to his sudden and shocking death in 1990, as he transcended puppetry to become one of the most creative, prolific and influential artists of his time.

Wednesday, September 23 at 7:00 pm: NATURE “Nature’s Miracle Orphans: Second Chances”
Growing up in the wild is always rough – and young animals rely on their parents to protect and nurture them through the dangerous early phase of life. But how do young animals survive when they’ve lost their mothers? This heartwarming and emotional series follows the work of animal rescue centers around the world and introduces the extraordinary people who have devoted their lives to helping all sorts of wild orphans get back on their feet.

Dropping Back In

As part of our American Graduate initiative, KLRU presents back-to-back airings of Dropping Back In, a Kentucky Educational Television (KET) series focusing on America’s dropout crisis airing on public television stations across the country. During these half-hour documentary-style programs, you will meet some of America’s dropouts, come to understand the issues they face and learn about the people and programs helping them drop back in and move on with their educations and lives.

For more information and to watch full episodes, visit the program’s official site here.

Dropping Back In #101 “Second Chances”
Re-airs on KLRU September 13 at 1 pm and September 14 at 10 pm

High school dropouts, educators and researchers introduce the economic and personal costs of dropping out, why a high school equivalency is no longer enough and the benefits of dropouts gaining second chances. Two former dropouts, Kellie Blair Hardt, homeless as a child, now an award-winning teacher, and Hasan Davis, former commissioner of juvenile justice for the state of Kentucky, tell their stories.

Dropping Back In #105 “Building A Better Life”
Airs on KLRU September 13 at 1:30 pm and September 14 at 10:30 pm

Building a Better Life for the Dropping Back In series looks at successful apprenticeship programs around the country that are helping get adults back into education and into jobs. There are currently 2 million open jobs that have no skilled laborers to fill them. This new program in the series looks at successful apprentice and training-based programs preparing under-educated and unemployed people for available jobs by teaching valuable skills.

KLRU News Brief: 10 Years After Katrina, Some Evacuees Remain in Austin

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, thousands of evacuees traveled to Texas. More than 7,000 came to Austin, where many slept in the Austin Convention Center. To mark 10 years since the storm KLRU spoke with 7 New Orleanians about their experiences during Hurricane Katrina and why they chose to stay in Austin to create a new life.

One of those individuals is Jese Webb. Jese stayed in New Orleans during the storm. He didn’t leave his home until he was forced to do so by rising water after the levees broke. He then spent up to 5 days in the New Orleans Convention Center. He arrived by plane to Austin and spent another 6 days at the Austin Convention Center. Now he’s a preacher and a hair stylist.

Aquita “Q” Gaddis-Gray was a young single mom when she drove out of New Orleans before the storm hit. She evacuated with her three year old daughter and a hundred dollars to her name. Now, she’s a cosmetologist, is married, and has 4 children. Q says she stayed in Austin to experience a different life than the one she had in New Orleans and 10 years later she calls herself blessed.

You can find all of our interviews marking the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina here.