What’s happening this weekend: Sept. 11-13

Austin Skyline

Celebrate Mexico’s independence

Help celebrate Mexico’s independence with free games, prizes, music & food Friday night at the Metz Theatre’s Community Deiz de Seis celebration! The city is hosting the celebration and it’s free for the whole family.

Then, on Saturday, the city hosts a ¡Viva México! celebration at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center featuring guest speakers and music.

Mid-September starts Hispanic Heritage Month. Stay tuned throughout the month for special programming from PBS and KLRU. Click here for programs and air dates.

Deiz de Seis celebration Friday – Hours: 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Admission: Free. Details here. ¡Viva México! Saturday – Hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission: Free. Details here.

Free music at the Hill Country Galleria

If you haven’t been out to the Saturday night concert series at the Hill Country Galleria, you’re missing out. It may be a bit of a drive depending on where you live, but the outdoor ampitheater theater is charming and so is the galleria itself. The week’s rain is expected to clear up by Saturday, and the temperature isn’t supposed to get much higher than 90 degrees, so expect a nice night with vendors, food and kids’ events like face painting. Rosie Flores is playing this week!

To feel inspired and get in a musical mood, check out this story from Student Reporting Labs alumnus and KLRU intern Kennedy Huff, which aired on PBS NewsHour last week. Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center serves as a probation facility for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. While in detention, the residents continue working toward their high school diploma, get exposure to trades, and learn a variety of arts.

Hours: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission: Free. Details here.

Let your teens officially say goodbye to summer

Last weekend was Labor Day, which we all know signifies the official end of summer. If you’re still holding on to summer days (and your teenagers are, too) the Austin Rec Center is hosting the So Long Summer Fest on Saturday featuring local teen bands and DJs, a film competition and games.

Meanwhile, PBS Parents has endless resources on parenting teenagers and preteens. Click here to get informed!

Hours: Music starts at noon. Admission: Free. Details and RSVP here.

Science Night September 16

This week’s Science Night takes you on the land, in the sea and everywhere in between. Nature tells the story of the animals living in the sagebrush sea—a place that’s anything but empty. Then, NOVA dives down to explore shiny, shimmering sea life, and Particle Fever captures the thrill of discovery during the building of the Large Hadron Collider.

Nature The Sagebrush Sea at 7 pm
One of the most overlooked ecosystems on the continent consists of a massive sea of sagebrush that stretches across 11 states in the American West. Learn how the sagebrush is losing ground contending with wells and pipelines tapping the resources buried deep below.

NOVA Creatures of Light at 8 pm
Take a dazzling dive with NOVA and National Geographic to explore how and why so many of the ocean’s creatures light up-revealing a hidden undersea world where creatures flash, sparkle, shimmer or simply glow.

Particle Fever at 9 pm
Follow six brilliant scientists for the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, built to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang and search for the Higgs boson, marking the start of the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet.

In this clip, theoretical physicist David Kaplan discusses the making of the documentary, Particle Fever.

KLRU receives grant to implement early learning partnerships

CPB and PBS Receive Ready To Learn Grant From the U.S. Department of Education; Project Includes Community-based Activities in Central Texas Through KLRU-TV, Austin PBS

CPB and PBS to Develop and Distribute Science and Literacy Content to Help Prepare Children for School; KLRU to Implement Early Learning Partnerships Locally to Support Low-income Families

Austin, TX, September 10, 2015 – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS have received a Ready To Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. The grant will provide $19 million in year one of a five-year grant to fund CPB and PBS’ innovative science and literacy media initiative to support the learning needs of children in low-income communities. The grant will provide resources to 11 PBS stations, including KLRU, to implement local partnerships in underserved communities in Central Texas.

“KLRU is honored to be a part of CPB and PBS’ Ready To Learn-funded project,” said Bill Stotesbery, CEO of KLRU. “This grant will help KLRU continue to serve Central Texas-area families with high-quality early learning content and services to set them on the path for a successful future.”


Austin-area Veterans Memorials

On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam, airing on Sept. 22 at 9 pm, examines the Latino experience during a war that placed its heaviest burden on working class youth. Framing the documentary are memoirs of two siblings, Everett and Delia Alvarez, who stood on opposite sides of the Vietnam War, one as a POW and the other protesting at home.

We will be hosting a screening and discussion of the film on Nov. 10th in honor of Veterans Day. For now, we invite you to take a few moments to explore the Veterans memorials in the Austin-area. This map features just a few from San Marcos, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Williamson County and other Central Texas areas. Few additional photos.

We realize this is far from a complete list so we’re asking for your help. Is there a memorial that is important to you that is not included? Leave a comment with the name, location and why it’s special to you and we’ll add it to the map!

Minors playing in E minor: Juvenile Justice Center Residents Learn the Art of Classical Guitar

Gardner-Betts Thumbnail

This story was written by KLRU and PBS NewsHour intern Kennedy Huff. Kennedy is an alumna of the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program. Kennedy’s story aired during PBS NewsHour on Tuesday, September 8, 2015. You can see it in the video below.

Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center serves as a probation facility for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. While in detention, the residents continue working toward their high school diploma, get exposure to trades, and learn a variety of arts.

Five years ago, Gardner-Betts partnered with Austin Classical Guitar Society to teach classical guitar to residents, allowing them to earn a fine art credit necessary for graduation.

“It started with the recommendation from one of our members,” Director of Education and Outreach for Austin Classical Guitar, Travis Marcum, said. “He set up a meeting between us and Gardner-Betts. [He was] just thinking that these kids might have a specific need, that they’re not getting really any arts education while they’re incarcerated, so this might be a good fit for us.”

Guitar Instructor, Jeremy Osborne performs a concert piece with his students. Austin Classical Guitar works with Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center to teach classical guitar to residents. Photo by Kennedy Huff

Guitar Instructor, Jeremy Osborne performs a concert piece with his students. Austin Classical Guitar works with Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center to teach classical guitar to residents. Photo by Kennedy Huff

Last winter, Jeremy Osborne began teaching the guitar class at Gardner-Betts. Osborne held many fears about handling the program, but one stood above the rest.

“When I took over I knew what to expect but [I had] a lot of trepidation actually,” Osborne said. “You know there’s a lock on every door, you have to memorize a handful of codes to get through all the different security blocks and everything and it’s really disorienting. Starting with this project brought out a lot of personal anxieties and fear. It wasn’t about getting attacked by a student, or whatever, it was literally like ‘I’m not gonna do a good job for these kids.’”

However, Osborne’s assumptions proved to be wrong. The students in the program think highly of him and are grateful for the class. Demetrius, Israel, and Peter have all been at Gardner-Betts for over a year.

“I’m 18, never thought I’d see the light, never thought I’d see the day that I’d be graduating,” Demetrius said.  “I really like the feeling, because everybody in my family graduated high school, went to college at least one year, maybe two, and dropped out, got locked up, or died. It showed me a different path. Instead of going down the wrong road I can go down the right one.”

“I used to actually have a real bad anger problem,” Israel said. ”So when I would get real angry, or I could be like sad, I guess you could say, or withdrawn I get on my guitar. It’s just really given me something to do when I’m bored or thinking about something, I guess, that’s not in my best interest.”

Gardner-Betts resident, Peter, receives assistance from guitar instructor, Jeremy Osborne. Peter will continue playing guitar when he begins college in the fall.

Gardner-Betts resident, Peter, receives assistance from guitar instructor, Jeremy Osborne. Peter will continue playing guitar when he begins college in the fall. Photo by Kennedy Huff

Prior to joining the program, Peter was a high school dropout. With the help of Osborne, he is set to attend San Jacinto College this fall, in the pursuit of a music production degree.

“My mom is excited,” Peter said. “Usually if she heard something about me it was always bad and it feels good to have something good like graduating high school, learning how to play the guitar, going to school. Now every time she sees me she just smiles. I’m sure her cheeks hurt by now.”

A recent study from the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University found that 75% of juveniles released from a juvenile probation facility in Texas are rearrested up to 5 years after their release. Jeremy Osborne hopes the skills students have learned in his class will keep them from reentering the criminal justice system.

“If you talk to a lot of the staff here they’ll say it’s pretty common that statistically a lot of these kids will re-offend and wind up back here,” Osborne said. “I would like to think that at least a handful of them can kinda keep [on a good] path when they get out of here. They always have a guitar there to come to when they’re stressed out. My ultimate hope for them is that they come out of here and don’t come back.”

In the Studio: Overheard tapes Thomas Mallon (9/15)

Overheard taping announcement

RSVP NOW to join us in studio when Thomas Mallon appears on KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith, September 15 at 5:15pm in KLRU’s Studio 6A (map). Doors open at 4:45pm. The event is free but an RSVP is required. Admission is based upon capacity.

Photo Credit: William Bodenschatz

Photo Credit: William Bodenschatz

Thomas Mallon is a novelist and critic who has written 9 novels and 7 works of nonfiction. His 2012 novel Watergate was a finalist for the PEN /​ Faulkner Award. He frequently contributes to The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, and The Atlantic. His newest novel, Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years will be published September 15. After our taping Mr. Mallon will read and sign copies of Finale at BookPeople at 7pm.

We hope you’ll be there as Overheard with Evan Smith begins a fifth 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 Thomas Mallon. And don’t forget you can watch past episodes anytime at klru.org/overheard.

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 texastribune.org/festival.

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. Our panelists will be:

  • Dr. Snehal Shingavi, Associate Professor of South Asian literature at UT
  • Linda Phan, Executive Director of the Asian Family Supports Services of Austin
  • Richard Jung, Chair of Asian American Quality of Life Commission
  • Dr. Vagdevi Meunier, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Have a question you’d like to ask our panelists on this subject? Email us at: civicsummit@klru.org

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.