FASE Productions, the Foundation's media division, has received more than 150 awards for its educational television programs, including three Peabody Awards. These popular classroom resources have helped millions of students discover the real-world value of mathematics, science, technology and engineering.
FUTURES with Jaime Escalante
"My kids ask me, where is the future?," said Jaime Escalante, who appears in 24 classroom programs and two broadcast specials from FASE Productions. "I tell them that the future is in chemistry, biology and engineering--and that the language is mathematics."
Jaime Escalante, a Bolivian emigrant who managed to inspire East LA students that others found "unteachable" to master advanced math, began working with FASE in 1984. In the beginning, Foundation staff conducted fundraising efforts to provide materials, lunches and other support for Escalante's after school and weekend programs.
A few years later, Escalante became a national hero as a result of the feature film Stand and Deliver. "Teachers all over the country were asking to visit my class," recalls Escalante. "They wanted to see what I was doing to motivate my kids. FASE and I started talking about what to do about all these requests, and we realized that television might offer a solution."
Out of these discussions came a decision to produce a pilot program for a series called FUTURES with Jaime Escalante. Filming began in 1988. FUTURES combined scenes from Escalante's classroom, interviews with professionals who use math in everything from solar energy to oceanography and visits from celebrities ranging from astronauts to actors to racecar drivers.
In addition to the hundreds of professionals featured in FUTURES, from fields ranging from ocean exploration to fashion design, celebrities including actor Jimmy Smits, basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Arnold Schwarzenneger visit Escalante's classroom to discuss the importance of math and science.
The series grew to 24 episodes, earned FASE Productions its first Peabody, and became the most popular classroom series ever distributed by PBS VIDEO. "All of today's kids are going to need skills in math and science," said Linda Schmid, Senior Vice President, Educational Services at PBS affiliate KLRU in Austin. "FUTURES was the first program to show students role models from these fields in an entertaining and engaging manner."
FUTURES also changed student attitudes. One independent study found that African-American students' interest in a career in engineering went from 29 percent to 58 percent, while Hispanic students' interest in a career in architecture went from 28 percent to 65 percent after they viewed episodes on these fields over the course of a semester.
Math... Who Needs It?
For this PBS primetime specdial, Jaime Escalante was joined by celebrity guests including Bill Cosby, the late jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, Paula Poundstone, Paul Rodriguez, DL Hughley, and Teri Garr to bring home the message that math isn't something to be afraid of—it's something to use. Math...Who Needs It?! combines inspiring scenes from Escalante's classroom and behind-the-scenes interviews with professionals in math-related fields.
This one-hour special program is used by parents and in a wide array of educational and training groups to help students of all ages answer the question "Why do I need to learn all this stuff?"
Math...Who Needs It?! received nine major awards, including the CHRIS Award from the Columbus International Film and Video Festival.
Living and Working in Space
Life in space: Beam-ins. Intergalactic war. But what about getting a driver's license or doing the laundry?
Some scientists believe we have the technology to be living in space in the near future. Lunar bases, Martian rover vehicles and a zero gravity exercise room are just a few of the projects in the works right now. To inform students (and their parents) about extraterrestrial opportunities in the coming decades, FASE created the PBS special Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun.
This half-hour program features dozens of space professionals, from designers of space suits and life systems engineers to interior decorators and the "Lunar Lettuce Man." A touching story concerning famed teacher Jaime Escalante and one of his students is interwoven with imaginative vignettes that explore the humor and drama of day-to-day life away from Earth. Guest stars include Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Jeffery Tambor, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Raymond Cruz, Weird Al Yankovic, Vincent Schiavelli and Pat Morita.
Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun has received 10 major awards, including a Gold Apple from the National Educational Film and Video Festival. It is available in videocassette format from FASE Productions.
FASE's next series, Interactions: Real Math-Real Careers, was one of the first examples of a genre known as the "video field trip." In 12 episodes, Interactions goes behind the scenes at workplaces ranging from the design and marketing departments of Levi Strauss to the labs of the NASA scientists who designed the remotely operated vehicle used in the Mars Sojourner mission. It broke new ground by offering teacher materials in the form of workplace "memos" from the professionals in the programs. In an independent study, 600 students in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles used the series in class. Ninety-five percent reported an improved understanding of the workplace uses of math.
This kind of research, both during production and after release, is another hallmark of FASE Productions. Thousands of students and teachers throughout the country have contributed to the development of FASE videos by participating in focus groups and test screenings.
Milton Chen, Ph.D., author of The Smart Parent's Guide to Childrens' Television, reviewed 14 of the surveys that FASE Productions has conducted since 1988. "By emphasizing the value of research, FASE has made important contributions to our knowledge of the design and effectiveness of television as an educational medium," he said. "This body of work will be of great value to producing organizations, educational agencies, and others interested in educational media."
From East LA to East Harlem: Good Morning Miss Toliver
In 1993, FASE Productions discovered the work of Kay Toliver at New York City's East Harlem Tech/PS 72. Toliver, a Presidential and Disney award-winning teacher, has spent three decades at East Harlem Tech. Like Escalante, she has turned the prevailing view that inner city students are "at risk" on its head.
In the Peabody Award-winning PBS documentary Good Morning Miss Toliver, FASE took viewers inside the East Harlem classroom of master teacher Kay Toliver.
FASE Productions brought Ms. Toliver and her students to viewers throughout the country with a back-to-school special, Good Morning Miss Toliver. The half-hour documentary brought FASE its second Peabody, and was adopted as a teacher training tool by teachers throughout the country.
Teachers at the elementary level had long been calling for a tool that, like FUTURES, would help their students connect classroom math concepts to the real world. And so The Eddie Files was born, a classroom series that offers elementary-age viewers an engaging blend of drama, humor, documentary and Miss Toliver's extraordinary teaching. The series takes its title from its central character, "Eddie"-an 11-year-old East Harlem student who is never seen on screen. To satisfy teachers who wanted to see more of Ms. Toliver's unique lesson plans and classroom strategies, FASE Productions created two staff development series, The Kay Toliver Files and Teacher Talk.
"Each of the programs in this collection is independently superb," said School Science and Mathematics magazine, "and collectively they are extraordinary in their perspective and vision. In these materials, we see and feel the sheer joy Toliver takes in teaching and the delight her students find in learning."
Each episode of The Eddie Files is based on a topic from the elementary mathematics curriculum. The series combines fictional story lines, classroom lessons featuring Kay Toliver and her real students, and workplace interviews. Here, a student works on a lesson relating to the concept of percents.
Like its predecessors, The Eddie Files has had a powerful effect on students. In an independent study involving students in five US cities, six in ten were more interested in learning math after using the series in class over a period of two months. Their ability to define terms covered in the episodes, solve problems and list real-world uses of their studies also increased significantly.
"There is a tremendous need to show under-served populations role models," said Jeannette Pinkston, director of Community Outreach at Georgia Public Television. "When these students view The Eddie Files, they see professionals who look like them actually doing math and science. That's been the missing link."
FASE has made a special effort to include minorities and women working in these fields in its programs. At a time when minorities constitute 8 percent of the science and engineering workforce, minority representation in FASE programs averages 35 percent, more than four times the national average.
"FASE programs explain science and math in very real terms, and show the people involved in these subjects in very human terms," said Garland Thompson, editorial director for Career Communications, which publishes the country's leading magazines for African American and Hispanic professionals in science and technology. "Reform efforts and our emerging math and science curriculum are vitally important-but FASE is the only group consistently on the national stage talking to the kids in language they can understand."
The educational media resources that FASE has produced have been made possible by support from a wide variety of corporate funders, including ARCO, the Westinghouse Foundation and Casio, and government agencies including the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Education, the US Department of Energy, the National Endowment for Children's Educational Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.