girl with postcare

Future Iowa Zoologist Inspired by Iowa PBS and Ready to Learn Programming

Aug 30, 2019

When nine-year-old Eliana Olsen of Newell isn’t reading books about animals, she is busy helping her family on the farm, showing animals at the fair or playing with her dog, Bubba. Eliana will start 4-H this fall. She has already decided on her dream career.

“I’d like to become a zoologist when I grow up, so I can help cheetahs and lions in Africa,” Eliana exclaimed while visiting her local library recently.

Two key influencers in Eliana’s life’s passion are Chris and Martin Kratt from the PBS KIDS hit program, Wild Kratts, which airs on Iowa PBS Mondays through Thursdays at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.  The Olsen family once attended a Wild Kratts Live event with an appearance by the Kratt brothers. Eliana was overjoyed! She has since written them about her passion for learning about animals, and proudly shares a reply postcard from them to prove it.

Wild Kratts follows the adventures of animated versions of the Kratt brothers. Eliana watches the program with her siblings, learning about different animals with every episode. Each show features interesting information and animal facts introduced with live action from the brothers. She is attracted to the live action segments of the show while her brothers enjoy the animated portions. With only one television in the Olsen house, Eliana’s mom Valerie Olsen says Iowa PBS is the one channel she feels comfortable allowing her kids to watch. Eliana’s favorite episode is about cheetahs, of course.

Until Eliana is old enough to learn French and travel on safari, she spends her free time soaking up as much information as she can through books from the library and educational camps. This past spring, she and her family attended Family and Community Learning sessions at the Storm Lake Public Library made possible by Iowa PBS. By completing the sessions, her family received their very own PBS Playtime Pad tablet and a PBS Play & Learn streaming stick. It is the only tablet in the Olsen household, and Valerie said she appreciates the parental controls and the PBS games, which make it “worry-free.”

Because of Eliana’s involvement with the session, she learned of a summer camp through Iowa State University (ISU) Extension & Outreach and Clover Kids. She and her brothers jumped at the chance to enroll. The Ready Jet Go! camp was hosted at Lakeside Presbyterian Church and led by Nichol Kleespies. Ready Jet Go! is a PBS KIDS program airing at 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday on Iowa PBS. It explores earth science and astronomy, of high interest among Storm Lake students. While it wasn’t a Wild Kratts camp, Eliana thought there were some pretty fun activities involving space. She said she enjoyed making a spacesuit and rocket, and putting the planets in order during a small group task. When it was her group’s turn to share, Eliana spoke in front of the rest of the campers.

“I sorted the sticks for each planet,” said Eliana, “and then I matched the planets according to the picture on the box.”

Eliana hopes to attend another camp when she gets the chance. One day, she would even like to create a Wild Kratts camp of her own. She already has great ideas for activities, and of course, there will need to be live animals present.

PBS KIDS has provided a positive influence for Eliana and her siblings. Iowa PBS Education works to bring activities such as these to communities all across Iowa. For educational programs, Iowa families are encouraged to tune to Iowa PBS daily and check out great videos, games and more at For information on upcoming events offered by Iowa PBS, the Storm Lake Public Library and ISU Extension, families are encouraged to watch for information in school newsletters. The Ready to Learn Activities Guide is another resource to find a lesson experience that aligns with various programs. For more information, connect with Iowa PBS Education on Facebook or learn more at

These efforts are made possible by a grant awarded to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) through the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn Initiative. The Ready To Learn Initiative aims to advance new tools supporting personalized and adaptive content for children and parents, establish a network of community collaboratives and conduct efficacy research on the provided educational resources. The Ready To Learn Initiative is a cooperative agreement funded and managed by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement.

The CPB and PBS have partnered with Iowa PBS to provide early learning resources to underserved communities through an innovative community engagement model. Iowa PBS received a Community Collaboratives for Early Learning and Media (CC-ELM) grant to give young children from low-income families a strong foundation in early science and literacy by identifying and working with community partners. Iowa PBS is working with the East Early Childhood Center and UDMO Head Start, as well as Storm Lake Elementary School, Storm Lake Elementary Tornado Academy, Lunchtime Solutions, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Storm Lake Public Library to promote effective educational uses of the PBS KIDS science and literacy-based programming, community-based outreach and research on educational effectiveness.