reWorking Michigan: TV Show Encourages Kids and Adults to Keep Learning

May 27, 2012

A new television series called LRN 101 is airing on WKAR TV.  It’s the brainchild of Keep Learning, a non-profit group committed to promoting education in the Lansing area.   Our reWorking Michigan report looks at how the show can influence the perception of education.  

The group Keep Learning started about six years ago, when Doug Stites, director of Capital Area Michigan Works, gathered together local media and business owners for an uncomfortable conversation.

“Just this general conversation about that we’re not a very well-educated community,” says Stites.  “We’re not, and the state’s not a very well-educated state.  We’re down there in 39th place, roughly.   That’s not a good placed to be.”

Stites convinced business owners that the education of our community must improve before the economy can recover.   The core group eventually expanded to include government, non-profits and education.  They came up with a concept for a TV show.

Karen Stefl is co-owner of Such Video in Lansing and executive producer of LRN 101.  

“We wanted to be able to highlight the rich resources that exist in our community, that maybe otherwise don’t have the dollars to promote themselves,” says Stefl.  “So, we’re really connecting our community with all those great things that are happening, whether that’s fun things to participate in or interesting educational opportunities to pursue.”

 The show moves quickly through segments.  There’s “Try This”, which features science experiments kid can do at home,  “Tech It Out” suggests educational apps and websites,  and “Pop Quiz” is a quiz for adults using 5th grade MEAP questions. 

Career opportunities are also covered, such as the nursing program at Lansing Community College.

Stefl says introducing kids to working people helps them think how they can match their interests with a real job.

“We don’t know what inspires us or lights our fire until we have some sort of exposure to it,” says Stefl.  “Especially with so many school budgets pulling back and not being able to do field trips and a lot of experiential learning, I think we have to be able to provide the kids in our community a way to experience how many possibilities there are for finding a career that you love.”

The jobs featured in the series are all on Michigan's Hot 50 from the state Bureau of Labor Information.  Those are high wage careers, such as health care, IT and engineering, that are expected to be in demand for at least the next six years.   

There’s a focus on 5th graders.  Sara Tuttle at Such Video produces the show.  She says 5th grade is when many students make a decision whether to stay in school or drop out.

“At that point, you either loose interest in school, or you’re really engaged still,” says Tuttle.  “That’s the end of elementary before middle school.  It’s crazy that some kids can decide by then that they’re bored or they just don’t like school and choose not to finish.”

Doug Stites points out that there are plenty of educational assets in our region, including LCC, MSU, a law school and a medical school.  He says to get a good paying job, everyone will need some kind of post-high school education.

“Thousands of jobs require technical skills or apprenticeships or training of some sort to have the standard of living that we became used to from an industrial heritage that this state has,” says Stites. “To have that kind of disposable income that we became accustomed to, we’re going to have to derive that from people who are educated.”   

You can watch LRN 101 on Saturday mornings at 11:00 on WKAR-TV or on Vimeo.

reWorking Michigan examines our evolving economy, as citizens of the Great Lake State explore new ways to make a living and build a future for their families.  A project of WKAR NewsRoom, WKAR-TV and WKAR Online.