A new tool designed to improve children’s numeracy and literacy is one step closer to being released to the public.
Professor Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk, Faculty of Education, says pilot testing for the upcoming ToyBox educational tool is complete with some very positive feedback. Altogether, 247 families from across Canada and the United States signed up to receive the activities.
“I was pleased to support over 200 families with learning ideas for their young children during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine,” said Skwarchuk, who is also the Director of Developmental Studies. “The unanticipated early release allowed us to try out our activities and, in turn, we received some valuable feedback on how to improve the project.”
The team will be embarking on enhancing some of the wellness activities and incorporating a few of the suggestions from the participants.
Some comments from the recipients included “the strategies helped me engage in numeracy building skills with my children” to “the language and visuals used (in the strategies) were friendly and welcoming.”
Families that piloted the tool also identified their top-rated activities, which Skwarchuk says is key to fine-tuning the learning strategies.
Another important piece of feedback was a request for additional examples for learning activities. The ToyBox team is currently in the process of putting together a parent manual with a wealth of additional resources for families.
“The process of reviewing participant feedback has taught our team so much since the onset of COVID-19,” said education student Meagan Nenka. “Not only has pilot feedback influenced our new presence on social media, it has also given us insight into the strengths and areas of improvement in our strategies, and has inspired the creation of a parent manual to provide families with additional resources.”
In a new and exciting development, the ToyBox team has recently partnered with local game development studio Ubisoft Winnipeg.
Ubisoft’s programmers will be mentoring students from Sisler High School who are completing work over the summer thanks to Skwarchuk’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Engage grant.
“They have high expectations, they like the project, and they want to see the project through to the end,” she said.
Madison Kehler, who is a student in Developmental Studies, says this entire experience has been eye opening, and being able to work with people from all walks of life really shows that you can accomplish anything if given the opportunity.
“I learned about how helpful these activities are for families, the importance of feedback, how to apply it to our future work, and how much can be done with multiple people using their skills and knowledge to work together,” she said.
Moving forward, a second round of testing via email is being planned for the fall.
Skwarchuk says families have a vested interest in supporting their children, which is evidence by the volume of people who signed up for the project.
“Parents, guardians and caregivers want to maintain the academic standard for their children and keep them busy during these uncertain times,” she explained. “ToyBox helps with both of these goals by giving parents more ideas that they can add to their already existing set of go-to activities for their children, or the ideas add depth to what they are already doing.”
For more information on the ToyBox project, please contact: ToyBox@uwinnipeg.ca.