$32.5 million government grant for WTTW-TV Chicago


Public television station WTTW-TV Chicago, in partnership with W!LDBRAIN Entertainment and The Michael Cohen Group LLC, has won a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support a new five-year “Ready to Learn” initiative. The grant will be used to develop educational programming and media for preschool and early elementary school children and their families.  

WTTW will team with W!LDBRAIN Entertainment, the award-winning production company and animation studio, to develop UMIGO (you make it go), a transmedia property created by Michael Polis, President of W!LDBRAIN Entertainment and Executive Producer of “Yo Gabba Gabba!” UMIGO will also be developed in collaboration with the Michael Cohen Group, LLC, a research and evaluation firm recognized for its work with children, media and education, and responsible for formative and summative testing of the UMIGO property.  UMIGO will launch as a web-based property and will later transition into a television series and line of consumer products.
The online interactive destination UMIGO will offer child-initiated learning and play opportunities for children ages 2 through 8. The project is specifically designed to address the educational needs of at-risk children in the U.S. living in low-income households. The website will provide them with the digital paint, glue, blocks, and other tools that will allow them not only to learn the basic principles of mathematics, but also to develop and refine their abilities to think creatively, invent, and work collaboratively.

“As a public television station that devotes half of its broadcast day to educational children’s programming, we are honored that we have been chosen to collaborate on this important project,” said Dan Schmidt, President & CEO of WTTW. “This initiative is especially timely, as math and science skills are vital to surviving in our new digital culture,” he added. It is important to note that the funds from this grant are restricted and will go entirely toward this project.  This grant allows us to be a part of educating children in the ever-growing digital space,” said Schmidt.

“UMIGO is a fun and engaging virtual world where young minds can let their imaginations run wild,” said Polis. “When we were kids, we thought of all sorts of incredible things to invent.  UMIGO will test the boundaries of even the most creative imaginations while providing a solid foundation in mathematics,” he continued. “Our multi-platform strategy will make UMIGO accessible to children and families of all socio-economic levels.  We look forward to collaborating with WTTW and the Michael Cohen Group on a property that contributes to giving all kids an equal opportunity for success in school,” he added.

This is WTTW’s second Ready to Learn grant.  Past Ready to Learn initiative grants from the U.S. Department of Education have funded some of the country’s most beloved children’s educational programming, such as WordWorld, Between the Lions, Sesame Street and SUPER WHY!