A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a great event with fellow bloggers from Silicon Valley Moms Blog to learn about the Super Why show from PBS. After wining and hor-dourving (loved those sliders) in the courtyard of the Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park, we headed up to a conference room equipped with wireless access and electrical outlets at every table (thank-you-very-much-PBS-you-understand-bloggers). My kids have watched Super Why a few times over the past 6 months and love it, so I am familiar with the show. It was really cool to be able to sort of go behind the scenes with PBS to find out what goes into making a kids show. Below were the highlights for me. We were also given a bit of "homework" to take home and report back on, which I will get to....sometime next week I hope.
PBS sees parents as partners. They are always looking for ways to extend the show and the learning into real life and to get kids' parents involved with the learning. Rather than "just watch the show while I make dinner/fold laundry/do a work conference call/surf Facebook" and then it is over, PBS tries to suggest to the kids that they ask their parents to do some activity which then extends the learning in the show. I have seen this in action many times - for instance, after my kids watched Curious George's real life experiment segment on freezing water into ice (which come after the cartoon part), my kids asked me if they could put water in cups and add rocks, cheerios, etc. and freeze it). PBS knows that when parents work with kids outside of injesting the media, it works that much better. I really like this concept - it is one of the reasons why my kids have been in a parent particiaption preschool (and why I am president of the board there this coming year!). I truly believe that a parent's involvement and interest in their child's education can make up for almost any other negative factor (large class size, no funding for extra-curricular activities like art or drama, whatever).
PBS always starts with a need - literacy, science, technology, engineering, math - and then asks what are the precursors for those skills? But PBS also thinks about the whole child. Academic is one part, but social, emotional, and physical development is also part of it. SuperWhy is a great example of this - while the show is very focused on literacy, social and emotional lessons are also built into every episode.
Angela Santomero, creator, head-writer and producer of Super Why (she also created Blue's Clues), told us that the Super Why show's beginnings came from the thesis she wrote for her Masters degree in Education. (An aside: Angela also related that her two girls have inspired her to write about girl empowerment (for instance, in one episode of Super Why Rapunzel lets HERSELF down)). She loves Mister Rogers (yes! those sweaters and sneakers!) and her research in children and television was fascinating. It starts with simple relationships: kids who watch Mr. Rogers share better, kids who watch Sesame Street learn, kids who watch Power Rangers kick/engage in activity. The quesiton was: can we use the medium of TV to make reading cool and bridge the gap? A great tidbit was that when Fonzi took out a library card on Happy Days, library cards went up 500% by teenagers - wow, talk about making reading cool.
More to come with our SuperWhy homework...
This is not a paid for post. Copyright 2009 Me Too You/Linsey Krolik.