PBS in the Classroom

Splash & Bubbles: Marine Biology & Social Emotional Learning for Your Classroom

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June 07, 2017

“With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea.”

                                                                                                            Sylvia Earle

Three-quarters of the Earth’s surface is ocean. It is the source of half the oxygen we breathe; it provides food for a rapidly growing world population; it regulates the Earth’s temperature and creates the climate and weather we rely on to survive.  No matter where we live on this small ocean planet, the sea sustains us. And we, through the choices we make every day, have the power to impact it—for better or worse.

Meanwhile, beneath the surface swims, crawls and wriggles the most amazing life – glow-in-the-dark fish, disappearing octopuses, scallops with 200 eyes, blind shrimp that rely on fish to watch out for them, and just about any other weird and wonderful thing you could imagine. How about a fish that sleeps inside a slime bubble at night? Did you know that the greatest migration on Earth takes place daily as trillions of tiny microscopic animals rise toward the surface at night and return to deeper water at daylight?

Whether learning about migration, adaptation for survival or just weird and wacky sleeping habits, the ocean has a lot to offer teachers and their students. That’s the spirit with which the Jim Henson Company’s new marine science-based preschool show, Splash and Bubbles, approaches each episode. The show has a strong marine science and social-emotional curriculum while bringing to focus all the wonderful wackiness found off our shores. If it’s weird enough to imagine, it probably already exists in the ocean’s deep.

Through character-driven comedy, Splash and Bubbles allows teachers to explore concepts unique to the oceans like currents, ocean zones and tides, as well as broader life sciences concepts including adaptation, diversity, camouflage or migration. Meet Iris, a sweet and friendly Bennett’s butterflyfish. She’s also a great example of an adaptation that confuses would-be predators: she has two false eyespots on her back that trick other fish into thinking she’s looking at them. It works so well that, in the episode I Only Have Eyespots for You, poor Splash was talking to her for a while and couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to be their friend, before he learned he was talking to her backside.  

Biological concepts can also have a strong social-emotional curriculum link. Studying diversity in the ocean can open up opportunities to discuss diversity in the classroom and community. A story about a fish that feels different from others, for example, lends itself well to both biological and social-emotional learning. Every plant and animal has a role to play—its ecological niche—and every person has something valuable to contribute to their friends and community.

Splash and his friends live in relatively shallow Reeftown and are used to having daylight during waking hours. In the episode Lu the Explorer, Dunk is nervous about venturing into the dark deep where the sun barely penetrates. Being apprehensive about or even afraid of the dark is common as preschoolers’ own sense of imagination develops. While in the deep, Dunk meets Splash’s friend Lu, a football fish with a glowing fishing lure dangling in front of her head, and her husband, Bob. The kids learn all about bioluminescence (when living things produce their own light). They have a great time and the dark doesn’t seem quite so scary to Dunk anymore, especially after Lu gives him a glow-in-the-dark clusterwink snail to bring back to Reeftown.

Through play and exploration, Splash and Bubbles demonstrates and celebrates the amazing diversity of life in the ocean, building awareness and appreciation among its young viewers. All the while, viewers are exposed to concepts of marine biology through stories and characters that make them relevant and highlight the connections to viewers’ own shore-based lives. So whether you’re teaching marine biology through social and emotional themes or teaching a social-emotional curriculum through a marine biology lens, Splash and Bubbles can work and inspire in your classroom.


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Eric Solomon is the Curriculum Consultant for the Jim Henson Company’s Splash and Bubbles and Director of Arctic Programs for the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. He has over 20 years in the informal educational entertainment field. With a background in both marine science and education, he focuses on building bridges between education, research, commercial interests, media, decision-makers and public audiences. He has led a wide range of successful projects from large capital developments and exhibits to public programs, education programs, website, video and “new” media productions. Mr. Solomon holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Marine Ecology, and advanced graduate studies in Science Education.

Eric Solomon

Eric Solomon Director of Arctic Programs, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

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