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Jennifer Klepper is an ex-corporate attorney turned PTO president, volunteer child advocate and Cwist contributor. She is leading a discussion on inspriring curiosity and independence in girls with nature. Read and Comment »
Donna Friedman Meir (top) and Tara Sorensen are producers of "Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies" on PBS KIDS. Read more »
Hi there, parents!
As two full-time working moms with two little kids each, we're frankly baffled that you are actually reading this right now...probably in the wee hours of the night, after your child has gone to sleep.
How many of you have taught your kids that a cow goes, "MOO!" A duck goes, "QUACK," and a pig goes, "OINK?" We all do -- somehow it's innate. And for some little kids, learning about animals begins and ends there: with being able to name different animals by sight, make their sound, and learn how to sing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." But we all know the animal world provides much more fertile ground for preschool learning than great songs or books. It's a world that can be mined to enrich preschoolers' understanding of how animals behave and live and how they themselves behave and live, and to show you parents out there some parallels between animals and us. Perhaps it's closer to the truth than you might think when our kiddies sometimes seem like little piggies who want to stuff their face with food or monkeys who want to climb all over our backs. Think about it for a moment: Those metaphors aren't just expressions. They have basis in reality.
So we present the question, can animals teach us about ourselves? Absolutely. Or, as Mama would say, "It's as sure as the sun shines on the savanna!"
We created "Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies" as a way of deepening kids' connections with animals and the natural world they live in by showcasing the true, rich connections kids have with their animal counterparts. "Mama Mirabelle" takes an innovative, age-appropriate approach to educating preschoolers about the wonders of the animal world. Rather than have each episode focus on a specific animal, (the weird and wonderful banana slug or the ever-elusive pygmy marmoset), we start with preschool children themselves and the questions and issues that are of concern to them. The themes range from why it's important to sleep or eat or take a bath, to what it's like to leave home for the first time or be afraid of the dark.
These issues are spun into stories with problems and resolutions that not only offer new insights into the lives of wild animals, but also mirror the preschool experience for the viewer. Grounded in a preschool child's world, learning new things about animal life becomes more relevant, more meaningful, more memorable and ultimately, more possible. Viewed this way, "learning about animals" has the potential to be a very rich interdisciplinary experience for young children.
We believe there is so much that the animal kingdom can show not only preschoolers, but also adults. At the end of the day, we'd love to spark children (and children at heart) to explore their world and appreciate all that it has to offer, whether that's the big wide world or their own backyard!
Thanks for reading, and now observe. Can your child sometimes be as gentle as a lamb? As stubborn as an ox? As proud as a peacock? We are willing to bet the next time you observe your child, you might see him or her in a whole new light.
We do, every day.