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Why Little Kids are the "Big Idea" Behind Sid the Science Kid

by Halle Stanford


Halle Stanford

Halle Stanford is a co-creator and the Executive Producer of Sid the Science Kid. Read more »

Sorry, Halle Stanford is no longer taking questions.

My mother loves to tell the story of how she took my son, Max, to the world famous San Diego Zoo when he was three years old. She had grand ideas about together discovering the okapi or marveling at the call of the kookaburra. But when she brought him to meet the meerkats, Max was more interested in something at his level: the roly-poly bugs crawling on the ground. For those of you unaware of the term "roly-poly," let me translate it into more scientific terms: pill bugs, potato bugs, armadillidum vulgare, or those blue-gray things that roll up in a ball when you touch them. Max was so focused on those little pill bugs that the meerkats themselves came over to the edge of their enclosure to watch him watch the roly-polys!

I reflect upon this story time and again when developing and producing television for the preschool audience. There are truths to be found in this roly-poly encounter; truths that we mixed into our show paint when we set out to create Sid the Science Kid. They are:

  • Don't assume you know what children want to see; they may surprise you. Be open to the possibilities.
  • Children love to learn. They are fascinated by the world around them.
  • Get down on their level. There is a lot YOU can learn.
  • All parents think their children are geniuses and can charm even a meerkat.

Lisa Henson once told me that her father, Jim, said, "As long as there is television, there will be preschool programming, and it is our obligation to make it as excellent as we can." All the preschool series we have developed and produced at the Jim Henson Company have been inspired by observing children and examining their needs in schools and homes. We try to forge into new territory, rather than mimicking what is already on the air, in the hope of catching the eye of the young preschooler.

When we dove into the development of Sid the Science Kid with KCET for PBS KIDS, we discovered that there were no books or published curriculum on teaching science to preschoolers. But we knew that there was a need. After all, weren't preschoolers natural scientists? We worked with a fabulous team, Moises Roman and Kimberly Brennan, who were already testing a preschool science readiness curriculum through UCLA and Rutgers University, to build an intricate curriculum that would inspire the entire series. But would such a challenging curriculum engage and inspire preschoolers? We needed to be open to the possibilities. After the first round of testing, we discovered that preschoolers and parents wanted even more science in the show! This was something we hadn't expected, but were thrilled to implement.

Max on his hands and knees, observing the roly-polys and what they were doing, always reminds me that preschoolers naturally love to learn. They are on a constant quest to discover and make sense of the world around them. Their plate is fuller than an undergraduate's schedule at Harvard, with everything from language development to science experiments (i.e., force and motion: when I throw the ball fast it knocks over Mommy's Starbucks). And they delight at every new discovery and skill mastered.

With Sid and his friends, we wanted to create characters that reflect the authentic preschooler on a quest for specific knowledge. Sid is our "real preschooler." He shares the same daytime routine as his fellow viewers and is surrounded by a world of working parents, ethnic and economic diversity, loving teachers, multi-generational caregivers, and positive and creative friends. Sid takes up the call of every preschooler, "Why?" We hope Sid captures the hearts of the preschoolers he mirrors, as he beckons them to join him on his journey of discovery: "C'mon scientists!"

Preschoolers live in the moment. It is our responsibility to provide them with programming that enhances their experience and delights them. At the Jim Henson Company we want to create shows like Sid the Science Kid that fill our preschool audience's world with roly-poly experiences. Or as Sid would say to our viewers, "Keep asking lots and lots of questions! See ya next time, scientists!"

Sorry, Halle Stanford is no longer taking questions. Feel free to comment on the article and let us know what you think about the topic.


Comments

Amy writes...

My 2nd grader & I just discovered Sid the Science Kid. We occasionally watch it together even though she's 'too old' to be your target audience. We love the songs and often find ourselves saying "scientist in the hooouuusse". The show is hip and catchy-exactly what I think of when I imagine a Henson Production. I wish this show was around when she was three/four years old. Keep up the great work.

Belena Raisin writes...

My entire family watches Sid The Science Kid. Who knew even adults could learn from a preschool show? We do! Keep up the good work of doing smart programming-we are all tired of our kids watching "dumbed-down" television. Hooray for Sid and his friends!

Tracy writes...

My 1 year old daughter has been in love with Sid the Science kid since she was 6 months old and I have to admit, so do my Husband and I. It is so educational yet fun and each day's lesson is something we can do with Olivia at home. Please keep the show coming with new episodes.

Kelli Ross writes...

Sid the Science kids has been the BEST addition to PBS. My daughter will NOT miss Sid. She became very interested in the subject of decay last fall after she watched a episode of Sid and the pumpkin. Our Halloween pumpkin sat on our patio until this spring. She recorded her observations.

Thank you for such excellent programming.

kelli

Halle? writes...

Wow! We are all thrilled with all of these amazing stories! Thank
you so much to all of you moms for your encouraging feedback. It was
always our dream that Sid would excite preschoolers AND their parents.
Keep spreading the good word about "Sid" to your friends, families,
and schools.

Renee writes...

Thank you for a fantastic show! I discovered it quite by accident and now my 4 yr old daughter and I DVR every show to make sure we don't miss any. Being a single mom, the cool mom in the song caught her ear and she sings it to me regularly. We even have my 2 grandsons,5 and 3 yrs hooked. I learned more about rollie pollies in the one episode than I had known in my life. I love science and was sorry I didn't go into the field, but now there's hope for my youngest and grandsons while I get out the experiment materials. They even draw in their "lab" journals. Keep up the great show and I will be looking for items related to purchase for next Christmas!

Halle? writes...

Renee, we are thrilled that you are having fun with your daughter and
grandsons watching the series. And, even though you didn't go into
the field, as Teacher Susie would say "You are all scientists!"
Thanks for being such a science enthusiast.

Sarah writes...

My three-year-old son loves Sid the Science kid. He has such a natural interest in science and is now quite fascinated with planets after a trip we took to the Museum of Science in Boston. I think a lot of parents forget how many day to day events are a "science teachable moment." I once read about a parent that never worried about spilt milk. Literally. She would say to her kids, "Hey, look at that, the milk is rolling off the table and on to the floor. That's because of gravity."

Halle, We are huge fans of Sid over here. In fact, we have made both applesauce AND banana bread. :-)

I just have to know. Did you ever get tired of all the experiments and excitement? Sometimes I have to admit I find my boys get overenthusiastic with experiments with entire bottles of soap in the sink or pouring exercises off the kitchen counter....

Halle? writes...

Kristen, you are hilarious! You are inspiring us to do an episode where Sid and Gabriela get waaay too excited on a playdate with bottles of soap. Sid's Mom will certainly have a lot to say about it.

To answer your question, we are never tired of the excitement and experiments. Especially, when it gets kids to focus on one subject and enjoy themselves! And, I'm serious about the playdate experiment gone wild!

LIz writes...

Is Sid the Science Kid on DVD yet and if so where can I buy it?

Halle? writes...

Liz, the DVDs will start to be available in early fall through our
partners at NCircle Entertainment.

TerriAnn writes...

I love Sid and I am trying to learn the Rug Time song to sing to the kids in the preschool class where I am a new, first-time teaching assistant. I taped it and listened to it several times but there is one part where I just can't make out what the words are - can anyone help? It's right after the teacher sings "Rug Time, Take A Seat," when the kids gather at the door. The kids look down at their shoes and sing something that I can't figure out; right after that, Teacher Susies sings "Rug Time, Move Your Feet." I'd really appreciate it if anyone can tell me what that one line is. Thanks!

Halle? writes...

TerriAnn, great news! We will be offering up the music for "Sid the
Science Kid" VERY soon. Keep an eye out for it. In the meantime, I
think the line you are looking for is: "It's Rug Time. We're Ready!
Everybody move your feet!" We love that you are singing the rug time
song.

Nance writes...

My 3 yr old LOVES Sid!!! She can't wait for him and his friends to come on and gets soooo upset when he goes off!!! She still talks about when his feet outgrew his shoes... and that was months ago when she saw it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! keep up the great work and believe me, she will keep asking lots of questions!!!!!!!

Allison writes...

I am working on my ECE degree and teaching 2-5 yr olds. After seeing the first episode, I went to class raving about the best new show ever! I recorded shows to have my professor and class watch...I want to work at Sid's school! Everything is spot on appropriate for pre-k, from the kids' behavior and mannerisms, to the tone Teacher Suzy uses with the kids. Keep up the great work!

Halle? writes...

Allison, thanks for your feedback on the classroom and Teacher Susie.
A lot of research and thinking went into Sid's school. We wanted to
create a great model for classrooms everywhere to promote science
learning. Imagine if every preschool classroom had a Super Fab Lab!
Help us get the word out to teachers to check out "Sid."

Carol writes...

Sid the Science Kid is a great show. It taps into exactly the kinds of things my 4-year old thinks about, and encourages his enthusiasm about the world around him. It's actually also a great model for how parents and teachers of preschoolers can encourage curiosity, thought, and an appetite for learning.

Cheryl writes...

I absolutely LOVE Sid the science kid! My husband and I watch it with my three year old grandson. Rather, we watch it and let our grandson watch it with us. I love everything about it: the animaion, the colors, the songs, the information and oh, yes; my grandson loves it, too!If we miss it at 9 am, I let him miss his afternoon nap to watch it when it comes on again at 2pm. Keep up the good work. Is it available on DVDs? If not, please make it available soon.

Kanon writes...

What does "sweat" take longer to freeze than water?

harry writes...

A very very hearty welcome to sid the sciencekid.It encourages our growing children very fastly and helps them to take decisions more easily.It is also a very interesting program.Thanks a lot for this fantastic performance.

Miranda writes...

My son is 15 months old and Loves this show. The first few notes come on the tv and he comes running. He stands and dances when the kids dance, and when Sid finds something exciting to learn about his eyes get big and you can tell he is excited! I even catch myself humming and singing the songs during my day. Thumbs up from Iowa! We love sid and his friends!

Paola writes...

I am a proud parent of two 8 month olds and they love sid the science kid. It catches there attention when it comes on. I love the show it's entertaining and educational.

mayanin writes...

i love your show,my sis.kids love sid the science kid.they are 19 months and go wild for that sid,they love to dance.it gets them started for later in life. so thank you, mayanin.

Carrie writes...

I am the mother of a 3 year old boy and a Kindergarten teacher. I absolutely LOVE Sid the Science Kid. I have used many of your video clips to introduce science concepts to my students and have completed many of your experiments. It gets my students excited to learn about science. Thank you for your excellent educational programing. We needed a show geared for this age group that would excite them about learning.

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