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