Public TV Stations Continue to Innovate, Make Children’s Programming a Local Production
July 6, 2023
‘Albie’s Elevator’ from WHYY in Philadelphia, uses a magical elevator to visit neighbors and real-life Philadelphia artists who help Albie better understand the world around her and her feelings
Educational television has a long history of using media innovation to make high-quality educational content available to all. Public TV stations across the country are creating local children’s series that serve the needs of today’s kids. These public television programs – in a variety of formats and subjects – often showcase local talent and local places as they target local educational needs.
Some of these programs build on stations’ efforts to ramp up local production of educational content for at-home learning since 2020, often in collaboration with state departments of education and other funders. Some are summer series aimed at helping to stem summer learning loss. Still others focus on arts education and other subjects to fill gaps in educational programming offered nationally or online.
Albie’s Elevator, from WHYY in Philadelphia, is the station’s first locally created children’s TV series. It features a puppet named Albie who uses her magical elevator to visit neighbors and real-life Philadelphia artists who help Albie better understand the world around her and her feelings. The series, aimed at preschoolers ages 2 to 5, is funded by the William Penn Foundation with research support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It premiered on June 12 on WHYY and streams on demand on WHYY’s YouTube channel.
Nine PBS in St. Louis partnered with Lion Forge Animation on Drawn In, a multimedia series following the adventures of four comic-book loving kids as they use their problem-solving and literacy skills. “Drawn In,” developed with CPB funding, includes animated video shorts, print and digital comic books, and a website with educational games for kids.
South Florida PBS’s KidVision Mission, with host Miss Penny and the KidVision kids, takes elementary age children on missions — virtual field trips across South Florida to learn about subjects from water safety and medicine to desserts and animals. The 10-mission series, supported by the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, premiered on June 12 on WPBT and WXEL.
Michigan Learning Channel, a statewide partnership among the public television stations to provide instructional content and resources for families and teachers, offers Read, Write, ROAR!, a K-3 English Language Arts program featuring video lessons with Michigan teachers with corresponding activity sheets they designed. Each of the four grade levels features a full year of lessons aligned to Michigan teaching standards, airing on the Michigan Learning Channel, a multicast public television channel available through all PBS stations in the Wolverine State, and available on demand at MichiganLearning.org.
The fourth season of the WNET Group’s “Camp TV” premiered on June 30 on public television stations nationwide and on camptv.org. The educational summer camp program, hosted by Nzingha “Zing” Ashford as the new head counselor, features teaching artists leading young viewers in hands-on activities, virtual field trips, and story times featuring young readers from different public television programs throughout the country.
The WNET Group also is continuing “Let’s Learn,” a one-hour educational program featuring lessons and virtual field trips for children ages 3-8. Launched in May 2020 as Let’s Learn NYC! in partnership with the New York City Department of Education to support at-home learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Let’s Learn includes full episodes and clips by subject and themes and activities available on demand at letslearn.org.
Arkansas PBS launches Season 3 of Rise and Shine, an extensive educational program for K-5 students designed to make summer learning fun, on July 18. The five-week program, airing Tuesday-Thursday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and available on the Arkansas PBS website, features national PBS KIDS programming, short learning segments, field trip segments with community partners, and video lessons led by Arkansas teachers and grounded in Arkansas academic standards. This season will include preschool segments and shorts from "Blueberry's Clubhouse," a summer camp program with a puppet guide named Blueberry, which Arkansas PBS started in 2020.
Energy Express on West Virginia Public Broadcasting is a 30-minute series featuring West Virginia University and state experts and educational activities centered around a variety of subjects including science, technology, engineering, art, math, and physical activity. Now in its fourth season, the series is hosted by Zack Harold of the West Virginia Extension Service as a video complement to Energy Express, a WV Extension six-week summer reading and nutrition program for children in low-income and rural communities. Energy Express airs each weekday on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with two new episodes premiering each week along with previously aired episodes, and is also available on demand on YouTube.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting’s digital-first series Ziggy's Arts Adventure launched in 2021 to teach art and academic concepts to elementary-age children. The puppet series features Ziggy, a 9-year-old alien from a planet that does not have the arts, who travels throughout Louisiana, meeting artists and learning about art, math, science, and friendship. The first season of Ziggy’s Arts Adventure is available on YouTube, with a second season slated to appear this fall.
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