Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
Long before Mitt Romney announced that he’d take a pass on federally funding PBS, there has been much back and forth on this issue. It’s prompted me to think about what the world would be like without PBS…because let’s face it, if it’s not assisted by the public, the agenda is different and it’s no longer the Public Broadcasting System.
I would not be who I am today without PBS.
Growing up, I honestly couldn’t sit any closer to the television when Mister Rogers Neighborhood was on. He inspired me to get my Masters Degree in Developmental psychology. He inspired me to think bigger and think different about what we could offer kid. I read study after study that talked about how if you “create content with the intent to teach” you could reach millions of people using television. “If a show is grounded in a strong educational curriculum, then kids will learn.” Study after study proved this to be true.
Sesame Street has had over 1,000 research studies proving its impact & effect. We have summative studies done by the University of Pennsylvania that statistically proved that kids who watched Super Why on PBS scored significantly better on standardized reading tests, than those who did not. In fact, the effects were even BIGGER in lower-income households.
We were making a difference where it was needed the most.
What we found was that in order for young children to learn to read, they need multiple and sustained enriching experiences with language, storytelling, and early reading.
“Preliminary evidence suggests that SUPER WHY! Not only engaged preschoolers (e.g., over 97% reported liking SUPER WHY!) but also provided critical instruction through its language & literacy enriching activities and lessons. Exposure to these activities and lessons enhanced preschoolers’ early literacy skills, resulting in learning the content directly featured in the program. The ultimate goal of learning, however, is to be able to successfully transfer information or skills acquired in one context to another context.”
As parents, we see the effects of media every day. Whether positive or negative, we see how much the media inspires our kids and ourselves to try something new, to use different vocabulary, or to be motivated to learn to read a book.
While such is true for children, the same also holds true in regards to older content. Offer information that educates and people are more likely to make smarter decisions that will behoove themselves and society.
So, what would the landscape look like without PBS?
[welcome, if you joined us from Bonbon Break!]
At the end of the day, children’s television producers at PBS go through a rigorous amount of vetting to ensure that their program is going to positively effect children. If it is a Ready to Learn property, producers sit in front of a board at the Department of Education, every year, and prove why the content works. We report on:
- How many incidences of education per minute are in our show?
- What is our basis of our education curriculum & strategy?
- We must show proof from research studies that our shows are effectively teaching children through media.
We have strong advisory boards of the best teachers, educators and researches who all weigh in on our shows. In addition to this, the PBS Kids Executives also ensures that everything they air, meets their high standards as well. If we didn’t have PBS, show content would most likely veer more towards the side of entertainment than education.
As a preschooler, I learned through Mister Rogers that “there is only one I in the whole world” and that people like me “Just the way I am”. I grew up inspired by PBS to bring learning, respect & a voice to kids everywhere. If TV is a window into the world, then a world without PBS is one that I worry about.
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Much thanks to all my friends who joined us last night for the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Reception in NYC.
Lesli Rotenberg (PBS Kids), who moderated the event, and my co-panelists, Kevin Morrison (Fred Rogers Company) and Linda Simensky (PBS Kids) all did an outstanding job!
Children’s Media Association and PBS Kids hosted an incredible night which filled the 23rd street theater. The evening couldn’t have ended any better then when a four year old audience member was handed a mic & said,”Thank you. And I LOOOOVE Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood!”
If you didn’t get a chance to ask your question last night, comment away
In appreciation of your support of Angela’s Clues and Daniel Tiger, I’d like to invite you & a guest to join me, PBS KIDS and Women in Children’s Media for an evening event in NYC on 10/18.
We will open the doors to the vibrantly-colorful Neighborhood of Make-Believe with a reception and special preview screening of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. A panel discussion featuring the show’s creators to immediately follow.
I hope to see you there!
About the new PBS KIDS series premiering September 3: No one knew better than Fred Rogers how to connect with children – and, now, a whole new generation of preschoolers and families will experience his enduring legacy as never before with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, an exciting all-new animated series. Only on PBS KIDS. www.pbs.org/daniel
The first show from The Fred Rogers Company since the iconic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood stars the instantly-irresistible 4-year-old Daniel Tiger, son of the original series’ Daniel Striped Tiger. In each episode, Daniel invites young viewers into his lively and engaging world, helping to introduce fun and easily-implementable musical strategies that reinforce the skills necessary for growing up and make it easier for today’s parents to navigate everyday life with their preschoolers.
RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org (The event is free. Business attire)
Most kids’ programs today say they’re “educational” simply to draw in parents. But effective programs aren’t created overnight..& like modern art, just because something’s minimal, does not mean that it’s simple.
There’s a huge amount of R&D that goes into successful programs. On PBS Kids’ Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,we set out to create a show that would make the tenets of our socio-emotional curriculum as clear & straightforward as singing the ABC’s or counting to 10. We know that socio-emotional skills are skills that kids need for life.
But how do you teach through TV?
At the end of 40 episodes, we want preschoolers to have seen the world through Daniel’s eyes & feel what he is feeling, learn the words that he uses, care so much for Daniel, and most of all, comprehend, learn & use the strategy of the day in their own lives.
A lot to ask? Well, I’m the one who’s guilty of pushing for an entire kindergarten readiness curriculum for Blue’s Clues & to ensure that kids’ reading skills skyrocket via Super Why. So, I’m always up for a challenge. And besides, us parents know how smart kids are. If we can give them the information in a well crafted story that they are interested in, they will learn. A LOT.
The Secret Sauce: RESEARCH!
The key to creating a show that effectively reaches & engages children, is to involve the young audience in the process. We test our episodes starting very early on in the scripting stage, reading a script with storyboards to our most honest critics: the kids.
In our first episode, Daniel and his friends set out for a picnic at the Clock Factory Park. They set up a picnic with a blanket, some snacks & games to play. But, alas, it starts to rain! Disappointed, the kids run inside the clock factory.
Dad Tiger takes his time talking to the kids, breaking down the strategy to help Daniel & the home viewer apply it. Dad then sings the strategy to drive his point home: When something seems bad, turn it around, and find something good!
Suddenly, all the clocks inside the clock factory start to light up & chime all at once! The kids have an idea as to how to turn their rainy picnic around. “What about an inside picnic, with all the clocks?”
Hurray, the kids are not disappointed anymore.
Rachel Kalban, MA, head of Out of the Blue research held many sessions on this first script. What she found at the end of the first script testing is that the kids in research knew, after one reading of the story, that disappointed meant sad. This result came from children who didn’t have any knowledge of the word beforehand.
Success! [ If you’ve just joined us from Bonbon Break, welcome! ]
Excited about our success, we decided to drive the idea home. Since we know that repetition is the key to learning, we decided that the 2nd 11 minute episode in the 1/2 hour should be about disappointment, as well. A different story, but 1 focusing on the same theme. At the end of 1/2 an hr, preschoolers would have about 10 instances of “disappointment” in the animation alone, including a full 1 minute song that exemplifies the use of the strategy. This ensures that all kids would walk away having learned our theme & strategy. Because preschoolers like to watch shows over & over, the learning would only multiply after repeated viewings. In fact, when Blue’s Clues launched, the study by Dr. Dan Anderson showed that with multiple viewings, “comprehension improved, & children increased their application of a demonstrated problem-solving strategy to problems both shown & not shown by the program.”
It was important for us to understand how kids were watching the show in their own homes & how the lessons would play out in their own lives. We sent a DVD to parents of kids ages 2-6 & asked them to watch the episode over the course of 1 week. They would then fill out the enclosed viewing diary, noting how many times their child watched & how they were using the lessons themselves.
We were thrilled to get these viewing diaries back. Kids were asking to watch the episode again & again. And after watching this episode only a few times, kids were applying the lesson into their own lives!
Some of my favorite feedback:
“Even though it’s raining, it’s good because we get to stay inside & play Barbies!” –Madison (5.75 yrs old)
Zachary was upset that the bubble bath dissolved and I started the phrase and he finished it, then discovered he could make more bubbles by splashing. (Parent of boy, 3.75)
When Tamar was drawing a picture she “messed up” something in her picture but then just changed it to something else, like Daniel did in the first story. (Parent of girl, 6.25)
Teaching disappointment was a strong catalyst to propel our desire to enrich children’s lives by teaching many important, but overlooked, emotions such as empathy, resilience, persistence, and unconditional love in addition to sharing, remembering to go to the potty, and mad feelings.
Zach said he had an idea of how to fix his broken zebra and turn it around and make something good. (Parent of boy, 3.75)
David Newell, better known as the “speedy delivery” man on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, began working with Fred Rogers in 1967 to create the role of Mr. McFeely. Growing up, I would have swore that he lived in my neighborhood too. But on Friday, I received a speedy delivery upon opening my in box..from the man himself, Mr. McFeely :
Hi Angela. Congratulations on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
I remember the first time you came for a visit to a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood taping. I even remember you sitting in one of those metal, uncomfortable, folding chairs we had for guests. Little did Daniel Tiger know at the time that he was looking out of his tree & seeing the creator of his son’s television series. I am so glad you tuned into our Neighborhood early on because you are really in tune with Fred’s message & philosophy….& pace.
Thanks for being our neighbor as we all help deliver Fred’s message to future generations. He would be so proud of you. You did what he was conveying to his audience…as he often said “Attitudes are caught not taught!”
All the years you spent watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, you caught the creativity among many other attitudes that he was offering!
Congratulations to you & all of the neighbors at “Out of the Blue”……You came to watch the taping out of the blue…..we are delighted that we caught you!!!!!!!!!!!!
(aka Mister McFeely)
A week after the release of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Jumpman256 had a few questions for me, so I thought you’d like to hear some of the scoop! BIG thanks to Lawrence Martin for sharing his Neighborhood photos with us on this post.
2. We got to hear 2 older residents of the Neighborhood of Make Believe..so far (Daniel Striped Tiger, I am sure, will be VERY prominent in the series—BTW, I LOVE what his job is. ) but will we hear any others? Lady Elaine, X, Henrietta? I mean, we SAW them, but will we HEAR them?
3. Will we see (besides [SPOILER!!!!!] Mr. McFeely) any human residents of the Neighborhood from the past? (If the answer’s yes on that one, you are triple awesome)
YES! Mr McFeely makes many “speedy deliveries” in the Neighborhood & even shows Daniel how the mail works in the Neighborhood & takes him to deliver some letters. We get to know him as one of our beloved friends & Neighbors. We’ve also added other human residents: Dr. Anna, Teacher Harriet & Baker Aker.
Whenever the subject of Blue’s Clues comes up, it’s rare that the mail song isn’t involved somewhere within the conversation. Hey, we all love mail…and I’m no different. Here’s just 1, Virginian reason why, in regards to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood:
Dear Angela & Everyone who made Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood a reality:
From the bottom of our family’s heart…Thank You!!!! Yesterday’s premier of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood was SO wonderful!
Please know that you had our 2 yr old son unexpectedly spinning himself around the living room & happily singing: “turn (it) around… da da da, somethin GOOD!!! over and over. (It was SO cute!)
We certainly were not a spoiler-free family by that point, (sorry, just couldn’t resist!) having watched every single online clip available multiple times and patiently waiting fro months until premier day…But it was SOOOOOooooooo worth the wait.
We knew about the characters, and had seen the birthday party episode.But the segment afterwards with the child wearing the red cardigan and making cookies or going to the doctor, etc. was also great!!! As was the part with children doing an activity while the theme song from the episode was playing in the background! These 2 segments -really- tied the animated portions to the real world…much like Mister Rogers did after the neighborhood of make believe each episode. Really well done!
Although for me, the best part of all was hearing David Newell’s voice in the beginning announcing those who helped made it possible. We love Mr. McFeely very much & we go to see him back home in Pittsburgh every chance we get. Adding him in the beginning was a really nice touch…passing the torch, so to speak, & brought a tear to my eyes.
Wow. If only Fred Rogers were alive to see what you have done….
I think he couldn’t help but have a joyful tear in -his- eye. This show -really- ‘gets’ him, his message and his essence.
We can’t thank you enough for that. 🙂
Jim & Aileen
Thank you so very much Jim & Aileen for your kind words.
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