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From Media and Informal Science Learning
Television And Informal Science Education
Teaching children science via television is almost as old as television itself. ''[http://www.mrwizardstudios.com/ Watch Mr. Wizard]'' featuring [http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Herbert Don Herbert], began on the NBC Network in 1951, running until 1965. Ever since, science and television have maintained a symbiotic relationship. The medium has been able to take viewers places that would be impractical otherwise, and to create visual representations of concepts or processes key to science learning. In return, [[STEM]] content often lends itself to compelling television, whether through the inherent properties of physical or biological action and reaction, through a "mystery" narrative applied to seeking answers through science, or through the mediation of an engaging presenter like Mr. Wizard or [http://www.billnye.com/ Bill Nye]. == Teaching STEM Content == ---- Practically every genre and style of television has been brought to bear on conveying specific science and math-related concepts. ''[[Watch Mr. Wizard]]'' (and its antecedent ''[[Mr. Wizard's World]]'' on [[Nickelodeon]]) pioneered the everyday science model of on-screen experiments using common materials, later extended and expanded by ''[[Bill Nye, The Science Guy]]'' and, to some extent, ''[[Beakman's World]]''. ''[[Square One TV]]'' applied the magazine format that had been so successful in early cognitive learning with ''[[Sesame Street]]'' to connecting mathematics concepts to real-world situations its 8-12-year-old target audience was likely to encounter. ''[[Newton's Apple]]'', aimed at young teens, used a magazine format to present field trips, experiments and features in science, technology and nature. The flexibility of the magazine format enables the producer to choose the best approach for any particular concept. The advent of the [[Children's Television Act of 1990]] - with its weekly mandate on all broadcast channels for educational and informational programming - briefly opened a door for narrative programming that conveyed STEM content. [[Sesame Workshop]]'s ''[[CRO]]'' on ABC was built around a Cro-Magnon boy and his wooly mammoth exploring the principles of physics. ''[[Science Court]]'', later renamed ''[[Squigglevision]]'', also on ABC, put scientific concepts on trial in a court of law. ''[[The Magic School Bus]]'', produced originally by [[Scholastic]] for [[PBS]], later moved to Fox to help its affiliate stations fulfill their E/I requirements. More recently, public television has assumed the mantle for narrative TV incorporating [[STEM]] content, including two of its most popular current series, ''[[Curious George]]'' and ''[[Sid the Science Kid]]''. ''[[Cyberchase]]'', too, uses a narrative format set "inside" a computer, to teach mathematics principles. After 2000, science-based television for children faded from commercial television as stations' ''[[E/I]]'' provisions drifted toward social/emotional themes, though nature programming flourished. Advocacy group [[Children Now]] conducted a [http://publications.childrennow.org/assets/pdf/cmp/eireport/eireport08_completereport.pdf 2008 study of programs listed on stations' public filings], finding that the primary lesson in two-thirds of all programs claimed as "educational or informational" was social-emotional, compared with 30% cognitive/intellectual and 3% health-related (though, in that one-third, nature and physical science did predominate). Among STEM content genres, nature programming has a [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/W/htmlW/wildlifeand/wildlifeand.htm long and varied history]. While not specifically intended for children, series like ''[[Nature]]'', ''[[National Geographic Specials]]'', ''[[Wild Kingdom]]'', ''[[The Crocodile Hunter]]'' and ''[[The Jeff Corwin Experience]]'' are broadcast classics; the genre even goes back to TV's earliest days with ''[[The Nature of Things]]'' and ''[[Zoo Parade]]''. Not only are many children fascinated by animals both wild and domestic, nature programming offers a vehicle for teaching broader concepts, such as speciation and diversity (''[[It's a Big Big World]]''), animal behavior (''[[Mama Mirabelle]]'', ''[[Zoboomafoo]]'', ''[[Kratt's Creatures]]'') and environmental protection (''[[Bindi the Jungle Girl]]'', ''[[Strange Days on Planet Earth]]''). == Teaching Habits of Mind/Scientific Process == ---- While the scientific method has always been an undercurrent in children's STEM-related television, focus in recent years has shifted both to younger children and to building "[[habits of mind]]," the essential ways of approaching a question that underlie scientific inquiry. This trend may emerge dually from the growing commitment by both public and cable television to pre-school educational programming and a push from the scientific community to promote science readiness from an early age. Including STEM concepts in Head Start and other pre-school settings was, in fact, part of [http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2009/01_10_stem_rec_obama.pdf National Science Board recommendations to the Obama administration]. More than any other producer of children's television, [[WGBH]] in Boston has taken up the challenge of teaching habits of mind, across all age groups. Its series ''[[Peep and the Big Wide World]]'' for [[Discovery]] Kids introduces preschool-age children to exploration, inference and hypothesis testing, first in animated narrative and then in live segments showing kids putting the day's theme into action. For the next oldest age group, ''[[Fetch With Ruff Ruffman]]'' is a game show in which success is achieved by developing strategy, seeking and evaluating information, and applying that information to a problem or question. Fetch is descended from the classic children's television series ''[[Zoom]]'', which ran first in the 1970s and was revived and updated from 1999-2005. While not all of the program revolved around [[STEM]] content, several recurring segments encouraged viewers to invent, to investigate and to generate solutions. Most recently, [[WGBH]] created ''[[Design Squad]]'', which borrows reality show conventions to engage teams of teens in collaborative and competitive efforts to solve design and engineering problems. == Promoting Careers in Science == ---- Most often, programs seeking to promote science careers are aimed at older children - tweens or teens - and frequently with the explicit goal of engaging girls and minorities at the critical age before interest in science wanes unless sparked. Studies at the University of Missouri concluded that while boys and girls show equal interest in science at the fourth grade level, by eighth grade, [http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/319/5870/1621 boys are twice as likely to show interest in science]. The curriculum for Sesame Workshop's ''[[3-2-1 Contact]]'' combined scientific process segments with features on scientists at work. On March 6, 1983, then-[[PBS]] President Bruce Christensen [http://www.archive.org/stream/childrentelevisi00unit/childrentelevisi00unit_djvu.txt testified before a House Subcommittee] as part of National Children's Television Week. In describing the science series' educational benefit, Christensen said, "According to the National Assessment of Educational Programs, over 25% of our young people have already decided against science as a career by the age of 9, considering it too dull, lonely and rigorous. This has been particularly true for girls and minorities. 3-2-1 Is designed to reach to the roots of this problem by helping all children experience the joy of scientific exploration through animation of difficult concepts, use of positive role models and dealing with questions young children themselves identified." ''[[Dragonfly TV]]'', too, is designed to foster lifelong interest in science, especially among girls. The inquiry-based format shows young scientists making discoveries for themselves, often supported by professionals. == Outreach == ---- In the crowded, multi-channel television environment, it is impossible to assure that your target audience will find your series or return week after week. Particularly in the case of public broadcasting offerings, and for all television series funded by the National Science Foundation, a coherent and strategic [[outreach]] plan is essential to the educational plan. Whether targeted at a particular age group or at a subsection of the audience by gender, race, ethnicity or SES, connections with schools, enrichment programs, community centers and science museums can play an array of functions, from disseminating tune-in information or supplementary materials to co-developed exhibits, clubs or local initiatives. Outreach benefits the local public broadcaster, as well, the [http://www.nationaloutreach.org/ National Center for Media Engagement] is funded by the [[Corporation for Public Broadcasting]] to help local stations strategize and put into operation media-related projects tied to community needs. As examples of children's science television related outreach, [[PBS]]' ''[[Dragonfly TV]]'' developed "[[SciGirls]]" to extend its mission of engaging tween girls in science, through local partnerships that pair educators and scientists with students. WGBH, in association with the [[Minnesota Children's Museum]] and Universal Studios Family Production, created a [http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/parentsteachers/help/faq.html#exhibits touring pre-school engineering and problem solving exhibit] to accompany the TV series ''[[Curious George]]''. ''[[Peep and the Big Wide World]]'' carries on an outreach program with the National Head Start Association, among others. == Television's Transition to Digital and STEM Programming == ---- As television production and distribution convert to digital technology, new opportunities open to make STEM-based television more useful to classroom teachers, in particular. Rather than having to manipulate a half hour- or hour-long program to find germane segments, teachers are offered "[[chunked]]" digital video segments that can be combined and compared. Sites currently offering science-oriented digital video include [http://www.pbs.org/teachers PBS Teachers], [http://www.teachersdomain.org/ Teachers' Domain], [http://streaming.discoveryeducation.com/ Discovery Education], [http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html NASA TV]... == Hosts and Presenters: Scientists and Actors == ---- ''To be added.'' == Children as Scientists == ---- ''To be added.'' == Strengths and Weaknesses of the Medium == ---- ''To be added.'' == References == ---- <references/> ''The original draft of this article was written by David Kleeman, President of the American Center for Children and Media''
Television And Informal Science Education
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