Dr. Alice and the team at Tumble Leaf have taken a similar approach, with a show that doesn’t bill itself as STEAM programming, but fits the bill in the way it celebrates creativity through play and kids as natural born scientists who learn science through play. Each episode encourages kids to “let me figure this out” and asks, “what will you play today?”
Dr. Alice emphasizes the importance of age-appropriate characters and stories. “By providing meaningful and relevant content, kids will be interested and are more likely to learn. Part of that is creating characters that resonate with the audience and stories that are relatable to the audience’s life. Add to that learning we want our audience to garner, and we can make a powerful impact on a child exploring any skill or mindset off (or outside) the screen!” She notes that friendship and role models are crucial, and that we all need heroes that not only move us, but who inspire us to emulate them.
There is interdisciplinary expertise behind the scenes as well, which adds accuracy and personality to the stories. For example, paleontologist Scott Sampson is a consultant on Dinosaur Train and is the voice of Dr. Scott on the show. The creative team of Doozers works with experts that include the top design firm IDO, and invention expert Steve Grand, whose ideas include encouraging kids to look for inspiration by taking a nature walk. The Tumble Leaf team worked with Scot Osterweil at the MIT Education Arcade and consulted with David Robinson, a Kindergarten teacher, to guide them on the science of each episode.
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Many of these shows give kids a nudge to head into their own kitchens, backyards, and garages to explore what they’ve learned off-screen. After all, kids are experts at play, and they’re naturals at mixing the arts into science, technology, engineering, and math. Everything they learn through play is a potential building block for the next project they tackle, whether it’s digging a hole or building a robot.
What are your favorite shows that feature STEAM, or encourage creativity, teamwork, problem-solving, and character? Here are some of mine, both old and new, from the extensive STEAM menu available for today’s kids.
Annedroids (Amazon) ages 5 and up*
Brains On (NPR podcast)
Creative Galaxy (Amazon) ages 4 and up*
Dinosaur Train (PBS) ages 4 and up*
Doozers (Hulu) ages 4 and up*
Magic School Bus (PBS/Netflix) ages 5 and up*
MC2 (Netflix) ages 7 and up*
Sci Girls (PBS) ages 7 and up*
Sid the Science Kid (PBS) ages 4 and up*
Science with Sophie (YouTube)
Tumble Leaf (Amazon) ages 4 and up*
*age recommendations from Common Sense Media