Saturday, August 17, 2013

Best Educational Television Shows

15. Berenstain Bears (26 episodes, 1985-1987, CBS)
A good adaptation of the classic book series.  Well animated and just as loving.  The simple lessons are easy to understand and the fun is there too.

14. Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? (40 episodes, 1994-1999, Fox Kids)
Many people have fond memories of this series that is basically a geography lesson.  Which is not a subject that often gets focused on or made to be fun.

13. The Electric Company (780 episodes, 1971-1977, PBS)
I reviewed the 2009 revival for a child development class and came to the conclusion that it was not quality education television.  However what I have seen of the original seventies show or heard from those that grew up with it is very positive.  Featuring Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman, among others it had a positive impact on many kids of the time.

12. Thomas and Friends (411 episodes, 1984-present, PBS)
I find it fascinating when things can have unintended benefits.  Thomas has had a positive effect on children with autism.  Members of that community have responded well to the franchise as it is easier to comprehend as the characters mouths don't move.  As much as childrens TV tries to be for everybody it just is not possible as children are so varied.  This series, which may not seem very beneficial for certain groups is just what other people need.

11. Adventures in Wonderland (100 episodes, 1991-1995, Disney Channel)
This one did not air very much when I was growing up, but I am surprised that Disney does not do more with it.  I have looked it up online and it is a great series.  Has a basic formula that works: Alice has a problem at school and she learns how to solve it in Wonderland.  Creativity abounds on the series as it features colorful makeup, costuming, puppetry and art direction coupled with great character actors.

10. Arthur (195 episodes, 1996-present, PBS)
It is interesting how well this cartoon has worked along with the books and have kept them popular.  The series manages to be fun, but still teach its lessons well.  It is able to be fun but the characters are relatable enough that children can easily learn from their adventures.  Not heavy handed with its morals but it also does not gloss over them.  Perfect balance between education and entertainment.

9. Dora the Explorer (157 episodes, 2000-present, Nick Jr.)
The stated educational goal is pretty simple and does not have much educational benefit outside of its very young target audience.  However culturally this series has had a positive effect that is admirable.  The series does not only portray a capable female lead that children of both genders enjoy but Dora is also a positive Hispanic role model.  Children of all races watch this show and buy the merchandise.  As white as entertainment and toys for children often is this series has been a positive thing.

8. Between the Lions (2000-2010, PBS Kids)
A great series that teaches a variety of lessons in literacy well that is imaginative for kids and clever for older audiences.  The puppetry is top notch and fittingly the writing is very good.  Surprisingly this is not airing anymore when this has good replay value and lessons that still hold up.

7. Captain Kangaroo (1955-1984, CBS)
This was off the air when I was a kid, but its influence is worth noting.  Looking up clips on YouTube this has clearly aged.  It was very much for children of a different time.  But the fact that this series was so focused on its audience, not on a sponsor or cheap gags but giving a positive entertainment option.

6. Schoolhouse Rock (60 episodes, 1973-1985, ABC)
Well before my time, but I had several teachers who showed these.  Surprisingly it was not elementary teachers but junior high and high school ones.  These songs effectively and memorably taught basic lessons and they are good refreshers for anybody.

5. Adventures from the Book of Virtues (39 episodes, 1996-2000, PBS)
I watched this a lot growing up, a lot of times with my dad.  I love classic stories and this introduced me to a lot them.  Stories such as William Tell, Androcles and the Lion and Who Will Put the Bell Around the Cat? were told in a fun, memorable and meaningful way.  The main cast tied the various stories together and placed them in a context for children to relate to.  Good for morality lessons and introducing classic tales.

4. Bill Nye, the Science Guy (100 episodes, 1993-1998, PBS)
This was always present in schools.  Bill Nye taught concepts in a way for young children to understand but they were also meaningful for older students.  This plays to any age and is a lot of fun.  But there is a definite take away.

3. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (110 episodes, 1972-1985, CBS and Syndication)
Still entertaining and from what I can see the lessons still hold up.  Fat Albert is rare as it showcases its kid characters in settings that would be familiar to its audience at the time.  The characters are good role models, but still human enough to be relatable.  They act and play just like real kids, despite the extremely limited animation.  One of the few entertaining cartoons of the Television Era of Animation and also educational.

2. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1005, 1968-2001, PBS)
Fred Rogers is a legend, but that was never the status he intended to achieve.  Mr. Rogers had a clear goal that all children should understand that they are special and feel loved.  That is such a vastly different message from the assembly line morals most kids receive, and one that is definitely missing from entertainment today.  Most children's entertainment is focused on making everything fair and equal, treating every child the same.  Mr. Rogers understood and respected not only the audience but the children he interviewed.

This clip where he learns about break dancing is very much a how-to one relating to children.  He listens to the child, demonstrates that he understands the hard work and practice that goes into it and even tries to learn something himself.  He validated the child and let him be the teacher, instead of just lecture.  He was truly an incredible man that I plan to dedicate a blogpost to someday.

1. Sesame Street (4327 episodes, 1969-present, PBS)
Was there any question?  A lot of us who operate under a nostalgia filter love to complain how the show is not as good as when we were kids.  But the fact of the matter is that Sesame Street is such a great educational show because it changes for the needs of the audience.  As children grows and society changes this series develops to meet its needs.  The show is vastly different from when it started close to half a century ago, but the ability to inspire its audience earn the trust of their parents remains the same.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree. There is simply no educational show better than Sesame Street.