Thursday, December 23, 2010

The History of the Snowman: Not a Book Report

I can't remember the last time I wrote an actual book report. Maybe it was in middle school? Joe has been writing some amazing pieces for his blog The Composite including reviews of the 100 best books of 2010 (according to the NYTimes). I was so inspired by his love of reading and decision to review, that I decided to give it a try myself.

Each year as the holiday season rolls around, I pull out one of my favorite books The History of the Snowman by Bob Eckstein. I received my copy about three years ago from an uncle. I connected with the book's humorous cover and decided to dive right in. By the next day, I had finished. It was that good.

It's been a year since my last read of the book, and I was excited to re-educate myself. It's filled with SO MUCH information about snowmen. My three year old copy is filled with pencil marks, highlighted sentences, and dog-eared pages. I've devised a list of the top five reasons why I love this book:

5: It's full of pictures including historical engravings, film posters, and Eckstein's own sketches. They do a great job of supporting the text!

4: Fully researched. Eckstein really did his homework here. It's so full of information and ends with a pretty substantial reference index.

3: Educational and funny. Eckstein manages to thread his dry sense of humor throughout the historically accurate and informative history of the snowman.

2: It fosters an individual exploration of snowman culture. Check out this great stuff I found on Etsy! Currently over 22,000 results to my "snowman" search! I personally love the pearl snowman earrings...

1: Eckstein facilitates a very interesting discussion about snowmen and their place in the art world. Did you know that in 1400's, the artists in Florence would populate the city with snowmen? I was particularly struck by his statement that a snowman could be the only life size sculpture an individual ever creates.

I've continued to think about this idea of snowmen and sculpture. It is a fantastic and supremely easy, cleaner way to introduce a young person to art and the art of sculpture.

Thanks to Joe, I've been listening to this tune non-stop. I never thought of calling a guy a "snowman." The male equivalent of ice queen? Maybe! Enjoy...

Bears - I'm a Snowman - by the Pop Sucker

This winter, I urge you to read The History of the Snowman and make a snowman with a young person you love.

Happy Holidays!

Children's Television: Style and Scientific American

I wanted to share these two articles with you all...

I know a few people who don't love Charlie Brown, but they still love to hate him as they watch his holiday specials. Whether you enjoy sad Charlie or not, you can absolutely appreciate this take on Peanuts style thanks to Design Sponge. Check it out!

Scientific American published an article highlighting four children's television programs that promote interest in science among young viewers. Their picks were: The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, Peep and the Big Wide World (produced by WGBH!), Dinosaur Train, and (one of my favorites) Go, Diego, Go!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why I'm lucky to be going to Tufts...

There are many reasons! I have had an amazing year and a half at Tufts, and I only expect it to get better. This evening, I met with my media peers to brainstorm for some awesome new projects we'll be working on. One of our projects is being developed to better serve our group and our reference needs. It can take hours to find the right articles on children's media. Often times, I find myself searching for a document and then end up emailing Sabrina...because I know she will have the perfect article for me to read! One of our brilliant Ph.D. students, Rachel, came up with a way for us to store and share all of our references in RefWorks.

If you have not used RefWorks, you are missing out! It is a great way for you to store you references, properly cite them, and assist you with in-text citation. Please check it out! I had never used it before and spent an hour in the library just completely amazed! It is brilliant. The best part is, as students we can share our references with others who may not use RefWorks. Interested in developing a show and want to investigate attention and children's television? Can't find any great references? I bet we've got 'em...or will once this project takes off next semester.

Please look for more updates on our RefWorks project. I think this could have a major impact on our individual writing and publications as well as a huge impact on the field and the sharing of resources.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I should be writing, but...

I'm in the midst of completing an Intellectual Development final essay. I'm currently sitting in the library, staring at my empty bag of trail mix (except for the raisins..yuck!), procrastinating online, and doing my best to muster up the courage to finish and submit this work. In my quest for distraction, I found this video. In it, Lisa Henson discusses the company's history and their future plans. The Henson Company has been doing a lot of great work and are really making an impression on new young audiences with their program Sid the Science Kid. Please check the video out!

PS They also released a new line of Fraggle Rock merchandise. I've got my eye on those adorable little Doozers and Sprocket!

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Love Merch

Did I mention that before heading to Disneyland I dedicated way too much money to buy Mickey Mouse "stuff?" In a week, Joe and I will be checking out Weezer in concert playing songs from the Blue Album. Yes, I REALLY want to hear "Surf Wax America" and sing along to "Buddy Holly," but I just can't stop thinking about all the cool stuff they could be selling at the merch table. Just yesterday, I was on Etsy thinking, "I could really use a Gryffindor scarf or this awesome snitch locket." I realize this is a problem. I am a most desirable candidate for "All-American Capitalist/Consumer." Is this a result of my upbringing in America? Perhaps my father's obsession with keeping toys in the box (you know, for collection value) and his abundance of electric toy trains in the basement did it to me. I just don't know.

I was inspired to write this blog because of an article I found online. It's from England. They're are taking over children's television! To them I say, "Welcome to our world." Get it? Have you ever visited FAO Schwartz? Not only is our toy market reliant on lovable, desirable characters, for many years our television market was consumed with programming based on commercial properties. In fact, we even passed a law banning more than 12 minutes of commercial material from being put on television per hour.

Licensing is part of the process now. If you know Disney, you know that they actually release their toys before the films even come out! The merchandise supports the program and the program supports the merchandise. It seems like you can't have one without the other anymore.

Please read this article...and share your ideas below!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cookie Monster Should Host SNL

For most, it's Saturday Night Live. For me, it's Sunday Morning Syndication. I wake up on Sunday mornings with excitement coursing through my veins. Thanks to the magic of Hulu, I get to watch my favorite TV show a day after it airs. I never miss an episode! I replay the parts that I particularly like or that I think might be fun for others to watch. My SNL love is not new. In the '90s, my uncles would tape SNL and replay the parts that they really liked and thought were appropriate for me. Once I reached high school, I would stay up and watch on my own. It was an event each week...something I looked forward to!

I was so thrilled when I saw Sesame's campaign for Cookie Monster to host. In many ways, I think Sesame Street primes children to watch shows like SNL. They're extremely close in style and parody some of the most important cultural events, making them available for public consumption. The picture they took is BRILLIANT! The video is damn funny. Check it out...

In support of Cookie's desire to host SNL, I decided to coach him a bit. We discussed the format of the show, practiced using cue cards, took turns screaming "Live from New York, it's Saturday niiiiiiiiight." I even lectured him on pacing himself at the after party. Here are some pictures from our work together...

Reviewing the show format

"Don't forget to thank Lorne Michaels!"

Studying current events for Weekend Update

I wish Cookie Monster the best of luck as he works towards achieving his goal. Can you think of any special or unique ways of supporting him and his efforts?

I'll be watching, Cookie...the next morning...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

CD61 Challenge!

So here's the deal: this afternoon I will be sharing of my media work and experiences with Martha Potts' CD61 course for Tufts undergrads. I decided to present them with a challenge similar to one David Kleeman facilitated at the Fred Forward Conference last March. As students of personal and social development, they have a chance to pitch me a unique show with a curriculum based on their coursework this semester. These pitches will be posted in the comment field below and are limited to 2-3 sentences. Consider it a digital elevator pitch!

Their deadline is 11:59pm on Friday, December 3rd. The times on my blog are completely I will be online at 11:59pm noting who is last to post. THE WINNER will receive a copy of the book The World According to Mister Rogers. That book has been a huge source of inspiration and support throughout my post-college life. One quote, in particular, helped me write my admissions essay for Tufts. I'll be announcing the lucky student on the blog Sunday evening. Only CD61 students are eligible!

I don't think a contest like this would ever work with industry professionals. People would be far to scared to share their ideas in such a public forum. I certainly would! I'm hoping that these students will be open and will not share a sacred idea that they have been harboring forever. I also TRUST EVERYONE OUT IN THE ETHER to respect these students and their ideas. If you're interested in something you hear, maybe you should consider scouting out some Tufts students for a series development!

Post away, CD61...

Sunday, November 28, 2010


With my thesis proposal finally handed in, it seems I have more time to breath. I've been thinking a lot about new ideas...very exciting but very dangerous for me! Recently, I've come up with the idea of building an empire. Yeah, that's empire. About two weeks ago, I flew out to California to visit my sister. I had one demand of this trip: we visit Disneyland.

Disney and I have always had a torrid romance. The only other time I visited their theme parks was when I was two. My parents took me to Disney World. I have no recollection of it and can only determine that it was a "meh" trip since we never returned. I grew up watching every film, knowing every song, and toting my knowledge of classic films locked up in "the vault." My father never enjoyed Disney...except for that time he cried while watching Beauty and the Beast. I didn't understand why until I got older. Things started to come together: the girls all have big chests, there's a hero who is usually male, that is unless the male is the superhero (even in Mulan and other tales that claim female empowerment), and their attractions seemed way too expensive and exclusive for my family to afford. When I got to college, I learned about their worldwide corporate superpower. I was shocked and quite annoyed...okay, disheartened mostly. If you want all of your dreams to come true, do you have to buy, sell, and own everything around the globe? Along the way, Disney has not done right by me.

Through it all, I just wanted to experience a Disney park. What was it about that place that made everyone so happy? Was it actually magical? Before leaving for California, I made a disgusting promise to myself: I would buy any and every souvenir I wanted while in the park. I really love souvenirs.

When we got there (quite early), we sat in traffic to park the car, waited in line to board the shuttle to the park. Through it all though, I had a huge smile on my face. Disney was a mystery to me, and I was about to feel the magic!

When we arrived, I saw the line for tickets...and the price. So far, there was no magic...only anger. I took pictures of the long line thinking, "This is what people don't talk about after returning from their amazing vacation." We got our tickets, lined up for the park, and officially entered Disneyland. At first glance of Main Street, I wasn't all together too impressed. It looked like a really (really) spiffed up version of Wild West City, a "theme park" about the West located in Northern New Jersey. You haven't heard of it? I'm shocked.


It was actually magical. Immediately I saw a train leaving an old time station and a cart full of people being pulled by a horse down Main Street. While eating a breakfast of pastry, I watched a Disney worker scrub bird poop off of a fake cobblestone! Please read that sentence again. Where was I?! From that moment forward, I embraced it, I reveled in it, I loved it. It was magical, and I felt magical!

On one of my major shopping sprees (remember, I gave myself permission), I saw a book that I regret purchasing on the making of Disneyland. It was a small paperback but filled with pictures and little tidbits about all the original rides and Walt's ideas, opinions, and declarations. My favorite passage was about the Storybook Land ride (also one of my favorite parts of the park). Apparently, the massive Monstro the whale was meant as the exit of a roller coaster, but Walt realized it would be more interesting if people entered Storybook Land through the mouth of the whale, just like Pinnochio. A simple little change like that made all the difference. What kind of mind do you have to have to do something like that?

I loved seeing the old rides and the traces of Walt all over the park. Can you say "Tiki Room?" Best. Attraction. Ever. I wanted to buy one of those...unfortunately, (and suprisingly) not for sale. I thought a bit more about him. Is there anyone out there with the same power and imagination that Walt had? I think so, but then again...all those people are essentially owned by Disney in one way or another: Tim Burton, George Lucas, if a group counts then the Pixar company. They also have something else in common...male.

It's time for another empire builder...even though I officially love Disneyland and want it to continue its massive run of success. I'm not saying it has to be me, but why not? It could be you! Or you! The next Walt Disney is out there...hopefully she won't sell out to the Walt Disney Company. Or maybe she will depending on the economy...but still hold true to her independent values and desire for imagination-creation greatness.

The Pee-wee Herman Show

Last Thursday my boyfriend and I marked our first year as a couple. We decided to celebrate on Friday and had such a romantic day...we took the NJTransit into New York and walked midtown like a pair of holiday tourists. We window shopped passed Macy's, stopped to watch ice skaters in Bryant Park (and check out the new Kate Spade pop-up igloo), and walked up to see the tree at Rock Center. It was fantastic! We were in the city with a purpose, though. We had tickets for The Pee-wee Herman Show, the new Broadway production of the famous character from 1980's children's television. After a great dinner, we headed to the Stephen Sondheim Theater for the show. The pre-show festivities alone made me feel like a child. The merchandise kiosks provided any Pee-wee fan with enough fuel for the next 20 years. I caved and bought a tee shirt and a magnet set. Downstairs, we shamelessly spent much too much on cocktails that we could drink in the theater from a sippy cup.

As I sat in my seat, sipping my drink, the music cued and the curtain opened. I couldn't stop smiling! The show was very much written and directed for an older audience and uses audience members' nostalgia to keep the show going. We screamed for the word of the day, we helped Pee-wee say the Pledge of Allegiance (yup), and we cheered as he achieved one of his dreams.

Beyond just promoting the show and sharing my Pee-wee love, I write this blog because it's based on a children's television show from the 1980's (okay,'s based on a comedy show that led to a TV special that led to a children's television show). This character was and is so very important to so many people who have now grown up and want to share Pee-wee with their families (despite his unforgettable indiscretion). The characters and stories that we create and share now could have a long-lasting impact on our culture and our children. Is there a program on television now that you think could have this similar long-lasting, cross-generational impact? Which show could you see making it to Broadway in 20 years?

Ease on down the road...

It has been so long since my last post! I am hoping to post a bit more frequently in the coming weeks. In addition to my race to finish holiday shopping BEFORE Black Friday, I have been overwhelmed with school work. BUT...there is exciting news:
1. My IRB application and materials have been submitted!
2. My thesis proposal will be handed in and the hearing date has been settled for December 14th!
3. I am one step closer to disclosing all the details of my Rogers project.

I wanted to share an amazing video with you all that was shown to me by my boyfriend Joe, a huge rail fan and your future president. This video represents an idea that I've been mulling over for quite some time, capturing the importance and fun of a child's dramatic play and its relevance to their reality. Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

What does IRB stand for?

A. Intimidating Rejecting Beasts
B. Interesting Reflective Blokes
C. Internal Review Board

The answer is both B & C. Tricked ya!

I'm in the process of finalizing all of my paperwork for Tufts' IRB to review. I'm doing this so I can study the effectiveness and appeal of my Rogers project. I had heard horror stories about the IRB. I was so psyched out by all of these tales, that I began to dread submission and even delayed it for quite some time. However, the time has come!

I decided to meet with a member of the IRB at Tufts to get some feedback on my study. They do that! They meet with you. They're real people and actually really nice! The meeting was so productive, and I got some great feedback on my work. I've now taken two weeks to review and rewrite and am heading back in for one more meeting before submitting. I feel good about this!

After submitting all that paperwork, the data collection and analyzing should be a breeze and really enjoyable. All of the leg work has been completed. My friend/mentor/role-model Sabrina will be collecting data with me. I'm especially looking forward to working with her. She has a brilliant mind, and I'm sure she will have an interesting way of approaching the data once it's been collected.

Will my study get approved the first time around? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shining Time Station

So many of my childhood memories revolve around our old TV set in the middle of our very small living room. For the most part, my mom shared so many of my TV memories. However, there was one show that I always watched with my dad on the weekends: Shining Time Station. It was a little old timey, but completely brilliant! A run-down train station in the midst of the world's technology boom, and a mini train conductor who told stories about a tank engine named Thomas. Shining Time Station really was a place "where dreams could come true," as the theme song states.

I found out this morning that the Thomas the Tank Engine series is up for sale. I saw the price tag, took a deep breath, and decided not to risk my entire financial future, including the financial futures of my great, great grandchildren. The show is selling for $700 million. If I had the reputation and money to purchase the property, I would absolutely do my best to bring back Shining Time Station. I wonder if Didi and Ringo would be up for a revival? Who would you cast?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Little Airplane Academy

Little Airplane Academy has opened enrollment for their February 3-day seminar on "how to make a great preschool series." I highly encourage you to attend. Although the tuition is a little steep, it is worth every penny. How do I know? I attended the February 2009 session. I thought I would share a bit about my experience...

Back when I was applying for graduate programs in 2009, I was introduced to Sabrina through Julie who is currently my Tufts advisor. Sabrina had already won the Fred Rogers Scholarship and seemed to know so much about the children's media world. She provided me with such fantastic advice including encouragement to attend the Academy. I quickly signed up and spent the money. I didn't think twice. I figured that having that experience, even though it was only 3 days, would give me some kind of knowledge-base in case I didn't get into either graduate program I had applied for. Luckily, the February session overlapped with Kidscreen, a huge conference for the children's media field. Because of this, I met so many amazing people, got great advice from those who were working on their own shows, heard some fantastic ideas, learned how to make a story bible, started to understand the importance of legal representation, and fell completely in love with Little Airplane and all the great work they do.

My experience with the Academy continues to impact me! Last spring, I developed my first story bible as part of an independent study. Without the training I had received at the Academy, I would have been lost. This summer, I met one of my internship supervisors who was a speaker at the Academy in 2009 and with whom I had stayed in touch with for advice on graduate school. David Kleeman, another speaker, continues to provide me with fantastic words of wisdom and is ever-present in the world of children's media. He is officially my go-to person when I have any questions about the field or am looking for some direction. I also met two friends at the Academy. I continue to stay in touch with them and am even lucky enough to attend Tufts with one of them who helped me with my project. In short, I don't think I could have developed my show as fully as I did without the experience and training I received in those 3 long days at the Seaport.

Please apply! I promise you won't regret it...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Something special...

During my visit to Pittsburgh/Latrobe, PA last year for the Fred Forward Conference, people kept asking me, "What is happening at Tufts University?" They asked this question because 2 out of 3 scholarship winners in 2010 were from Tufts, Rachel Schechter and me. They then found out that Sabrina Connell, a 2008 recipient of the award, is also attending Tufts to receive her Masters. Later, they might have heard that Michael Robb, another 2008 recipient, was an undergraduate at Tufts before receiving his award. We all have/are completing a degree in the child development program there, and I think Tufts is the most represented institution amongst the scholarship winners.

Something special is happening at Tufts University. Actually, somethingS special are happening. It's why I chose Tufts over other media and human development programs. Some of my reasons were:
1. It's a child development specific program
2. I'd complete the program in two years providing me with a lot of time to really learn and exercise all the theory I was digesting
3. It's attached to 2 lab schools were I could teach, observe, and test my practice
4. Amazing faculty including Julie Dobrow who is an incredible leader and very well-versed in the world of media and media education
5. The amazing faculty is full-time and not just makes a difference
6. Freedom to create!

In addition to these reasons, there is one that is particularly important. The children's media folks at Tufts are few in number but mighty! Under the leadership of Julie Dobrow, we meet on a monthly basis to share our projects, get peer feedback, trade information about events and jobs, and meet with visiting guests and speakers. Monday night was our first meeting of the year, and there was so much fantastic energy in the room! There were about 10 people of various ages and degrees with interests ranging from research to production to marketing. We have the opportunity to do something(s) really amazing this year!

I'm so glad to see that the number of students interested in children's media is growing. I think it says something very positive about the professional field of creating work for children. What do you think?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Open House!

A while back, my friend recommended I check out the work of FableVision. Please visit their website! They are a fantastic example of a for-profit company that is able to live and work by its mission: which apparently is a 200 year goal to change the world using media. Bravo! At the helm of the FableVision boat is Peter Reynolds. It seems as if Reynolds has his hand in all aspects of children's media but is most successful, I think, in his pursuit of quality visual art for children. His books are beautifully illustrated, the company's website designs are fun to play with and look at, and their software Animation-ish is a great tool to teach visual art and, more specifically, animation to children.

I was able to visit their studio this evening at an open house they hosted. It was such a fun environment and seemed to foster fantastic creative energy amongst the staff. Artwork and recording are done in-house, which I LOVE. It made me start to think about my studio; what will it look like? I'd love to develop a company of creative, mission-driven artists just as Reynolds has done.

My favorite part of the open house was experimenting with the company's educational software Animation-ish. I got to design my own characters and bring them to life using a simple, directed format. The company seems to be using it primarily in classrooms, but I have a feeling this will be tops on my Christmas list and will most likely be the gift I purchase for my younger cousins (ages 6 and 9).

When I received the open house invite (which I got simply from being on the listserve), I was unsure about it. Head into Boston to check out someone's office? Meh. I was encouraged by one of my classmates who came with me. I really learned appreciate this opportunity. Particularly as someone who will be looking for employment in 9 months, I now realize how valuable it is to get a feel for a work environment and know more about a company before sending in a resume or completely writing them off.

Please check out the company's site and experiment with Animation-ish! You won't regret it...

Friday, September 24, 2010

In the News...

As part of this blog, I like to highlight important events in the news that are related to the field of children's media. Lately, I've gotten nervous about this. What if I insult someone? Will this have an impact on my job search in June? The answer to these questions is: most likely. However, i consider it my duty to continue informing my readers of what is happening...and how I feel about it. In the most diplomatic way possible, of course.
Recently, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood found their latest target: Skechers and Nickelodeon. Skechers has created a television show, Zevo-3, which is set to air on Nickelodeon's Nicktoons channel. CCFC claims that this violates the FCC law stating that television programs cannot be aired for the purpose of selling a product. After spending a summer with Nickelodeon, I actually find it somewhat surprising that they would even consider airing something of this nature. I have learned, though, that Nicktoons is very different from Nick, Jr. They make no promises about educational television, and I happen to think their content is not the strongest out there. The show is being defended by Nickelodeon and Skechers Entertainment. If you're wondering why Skechers has a branch for entertainment purposes, then we must be kindred spirits. Bravo to Susan Linn for speaking out and monitoring what the FCC has clearly overlooked. I encourage you to read the full NYTimes article and develop your own opinion on the matter. Comments welcomed!
Next up...Katy Perry. As Sesame Street launches it's 41st season (congrats!), a video of Perry singing with Elmo was posted online. According to the press, Sesame pulled the video because of the overwhelming complaints about Perry's ensemble.
Two things about this video:
1-I am so impressed that Sesame would pull a video because of overwhelming disdain. It's a smart choice for them to listen to parents (hopefully parents were actually the ones complaining).
2- It got pulled because of the outfit?! I saw the video before it was frowned upon. It sucks. It's just bad. Sorry, Sesame. I felt so sad for the poor, young writer who imagined the concept and thought the very "in" Perry would be a great guest for kids and their parents. After watching it again, though, I can't help but wonder what the heck they were thinking! Elmo doesn't want to play with you for a reason, Katy.

More about the controversy here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wanted: Staff Writing Position at SNL

Saturday Night Live has been one of my favorite shows since the early '90s. I would stay up late when having sleepovers at my grandparents' house and sneak out to watch it. Mike Myers is my comedy idol...which explains a great deal about my sense of humor. The show has taken on so many different roles in my life. I now like to call it Sunday Morning Syndication because I usually can't stay up late enough to watch it or am out and, instead, snuggle up on a Sunday morning and catch it on Hulu.
When I told Joe (my other) about my secret desire to audition if I didn't make grad school and my regret of not spending more time studying comedy at NYU, he recommended I take a class at a comedy theater in Boston. After a little research, I found Improv Boston. Although I was tempted, I just didn't have the time.
Much to my good fortune, I'm required to take on a hobby for an intellectual development class I started at Tufts. It's called the metahobby project; I enjoy partaking in the hobby all while journaling and tracking my cognitive processes. After a little bit of pushing, I was allowed to conduct my metahobby at Improv Boston in their Sketch Comedy Writing class. I am so thrilled to begin this process and see if I can suck out any humor that wasn't wasted on sly AIM away messages in the early part of my college education.
Wish me luck!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Costume Design

Rogers Project costumes REVEALED! (shock, awe)
I really loved designing and putting the costumes together for the two main characters. Unfortunately, my budget for costumes was very tight, and I didn't have the ability to sew or hire someone to bring my sketches to life. What resulted, however, I think is far better than my original idea.

Inspiration: It is no secret that my work at The New Victory Theater played a huge role in my creation of this work. It was at the New Vic where I first fell in love with circus arts and made friends with clowns. The characters are inspired by fictional acrobats that took center stage at our annual Family Benefit.
I knew I wanted my costumes to look similar. I also knew that I wanted to have a male and female in clothing that was generally gender ambiguous. Similarly to the original version of these characters, I thought about my characters (a male and female) wearing mustaches and creating comedy through the wearing of, switching of, falling off of these mustaches. I realized, however, that might take away from my original goal of physical movement. I needed to keep the story simple and create costumes that highlighted these movements.

Sketch: Once I confirmed my cast, I formally put my ideas on paper. Yes, that is crayon.

Styling: I realized that I couldn't just make this costume. I needed to style it. I needed to pull from stores and my own wardrobe to put it together. I immediately ran to Target to find the base. The women's fitness-wear section provided me with the shirt (which I then had tailored to the actor) and shorts.
I must have visited every athletic store in Northern New Jersey this summer. I could not find green sweatbands and knee-high socks. Even an online search was fruitless. Finally, it came to me! American Apparel! Who wears those things anymore, anyway? Hipsters! I found the socks and sweatbands there and discovered the amazing yellow suspenders while checking out. They provided me with the whimsy needed for a circus character.
Lastly came the shoes. I wanted to create a costume that was simple; something that a kid could put together from their clothes or borrowing parents' clothes. These simple pieces could transform the average kid viewer into the character with little trouble. I nearly fainted when I saw the new streamlined Converse sneakers with simple, flat bottoms. They remind me so much of the Cons they sell for youngsters.
I needed to make sure the costume worked. Also, it was too tempting not to try it on myself.

Fitting: Finally, I fitted my actors to make sure everything looked right. I am so pleased with the final result! (actor J'nelle Bobb-Semple)

So far, the most exciting moment of this process has been seeing my actors in costume in front of the set. It literally took my breath away for a moment. From a simple sketch came this character brought to life! I look forward to sharing more...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mr. Potato Head Takes a Bath

While at Nickelodeon this summer, one of my favorite intern duties was bathing Mr. Potato Head. I felt so strongly about it that I actually wrote my final internship paper on that very topic. I've included, for your convenience, a page from my paper where I detail the process of bathing Mr. Potato Head. Enjoy!
You might be wondering why. I get it. It's strange. When out doing research on new episodes of Dora, we used Mr. Potato Heads as distracters (toys to distract the child from the show, which replicates a home environment). It was my job to clean these Mr. Potato Heads after we visited schools. It wasn't a challenging task at all. It was mostly weird and a little boring. I came to love it, though, because other people on the floor thought it was weird too! They would stop and ask me what I was doing. Through that, we began talking about children's television, television in general, their jobs, how they got there, my graduate work, and my goals. It was absolutely one of the best parts of my summer.
I write about Mr. Potato Head not only because he is near and dear to my heart now, but also because I want to remind the up and comers out there that sometimes you have to do boring, meaningless tasks. Greatness can come out of these tasks. When you prove that you can make a meaningless job important, people begin to take notice.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

From Story Time to Staff Meetings

I returned to my job as Graduate Teaching Assistant at a lab school of my department at Tufts. I really missed being a teacher this summer and all of my fantastic colleagues and students. These people know what they're doing! They've taught me that there's a reason for everything that happens at school and how important a school day is for a child, both socially/emotionally and intellectually. Essentially, schools are developed to socialize children for the world in which they live. Each country emphasizes specific parts of their curriculum, including rules and activities, to prepare children for the values and knowledge points that are needed in their society.
This year I will be moving from teaching kindergarten to preschool. I asked my head teacher if there was anything that I should be aware of during this transition. He emphasized how important the children's daily routine is. For some, this is the first time they are socializing with a large group of peers. Something as simple as story time could be a real challenge. I thought about that a bit. During story time, children listen to their teacher reading something he/she thinks is important or interesting to the group. Sometimes children may have questions about what is read or like to add something to what is being said. Often, teachers will debrief the story after it has been completed. The group discusses what they just learned. Does this remind you of anything? It strangely reminded me of a staff meeting.
What if children don't participate in story time with a large group of peers? Is this why some don't know how to conduct themselves in large-group meetings? Perhaps!
I want to highlight a storytelling program that I think is particularly fun and family-friendly. Barefoot Books, the Cambridge-based publisher, runs story hours throughout the week at their flagship store in Concord. I would volunteer to read there on Saturdays when they were based out of a Porter Square storefront. It was so fun for me, and I think the families felt like that had a special place to visit each Saturday morning. It also allowed children to socialize with others in the neighborhood. I urge you to check it out, take your kids, or volunteer!

P.S. This summer I learned how to clean a Mr. Potato Head. Step-by-step directions to follow!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Explorations

I just arrived back in Medford this afternoon after a surprisingly quick bus ride back. Record time, actually! This summer I had the pleasure of interning with the Dora the Explorer research and production teams at Nickelodeon in New York. Although I think I mentioned it at some point in the blog, I was hesitant to publicly post anything because of the non-disclosure agreements Viacom/MTV made me sign. These scared the hell out of me the first time I saw them, but I slowly learned that they're fairly standard. I would want to protect my productions, too!
Now that it's over, I can say I had a great time and learned a lot. I feel like I have really tangible skills to bring back to Tufts with me as I begin my thesis and develop my data collection instruments for the Rogers project. I met some really wonderful people who LOVE their jobs and prove it through their hard work each day.
I was welcomed and sent off with pictures of Dora and Boots. It's something so simple but made me feel really special and part of the team! Adios, Dora y mis amigos!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I have a big weekend ahead of me. Tomorrow I drive up to Boston with my director and cast to film the first episode of my Rogers project. Very fortunately, I have so many people who have been helping me along the way and contributing in various forms. I especially could not do this project with my mother, Arlene. Arlene has been my mom, personal assistant, therapist, and cheerleader as I transition from step to step throughout the creation process. Gracias, mama!
As a creative team, we are ready for this weekend! I met with my director (Blake McCarty) and cast (J'nelle Bobb-Semple and WT McRae) on Monday night to rehearse at 440 Studios. I had an unbelievable night! Blake was able to create a warm environment where J'nelle and WT felt comfortable enough to experiment and create. So many special, small moments happened within this very simple script. It was magical. I am grateful for their artistry and abilities.
Although it will be a while before I can post specific details about the program or pictures, I'm hoping to write a reflection piece about this weekend. I'm also looking forward to sharing my costume decisions: from sketches to camera-ready.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

BRILLIANT marketing

Cheers, Ralph Lauren, on your new shopable children's book! Check it out...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dramatic Play

Last year, I had the great fortune of working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Eliot-Pearson Children's School. While there, I learned about dramatic play. As a theater artist, this was so new to me! What was the difference between dramatic play and drama in the classroom? That is a topic I hope to write about in the future and will not dive into right now, BUT I did learn about how important and empowering it is for children to experiment with roles and status through their play.

While strolling around the Times Square Toys 'R Us (yes, I realize what an insane idea that was), I came across some children's television merchandise. I was so excited to see the Super Why! character costumes called "role play kits." I have always been a big fan of the show and of the company that produces it, Out of the Blue. The founder, Angela Santomero, comes from both a production and research/education background, something I aspire to. Seeing this merchandise made me feel as if someone out there is making sure that licensing is happening AND it's also quality play materials for children. Bravo!

To buy yours:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Backpack, Backpack!

I'm spending my summer at Nick, Jr. this year, and today is a big day. We're celebrating Dora's birthday. With a new TV special on Nick next week, we are very excited! Times Square is filled with advertisements for the special that commemorates Dora's 10th year on television. Below is a really interesting article I found on the NY Times site...enjoy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Creating a Logo

As a young person entering the field of children’s media, I’ve tried to ask as many questions of as many people in the business as possible. Each person I’ve spoken with has contributed to my development as a professional in some unique way. My introductory experiences in the field have led me to become someone who is actually called upon to answer questions for young people who have a budding interest in educational television. I so appreciate these inquiries and feel like I’m creating a network of future artists, producers, writers, and thinkers. These conversations and experiences have inspired me to write more about my production process. Today’s entry is about something I’m currently working on: creating a logo.

When I began working on my Rogers project, I had a really specific idea for a logo. I enlisted the help of an old NYU friend and amazing animator Rachel Yonda. Our process was fairly simple. I sent Rachel some sketches of my ideas with color suggestions. She sent me back 6 options: 3 variations on my sketch and 3 new ideas (she is brilliant!). I loved one of them and began stamping it on everything: contracts, the story bible, and scripts. I thought I was the luckiest gal in the world when IKEA began selling the exact fabric I was looking for as my scenic backdrop. It perfectly matched my logo and my vision of the set.

On the day of the big fabric purchase, I visited IKEA and prepared for my fabric’s homecoming. Much to my dismay, all local IKEA stores were nearly sold out of my print. I. LOST. IT. I started yelling, crying, and gnawing at Swedish-inspired throw pillows. After a meltdown on a display Karlstad loveseat, I realized a different color would actually work better and solve my costume/set ish that I was stressing over. I put on my big girl pants, wiped away my tears, and began measuring.

I had one big problem, though: the logo. My beautiful logo would have to be changed and, with it, all my paperwork. Ugh! Rachel was very accommodating to my new ideas and provided me with some options that complimented them. We experimented with different color schemes and finally created something even better than what we had started with.

This process really taught me how important it is to remain calm and be flexible. No more IKEA freak outs…for now. I also have come to further appreciate the kindness and hard work of my talented friends. I look forward to posting visual representations of Rachel and my process once the project is fully completed!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Money Talks...

I've been thinking a lot about money recently...especially after reading Josh Selig's latest blog entry on Planet Preschool. I feel so fortunate to have funding for my current project. I realize, however, that a future life for live-action children's television is limited. I don't think that animation is much cheaper, but it seems more profitable particularly when thinking about international markets. Ugh! What's a girl to do?!

Thanks to children's media know-it-all (I mean this sincerely...the man knows everything) David Kleeman, I came across this interesting project. DinosaurUS ExplorUS is a new project being developed independently. This production company is raising money online in order to produce its first pilot. I'm impressed, shocked, and interested. I wonder if this is the future of production capital. Please read up, share your thoughts, and spread the word about this innovative idea!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Day I Decided to Take Over the World

Each morning on my commute, I pass a magazine stand. I'm so tempted to grab an issue to read on the bus, but then I think of how expensive magazines are and how little I'm bringing in as a children's media intern. I've had my eye on the issue of Wired featuring Pixar. A great alternative to buying the magazine is looking up the article on their website. I'm sure this will cost me money some day in the near future.
I've always been one to pull pictures out of catalogs or obsess over small objects on websites or stories people tell. Years later, these things continue to inspire or motivate me. It doesn't happen very often, but it's magical when it does. I had this feeling when I read the Pixar article and subsequently checked out their website. I love how they describe their company and seem to create a happy and creative environment for their employees. Today I've decided that this article came to me for a reason. I'd really like to work for actually be one of those happy employees. At the least, however, I think I'd like to create this kind of working environment if I ever run my own production company. I'd have Legos in the break room, dogs under cubicles, and scooters to get from one part of the office to the other.
I've spent a lot of time this week thinking about whether I'd like to work for someone else or take a huge risk and work for myself next year. It's nice to have goals, but I'm going to let this one work itself out. I think whatever is meant to be will be, and the best I can do today and tomorrow is produce an awesome and active program for kids.

Applied Experience

It's been a while since I've written anything. I've spent all of my time since mid-May working as producer and writer for my Rogers Scholarship project. Last week I also started as an intern for Nick Jr. It's been busy but incredibly exciting and a great learning experience! I've really been trying to educate myself about the business. In addition to reading Josh Selig's Planet Preschool blog, I've also been looking up articles in newspapers and magazines. I was really excited to come across this article about Disney's Phineas and Ferb. I've heard about the show through enthusiastic kindergarten students. It looks like the company is really trying to capitalize on its blossoming popularity. This article seems to have some amazing marketing tips and has provided me with a different point-of-view on the children's entertainment industry.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


It has been a long time since my last post. I've been finishing both my semester and my first full-year teaching position. I'm particularly proud of completing my very first story bible! It's printed and bound and ready for review! I nailed down cameras today (woohoo HD!) and MUST find a shooting location by next week. I have a few more places to look, but I never thought it would be so hard. NYU had so many spaces to work in and there was almost always something available. It seems like there's much more red tape to go through here. I'm hoping to have a place by next week...look for a new post with pictures!

I've been telling my students Pearl stories this year. Pearl stories are oral stories about a tiny mermaid...kind of a cross between a mermaid and Thumbelina. My mom used to tell them to us each summer. We loved them! Sure enough, my kids love them too. As their summer gift, I've edited a story book film for them. Maybe this is the first step in getting Pearl produced?

Hope you like the story as much as my students do!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Idiot Box

It was a slow Tuesday morning. I woke up late, shot out a few quick emails while eating my Cheerios and making lunch. On my way out the door, I looked for something on my iPod that would get me going. The Aquabats seemed to shoot me out of my front door. I began listening to the song "Idiot Box." Beyond the horns were some pretty intense lyrics that I never realized preaching the evils of television. I think this is particularly interesting since Christian Jacobs, MC Bat Commander and lead singer, is also the co-creator of Yo Gabba Gabba! The lyrics cite several cartoons popular throughout the late '60s and 70's. Perhaps Jacobs thinks his television program is more educational than those of Saturday mornings past? I know I like it! Whatever the meaning, the message of the song matches many people's thoughts about television. It inspires me to make quality TV that has a greater purpose than pure entertainment...even though it is important to have an entertainment outlet! Below are the lyrics. Click here to listen to the track. What do you think?

Now now now
I'm just a boy
I watch too much TV
Nobody knows, nobody knows
Casper the Ghost is so friendly
Nobody knows, nobody knows
Sitting in my living room
With nothing else to do
I think I'm going blind
Just like Mr. Magoo
I know every single ending
Of every Scooby Doo

Turn off the idiot box
It's a disease just like the Chicken Pox
Turn off the idiot box

Find yourself a partner
Turn on the television
And let it control your mind

Friends, Romans, countrymen,
I've got something to say
Nobody knows, nobody knows
Get up off the couch
Get up go out and play
Nobody knows, Nobody knows


Children I want to warn 'ya
'Cuz I've been to California
Where Mickey Mouse is a demon

Turn it off If you are able
Nobody knows, nobody knows
Take a pair of scissors
And cut off that cable
Nobody knows, Nobody knows


Developmental Profiles

I've been thinking so much about who my audience will be for this program and trying to do the best job at expressing that and justifying it in my story bible. I want to make sure that each element of this show is made specifically to cater to the cognitive and physical needs of 3 to 5 year olds...which will be difficult because there is great variation amongst that age cohort! One thing in particular that my year in a child development program has taught me is that developmental profiles are necessary. I was inspired by Yardsticks. Check it's great! I'm currently looking for more information on 3-year-olds, but I feel like I have time and now a direction to do so.
I am looking forward to finding the perfect place in my story bible for this very important page. I don't think I could share this bible with professionals without it!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Multi-Platform Approach

I've just entered the creative process for the upcoming series. Literature Review DONE, Story Bible due in May, internship over the summer, pilot shoot in September, pilot testing in September, subsequent shoot in October (hopefully), editing, music, research, thesis defense. Wow. That was a this going to happen? Yes! I've asked several people in the business if they have any advice for starting the creative process. The general answer has been "enjoy it." I'm really taking my time to think things through and make sure my vision is clear before it gets passed on.

I developed a series of "I see..." statements. It really helped me clarify my objectives and ideas for the look of the production. I think it's also helping my advisor, Julie, get a better sense of all the circus junk that's been floating through my head for three years. While creating those, I thought about how short the program actually is and how much content could be shared on the web. It seems like a lot of productions have taken a multi-platform approach: web site, television program, iPhone application, Facebook page, Twitter account, community outreach, etc. I'm very eager and excited to see what kind of content is created specifically for the iPad. The Electric Company team has an amazing, very modern multi-platform approach. The press release describes some of the work they did and continue to do in support of the television program.

I appreciate the cyclical support that multi-platform approach has provided to the launch of a series: Website and social networking sites launch to promote show, show on television, show to support website and additional content.

So far, I thought it would be interesting to post content perhaps on a website about the following:
Circus Glossary
Specific exercises, movements, and tricks to do together with your favorite adult

Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship

It has been a very exciting and busy month. Two weeks ago I flew out to Pittsburgh, PA (one of my favorite American cities) to receive the Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship from the Television Academy Foundation. In addition to the amazing folks from the TV Academy (truly organized and looking out for our very best interest), I met some incredible people! Joanne Rogers was described to me as Mrs. Claus. She is so joyful and her love for the work that people are creating in Fred's name is infectious! I had a chance to finally meet Dr. Alice Wilder and Angela Santomero who created Blue's Clues and published all of their research which was very, very helpful in the academic planning of my series. Milton Chen spoke about creativity, education, and the future. He was truly inspirational, and his book is absolutely on my summer reading list!

I was able to attend all sessions of the Fred Forward Conference in Latrobe, PA, and saw some innovative projects that I'm sure we'll be seeing publicly in the very near future. The scholarship portion of the conference was very meaningful. Mr. Rogers has always been one of my idols and inspirations. To hear some of his former colleagues talk about how much he would have appreciated my speech and talking to me about my project really touched me. The big check (pictured above) made the night even more thrilling! I look forward to creating work that would make Fred proud and carry out his message to young people of subsequent generations. In the following weeks, I'll be posting tid bits about my project. The details of it will remain under wraps until it is complete, but I look forward to sharing the highlights!

Upon my return from Pennsylvania, I shared something special with my students, an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Many of them recognized him from the PBS website, but the program was still very new to them! They were mesmerized and completely silent for 25 minutes (which is a challenge for this group). After we watched, we talked a little bit about Mr. Rogers, puppets, and my trip. We made paper bag puppets that week and created characters. It was the highlight of my year! Thank you, Fred!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Romper Room!

How could I forget?! I don't think I ever heard Christina called out at the end of the show, but I knew she saw me too. I've been watching some videos for my review of interactive television, and I have been wondering if this concept would work with today's audiences. I certainly think the look would have to change, but the Dancy Dance seems rooted in these simple moments. Look at that bee giving...Doobie definitely took a few years of tap class. Step it up, kids!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Becoming a Yoga Pretzel

I recently introduced a yoga curriculum to my Kindergarten students. We started by sitting in a circle together "cris-cross applesauce" and breathing. I would tell stories about adventures we would take through the dessert, on the ocean, in a forest, etc., and we would make simple shapes with our bodies while we told the story. I recently invested in a set of Yoga Pretzel cards. One of my students had them and enjoyed using them with her sister. I was surprised that they actually read the step-by-step instructions (also in picture form) and recreated the poses together. I used the cards during my next group activity, and the kids loved them! Yoga Pretzel cards are now a choice during our exploration time. I was so surprised how many children wanted to have a turn! I was especially shocked at how capable they were of entering the poses using only the cards. I ended up monitoring the activity for support in case they needed help balancing or needed guidance getting into the pose. For the most part, they played independently.
I'm so surprised yoga hasn't taken a more mainstream role in children's media. I recall reading about the process of creating Ni Hao, Kai-Lan in the book Anytime Playdate. Originally it was a series of interstitials called Downward Doghouse based around a yoga curriculum. I've tried to find video footage, but it is nearly impossible! I haven't watched very much of the show, but it seems as if Chinese culture and language are the basis of the curriculum in the current incarnation of the series. This series teaches Chinese language in a very similar fashion as Dora teaches Spanish.
I look forward to seeing what kind of yoga program will become popular! I never realized what a wonderful experience it was for kids to participate until I saw my own students enjoying it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Classroom Management...I mean, Amazing Concert Experience

Tonight I saw Butch Walker perform at the Paradise. It was the first time I had seen him play in over five years and well worth the wait! No, he is certainly not a musician that is trying to key into the iGeneration market, but he did something...well, a few things tonight that provided me with some very significant "AHA!" moments. In addition to watching someone play the drums with a tennis ball (and not as part of some experimental art battle show in Williamsburg), I witnessed a classic Butch Walker move. He let his band leave the stage at the end of the encore and stood at the very edge leading the audience in a medley of LaLas and BahBahs. We sang together for what could have been thirty minutes but felt like a brief instant. He calmly walked through the crowd leading the group in song. No one rushed at him or knocked him over. The song seemed to keep everyone entranced. He stood up on a ledge and slowly made the group sing quieter and quieter. I became anxious knowing that at any moment he could stop and the peaceful magic would break. We continued to sing until he lowered his hands to signify an ending. Within seconds he had disappeared backstage, and we were stunned. It took a few moments until people had realized what happen and then the applause started as the house lights came back up. When I finally "came to," I thought about how amazing that experience was and then realized that I do that almost five days a week. Kindergartners love singing simple melodies. I'm learning that keying children in with song is a great way to focus their attention. Dan Anderson's research on audio cues supports this. Butch Walker took a classic classroom management skill and used it on hundreds of adults. Brilliant!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baby Einstein? Baby Drama!

I knew Disney wouldn't go quietly. This article about The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is awful but not shocking.

After Victory Against Disney, Group Loses Its Lease

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Interactive Television/Audience Participation

I've been reading so much Dan Anderson! I decided that since the focus of my literature review is interactive television, I would try to list all of the important aspects that it should include. I will be focusing on Alice Wilder's writings and research this coming week and might have to do a little updating.

So far:
Direct address/breaking the 4th wall
Example: Mister Rogers often did this when he spoke to his television neighbors.
Pause for viewer response
Example:Dora often does this when she asks the viewer a question or for help.
Auditory clues
Example: Certain words, phrases, sounds, or songs that clue the viewer into a specific part of the show such as mail time on Blue's Clues. There is also research on the importance of child voices.
Go from easier to harder
Example: This seemed paramount for the creators of Blue's Clues.
Hosts that are "energetic in a characteristically childlike manner"
Example: I appreciate that Sesame was able to cast a group of adults who acted like adults I knew but who took great interest and even participated in the activities that children enjoyed.
The invitation to participate
Example: "Will you help?", "Can you...?" "Do you ever?" Sometimes this includes child voice-overs to help model participation.
Audience participation is proven to increase with repetition.

Generally, Dan (because we're on a first name basis?) states the importance of comprehensibility, the role of cues for attention, transitions and montage, and attentional inertia for any children's television program.

Have I missed anything?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Audience Participation

I'm trying to brainstorm a list of children's television programs that were interactive, that were created with audience participation in mind. Unless there's at least one other person out there who considered Ben Vereen's character "Mayor Ben" to be their personal choreography and vocal coach, I'm not counting Zoobilee Zoo. Sorry. The list is as follows:

Picture Pages (with Bill Cosby and that insect-looking pen)
Mister Rogers (specifically, the segments with Fred when he talked to the viewer as his "neighbor")
Blues Clues

Is that it? I know there are certain segments of Sesame Street that could be considered interactive. I also think Yo Gabba Gabba does a great job of including the home viewer in on the dancy dance portions of the show.

I think the Picture Pages theme song directly addresses the young viewer and prepares them to work with Bill Cosby.

Monday, March 1, 2010

An Awfully Competitive Community

I just finished reading the last three chapters that I assigned myself from The Children's Television Community. These included descriptions of the different kinds of production models. It briefly discussed the CTW or Sesame Workshop model of production, content, and research being of equal value in the development of a program. This was a unique idea that had a huge impact on both PBS and cable programs.
There was a chapter written about the PBS model and one about the cable model written by PBS and Cartoon Network staff members respectively. Below are some of the highlights from each chapter and distinctions I discovered between the two models.

Commercial free
Education-based quality entertainment
Programming outlet- NOT PRODUCER. They do not own the properties.
Has slightly less control over the shows it distributes and airs since they don't own them
Usually, but not always, an advertiser-supported model
Branding is important to distinguish each network
Owns and has control over some of the properties
Produces some programs
Sells their educational programing to broadcasting networks (CBS, ABC, NBC)

There was some information that I found particularly shocking: "The amount of money that public television receives per taxpayer is not much more than $1 per year!" That's it?! PBS seems like such a comforting space for children particularly because it is commercial-free. Disney promotes itself as commercial-free, but it is constantly selling the Disney name and airing licensing-driven programs which can then sustain the cost of the network.
These articles really made me think. I thought about how competitive the "community" or industry is right now. If it was this competitive in the '70s, would we have had as many episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to watch? Competition doesn't completely scare me, but it usually means there are politics associated to it in some regard. Politics scare me. I thought long and hard about what I would do if I was pitching a show. Would I find the network that best matched the goals of my program? Would I choose the network that best matched my personal values and goals? Would I choose the network that offered me the best deal? Would I choose the network that simply offered me ANY deal?! What would you do?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Making Make Believe & Technology

This week I've thought a lot about make believe. I read a very interesting chapter from the book The House of Make-Believe written by the Singers (who provided research for the Barney television show). It provided me with a lot of great information that will certainly be part of my literature review on interactive television including the importance of auditory clues for young television viewers. This will also come in handy as I prepare my production project.
As I read about make believe and how people are replicating the experience of make believe for children on television, I compared some of their findings with my experiences teaching kindergarten. In some regards, I feel as if I had my most successful week teaching this past week. I introduced the yoga curriculum on Wednesday. As I lead the children through a series of breathing and slow movement exercises, I tell them a story. The story is intended to focus them and help them visualize how some of the movements should look. For example, we rode a camel and straightened our back and rounded our back. This week, I also brainstormed a new dramatic play scenario with some of the children. We decided to play in a submarine and made our own submarine out of large wooden blocks. We had a secret latch, residential quarters, captain chairs for the people navigating, and water-proof walkie talkies so we can communicate while exploring the sea around us. I honestly had such a fun and fast choice time that day! I forgot how enjoyable it was to build a "fort" of sorts and make believe that you really are these characters. I felt so happy and proud that I could help facilitate that experience.
I thought back to when I began teaching this fall and how excited I was to incorporate technology into the classroom. However now, I wonder if it really has a place in the classroom. All of these children spend time at home on websites such as PBS Kids. They are learning how to navigate the Internet before they learn how to read. As an educator, I wonder if technology in the classroom hinders their ability and their time to make believe. Perhaps the classroom is a place for this generation to escape technology. Perhaps it is the place where we can preserve a child's play in its rarest forms. These are things I am continuing to think about.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Action, Reflection, Transformation

Today is my birthday. I started my day with a teeth cleaning, enjoyed a calm, long lunch, and caught up on children's television in hopes of hearing the Ting Tings sing the happy birthday song on "Yo Gabba Gabba!"
What I enjoy most about that show (and there are a lot of things I enjoy) is when DJ Lance lets the audience know that it's almost the end of their time together. He then goes over snippets of songs and stories that the TV audience enjoyed while watching that day's episode. The very first thing I learned at NYU while studying Educational Theater was Action, Reflection, Transformation or ART. When working with students or performing a theater piece, the department encouraged us to have the students partake in the action, facilitate a reflection of their work, and allow them to go forth as a changed person because of that experience. Heavy stuff! I not only appreciate that "Yo Gabba Gabba!" provides children with fun and informative songs and stories, I also respect their decision to reflect. This format reminds me of someone I know...St. Fred? Is that you smiling down at us from up above? Mister Rogers always put a "cap" on the end of his program to signify that he would be separating from the audience soon and he appreciated their time together. He sometimes reviewed some of the things they learned together or places they visited. It is a model we try to follow in classroom education as well. It gives the children time to think about how they can express their experiences with other people and sometimes provides them with the language to do so.
Since it is my birthday...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Television Made Me Do It

While looking for a new statement tee (read: procrastinating), I came across this one called Television Made Me Do It. When I first saw it, I laughed. I thought, "I'm not a wrestling fan...moving on..." WAIT! This tee says it all. Someone treating someone else horribly. Is the person at fault for doing those awful things to another human or is television at fault for teaching those awful things and making them so easily accessible to mass audiences? This question is like the nature vs. nurture debate. There are people who could argue either side, but it's probably a little bit of both. What do you think?

The Obesity Question

The question is: Is television responsible for childhood obesity? It would be silly to argue that the answer is undoubtedly "yes." Of course television can't be solely responsible for the obesity epidemic. There must be various factors that play into a child's diet. I spent a great deal of time researching the problem last semester. I found a social policy report that was particularly helpful throughout my investigation on the Society for Research in Child Development's website. The report is titled "The Epidemic of Childhood Obesity" and can be found at here. It cites environmental factors as a heavy influence including styles of family eating an activity, quality of school lunch and physical education, the design of the physical community environment, and the influences of media on foods and behaviors. AHA! With further research I learned that television not only consumed hours that could be spent on physical activity and play, it also bombarded the viewer with advertisements for high energy, sugar and fatty foods. Children, on average, view over 40,000 television commercials during their chidlhood (CF: Kunkel & Gantz, 1992). A study done by Grund, Krause, Siewers, Rieckert, and Muller in 2001 concluded that children who do not participate in regular physical activity and watch a lot of television are more likely to be obese. Aside from the creation of the Wii Fit video game program, there is arguably no technology or media that has been developed with the main intention of getting the viewer participant physically active.
Other cultures have decided to regulate food advertisements during children's program, but we rely on those funds in the U.S. to pay for our programming. To that end, if we cannot reduce the amount of advertisements for foods, we need to increase our physically active programming and find ways to get our young people active during their television viewing and media use.
In pursuit of further information about the television industry's connection to childhood obesity, I read a chapter from the book The Children's Television Community. This book has given me a much better understanding about the different responsibilities of those in the community and their thoughts about pressing issues in the business. I was excited to start the article "Super-Sized Kids: Obesity, Children, Moral Panic, and the Media" by Rebecca Herr Stephenson and Sarah Banet- Weiser. Unfortunately, the article focused more closely on alternative environmental factors rather than taking accountability for television's impact on the epidemic and posing possible solutions and states that "for companies producing media products for children, the extension of the network brand to the supermarket is an important form of promotion for shows and movies." I support their point of view that children should be taught to navigate media, however, that would require resources for education and parental assistance that are scarce and difficult have been traditionally difficult to acquire in our culture.
Michelle Obama recently launched the Let's Move program to promote 60 minutes of child physical activity a day and support a healthier diet. I leave you with a clip of Mrs. Obama on Sesame Street. I look forward to tracking her progress and strategies!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wartella et al.

It has been almost two full years since I committed myself to returning to school with the intention of learning more about child development and entering the field of children's television. As I began my quest for knowledge, I spent a significant amount of time learning what information was already out there and easy for me to access. I joined the Cynopsis: Kids! listserve which allowed me to become better acquainted with many of the production companies, licensing agreements, and ratings for children's media. I often logged onto the Kidscreen website which provided me with a great deal of information about the key creative players in the industry and currently hosts a wonderful blog written by the president of Little Airplane Productions, Josh Selig. I also spent a significant amount of time on Amazon searching for books about different children's television programs and research. One name that continuously came up in my search was Dr. Ellen Wartella. Dr. Wartella is currently a professor at UC Riverside and a leading researcher in children's media. One book seemed particularly interesting to me as an aspiring scholar. I purchased Children and Television: Fifty Years of Research which was edited by Dr. Wartella with Norma Peccora and John P. Murray.

I have selected several articles from this book for my independent study. They include: "The Changing Nature of Children's Television: Fifty Years of Research," "From Attention to Comprehension: How Children Watch and Learn From Television," and "Is Television Healthy? The Medical Perspective." "The Changing Nature of Children's Television" provides a comprehensive history of television created specifically for children and its corresponding research. This provided me with a great understanding of the roots of the industry and how that past has influenced modern programming. I previously did not understand the full impact of the 1980's on television programming. It was marked with the introduction of cable television into everyday life, Nickelodeon as the station for children, and programming as "a showcase for licensed products" (p 26).

The article that provided me with the greatest amount of information for this independent study on content development was the piece on how children watch and learn from television. I previously did not know that television viewing decreased when children went to school, although it seems quite logical. I was also very intrigued about "active" viewing and the idea that children make "moment-to-moment decisions about when to attend, when to look away, and when to monitor sound for an interesting moment" (p 48). It also emphasized the importance of formal features in a child's viewing experience. As I develop my program, I'd like to refer to this text as a guideline for creating formal features that will not only be interesting to a child but that will also inform the rest of the program.

Although the book was published only three years ago, I did find that there was little comparison of television viewing versus technology use. I believe this is due to the fact that technology, particularly in regards to child-specific media, has experienced a huge boom in the past three years. With the inception of the iPhone application, Video on Demand, and Hulu, television viewing "looks" different. I am interested in finding out more about this comparison and doubtful that research can keep pace with the evolution of the medium.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Not trying to cause a big sensation...

Hello! Thank you for reading my blog. This semester, I plan to use the internet to track and journal about my academic readings, research, and the creative process of developing a children's television series. TV is dead, you say? I beg to differ. Although television isn't being watched in the traditional sense, series are being watched on demand, on the internet, and on telephones.

I've spent a great deal of time thinking of a clever name for the blog. In the midst of a mini-road trip this weekend, I thought a great deal about Mac's branding. The iBook, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. It seems as if we are putting this "i" in front of everything representative of technological advances. That's when I started thinking about "iGeneration" as a phrase for the current generation of young children who know more about social networking than I do. With the lyrics to "My Generation" stuck in my head, I immediately turned on my computer and googled the word in hopes that it was unsearchable. Much to my dismay, someone had already thought of this as an alternative to Generation Z (What the heck does the Z stand for, anyway?). Wikipedia has this to say about the iGeneration:
On the average they are highly connected, many having had lifelong use of communications and media technologies such as the World Wide Web, instant messaging,text messaging, MP3 players, cellular phones and YouTube,[10][11] earning them the nickname "digital natives".[3] No longer limited to the home computer, the internet is now increasingly carried in their pockets on mobile internet devices such as mobile phones.

I am excited to begin my exploration of children's television content development and look forward to reading your comments, answering your questions, and pondering your ideas. I'd like to conclude my first post with a music video that I have been thinking a lot about recently. Some of my heroes include Fred Rogers, Joan Gantz Cooney, and Jim Henson. They were all visionaries who were unafraid of making change in children's media. Their ideas and creativity have had a profound influence on my work as an artist, teacher, and academic. I think regardless of our chosen path, the media we participate in as young people has an impact on our adult experience. Please check out this XYZ Affair video for their song "All My Friends." Can you ID all of the special guest stars?