Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Environment 101 for Kids: Let Us Edutain You

For some reason I can't get the video file to embed. Click this link instead for a quickie on global warming.


A certain generation of terry cloth romper clad kids remembers Woodsy Owl teaching us to give a hoot, don't pollute. I recall those days of the crying Indian, Schoolhouse Rock, and McGruff peppering Saturday mornings. Public service announcements were great then, and I love watching them on Boomerang now. Hanker for a hunka cheese, anyone? Oh, and the joys of rushing home from school to catch some Deenie-esque character struggling for popularity while trying to become a member of the world class mathlete team on the ABC Afterschool Special!

The 70s were great.

I do, however, consider myself a child of the 80s. I guess you could say I came of age in the 80s, with a wild streak inspired by Cindy Lauper and Madonna a la Holiday. And I tell you what, this girl still wants to have fun! But I digress... I stopped watching cartoons in the 80s, focusing my time on valiant efforts such as reading War and Peace. Yeah right. I was busy reading Seventeen magazine, stealing glimpses of Cosmo when I got the chance. No crying Indians or mention of pollution in those rags. Woodsy Owl had flown the coop years before. I have no idea what happened to the keen eye on the environment and our planet's future.

In those early years society had a steely eye on the future, encouraging kids to take care of the planet. That mentality was quickly replaced with the obscene consumerism of the 80s. Some might argue we are still paying for that and have yet to learn our lesson. Yes, I'm talking to you, you money grubbers tearing down houses in my historic neighborhood of 1920s-era bungalows and putting up energy sucking behemoths in their place! Am I digressing again?

So here's my question? What happened? Where did the ad dollars go for all those nifty PSAs? Why has no one done a damn thing to educate kids (and adults for that matter) about the environment? We proved 30 years ago that it is indeed possible to speak to the school age set about heavy topics without sounding preachy, scary, or righteous. We're talking about everyday, simple things that kids as young as 3 can start doing to become conscious and conscientious citizens. Shouldn't we be raising stewards of our planet?

Well, guess what? I've discovered a new children's cartoon series about this very topic, with a timely modern perspective. Welcome to Heartwood USA, where being green is a super power.
In case you missed the link above, you can see it here too. This is a kids' cartoon currently in production, and I think it really has potential.

Think about it, what earthy messages are your kids getting that don't come straight from you? Nothing my kids watch tells a story about being a responsible patron of the planet. Sure, on paper that doesn't sound very fun, but I assure you that an amoeba singing about cheese looked even worse on paper.

Being the marketing consultant and consumer researcher that I am (really, I am in my other life; people actually pay me to do this stuff in my consulting business!), I conducted my own kids and parents focus groups just for kicks. Everyone I talked to in my very statistically unsound research was delighted with the cartoon. Carson proves to be a real-life super hero, demonstrating to the Hannah Montana crowd that one person can truly make a difference. There's even potty humor to boot, which left Bird asking me what the word "fart" means. OK, so my knock against that word; just use a different term. Surely there's something in our vernacular between fart and flatulate that fits the bill. Cut the cheese, anyone?
Environment 101 for Kids: Let Us Edutain YouSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


shane keats said...

Hi Ilina, Thanks so much for the Heartwood USA review! FWIW, my mother hates the fart jokes, but my two daughters (6 and 9) are fans. How could I say no?

The next episode I'd like to do is called Astro-turf. Carson tries to get her school to have a green roof to reduce its HVAC costs. Shamus starts a kids' 527 group to spread the rumor that if Carson succeeds, all the kids will have to spend their weekends "mowing the roof".

I grew up on a steady diet of Gilligan's Island AND Mad Magazine (which was pretty radical in the 70s), so I know what you mean about kids media.

Here's hoping we get to make more Heartwood!

Dr. Pepper said...

FABULOUS post! I am a bit younger but still a product of the 70's, 80's and came of age in the 90's I guess. But I do recall the very things you were speaking of... some of them anyway.

In looking back I seem to have always been concerned about the environment but didn't always act on those concerns. But, it has been a part of me. Littering was the one big thing I spouted against (but still don't go around picking up trash like I should).

Anyway, I'm trying to teach my kids simple things like recycling and energy conservation. I am bad with water though. We aren't a fully green household because solar panels and such are a little out of our league. But we are trying the little things every day and doing what we can. I want my kids to learn this too and I think a new cartoon would be wonderful! I look forward to seeing it.

A Crafty Mom said...

OMG, I remember Schoolhouse Rock!! That takes me back, lol :-)! That's a great clip, I loved watching it, and I'd never heard of it. I hope it makes it to production, I'd love to see more.

For what it's worth, I purchased a Bob the Builder DVD for my boys (4 and 2) which has a real environmental focus . . . they are building a solar energy community, riding bikes instead of driving their cars, etc. It's neat and it got my kids asking a few pertinent questions . . . which is of course what we always want our children to do, right???