Teaching Environmental Concepts Via Interactive Stories
Stories aren’t just for bedtime and campfires — they can be the door to teaching and learning. It’s a concept that our team at Creative Change has embraced as a core teaching and learning tool, and one that is also at the heart of WGBH Boston’s kids’ series Plum Landing. The animated show and related multimedia follow a group of kids who explore ecosystems around the planet to solve mysteries for their animated alien friend, Plum. For each mission, the kids capture images and gather clues. The interactive stories serve as the basis for learning.
The program introduces core science concepts and innocuously encourages children ages 6-9 to explore the outside world the way scientists and naturalists do. The National Science Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and The Kendeda Fund provided major funding. Additional funding also came from the Northern Research Station, Forest Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It launched in 2014.
I have served as an ongoing educational advisor to WGBH. I provide guidance on educational content, learning activities, animated and live-action videos, and assessment — all with particular attention to inclusion and relevance for a diverse audience.
Open, Explore, Learn
So, why am I writing about this? I love this project! I wanted to share it because it’s a shining example of using stories to connect with students and one that we’re proud to be part of. It’s a fantastic way to reach a lot of children with exciting quality materials that get them tuned in to science in fun and creative ways.
The series uses storytelling to open viewers’ minds, and then encourages kids to get outside and explore their own environments. Even though the characters are animated, they are relatable. Watching the characters figure out challenges and thinking through what to do in that scenario helps kids understand the science and systems of the natural world — both in the show and in their own neighborhoods. The series is available to all online.
The series of animated webisodes is the main component of Plum Landing. But, it’s not just a watch-and-learn kind of resource; viewers can also become participants and join in the fun. The series uses online games, a mobile app, live-action videos featuring real kids, and hands-on challenges to get kids and families outside. Plum Landing also offers adults and teachers guided environmental science activities and curricula. New materials are continually added to the PBS Kids website, where you can find all of the Plum Landing materials. Exploring the web series and the interactive components is a great way for families to have fun and learn together.
I hope you love it as much as I enjoy working on it.
Do you have any examples of fantastic resources like Plum Landing that you can share? Please post in the comments below.