Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best Educational Shows for Kids

I think the title is pretty self explanatory. This list focuses on kid shows from the 80's and 90's that gave us a proper television education growing up.

5. Beakman's World (1992-1997)

What do you get when you combine a mad scientist, his energetic lab assistant, and a strange man in a filthy rat suit? Saturday morning gold, is what. The whole show was about these three weirdos hanging out in laboratory answering viewer's questions with zany experiments and demonstrations. While the questions they tackled covered a wide range of topics, I remember a lot were about gross biological questions (eg. Why do we have snot?).

For all the slime and farts there was a lot you could learn and it was really funny and entertaining. For kids it was a winning combination of craziness, humour, and facts. The only question they never answered was if Lester was supposed to be an overgrown lab rat, or just some creepy hobo in a costume.

4. OWL/TV (1985-1994)

Of course we need to get our Canadian content in here. I have to be honest, there was something about this show that was kind of strange. I don't know if it was the animated owl wearing sneakers, the shrinking children, the talking skeleton, or just the ugly 80's hair and clothes, but I just have weird memories of the show.

Anyway, much of the show focussed on kids learning about animals, human biology and nature (a Canadian show about Nature!? Surprise!) and participating in environmental projects. It was fun, engaging, and eye-opening. Plus as a bonus, it has a pretty catchy theme song.

3. Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993-1998)
If you couldn't guess, this is a science show.
It shared similarities with "Beakman's World", but it was on the slightly more mature side (meaning less rats and boogers). Each episode of the show was great at teaching a specific topic in an understandable and interesting way, using segments with elaborate props, experiments, parodies of famous songs, and more.

It used the fun Disney approach, but it never treated the viewer like an idiot. Bill Nye tells it like it is, in his own fast-paced and funny way. It's obvious the guy cares about science and spreading an appreciation for the subject. The show is smart enough to be used in classroom learning, and fun enough that you'd watch it at home too.

2. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (1991-1995)

A game show about geography might seem like a boring concept, but this was anything but boring. You got your contestants playing as detectives trying to catch an ambitious thief, tracking her and her goons around the globe and hunting for clues along the way. I really wanted to be on this show. Too many times I found myself yelling at the screen because some kid running around a giant map couldn't find Norway.

The show had interesting characters and, as Cole has pointed out, a wicked theme song. By having the players facing a common enemy it made a competitive game show more like a battle of good vs. evil. You were learning AND fighting injustice. I mean, that bitch stole the beans from Lima, people.

1. Sesame Street (1969- Present)

Is there really any need for me to explain why this is number one? Look at how long it's been on the air for crying out loud. The show, the characters, and lessons are hardwired into every child's brain. Sesame Street is the quintessential educational kid show; it lays the groundwork for early childhood learning.

But of course, Sesame Street is for every age group, because it presents basic concepts in clever and creative ways: skits, musical parodies, animated segments, celebrity appearances, and a main storyline.

Yes, this show introduced us to the upsetting and annoying, Elmo, but we can forgive that since every other character is awesome and memorable: Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Grover, Bert and Ernie, Kermit, to name a few. On Sesame Street kids saw that a large bird, a hairy mammoth, a trash monster, and humans could all get along and work together.

Not only did these colourful characters teach us how to count, spell, and sing, but they taught us important life lessons. To be independent, to solve problems, to treat everyone equally and fairly, to share, to cooperate, to care for each other and the earth. Because of this show millions of kids had a foundation of information to become smarter, better people, and that makes it the greatest educational show for kids ever.


Cole D'Arc said...

and Shane is back! excellent list, i really enjoyed this one. personally i would have had Owl TV higher as it was one of my favourite shows ever growing up (glad you mentioned its song) and i was a devout reader of Owl Magazine (and Chickadee).

also because i never actually watched Beakman's World. i remember trying a few times but i could never get into it.

love the rest of the choices and of course Sesame Street is the champion (even if it has gone downhill in the past ten years or so).

a show i might have brought up is Take Off (or maybe it was Takeoff) - a show i watched in the mid nineties on Family Channel. it was really cool and interesting but i haven't been able to find ANY info on it online to even prove it existed. i think it might have been Canadian...

Shane said...

That's right. It's my triumphant return! And you can expect more listing goodness in the near future.

Glad you liked the list. I knew you would approve of many of my choices. I also remember Take Off vaguely. I can back up your claim that it existed, but I don't have much to say beyond that. :S

Ryan said...

Excellent list, sir! I think it's funny that it shares the page with my Friday the 13th list for some unwholesome reason.

Of these I only watched Sesame and Owl TV. Maybe some Bill Nye, but they are all great choices.

Glad to have you back in the saddle!

Ryan said...

Just realized I forgot Carmen!