Catchy tunes written to help kids remember geographic facts about their country are the backbone of a new TVOKids show called My Canada set to launch on TVO this Canada Day.
“The songs will stick in their heads and they’ll remember to sing them when they need to learn different things about Canada,” says Marney Malabar, executive in charge of the TVOKids afternoon block, The Space.
“Capital Cities,” “The North” and “What’s on a Penny?” are among the songs about Canada that TVOKids viewers could soon be bopping around the house singing.
Giving kids a leg up
While Ontario's elementary school curriculum doesn’t teach province names, the Great Lakes, or capital cities until Grade 4 and beyond, Malabar says there’s no harm in getting kids started early. “We saw this as a great opportunity for kids to ‘learn up’ and be ready for when they learn this in school.”
The series combines flash animation, original songs, and live action kids answering questions along with the animated characters, says Malabar.
There will be two different lengths of each episode, a short version for broadcast and a long web-exclusive version. TVOKids.com also has three mini-games ready for launch that focus on the provinces, the Great Lakes, and the nation’s capital cities. They'll be ready to play on July 1st.
Songs make learning fun
“This a really unique TVOKids project and one that I feel has a great impact and makes learning fun,” Malabar says.
Producer Matt Faulknor pulled the project together.
“I hope that kids are entertained while learning the curriculum-related goals of the show - that they not only learn how wonderfully fascinating Canada is but that they enjoy the show as well,” he says.
Expert helped guide show
Educational consultant Helen Vlachoyannacos helped producers choose show topics and verify content in each script.
“My hope is that students will have a better knowledge and understanding of the topics covered and delve deeper into thinking about the Canadian culture and their role and place within it,” says Vlachoyannacos, who is a Family of Schools Literacy Coach with the Toronto District School Board. “I think that the format is wonderful and kids will be able to apply what they are learning to the context shared and discussed. I hope that the shows enrich their learning and broaden their perspective on Canada.”
Geographically, learning about the provinces and territories and seeing footage of the different places, in addition to a map, will help them conceptualize the vastness of the country, she says.
“They will also learn about symbols and money, and about the First Nations Peoples and the North,” she says. “There will even be some content about Canada's role in the global context, and that will be important for students to think about, beyond our borders.”
Simple, informative episodes
Vlachyannacos says she’s impressed with the way the series has turned out.
“I really love the way the episodes are laid out, with the integration of animation, songs, video footage, and photos,” she says. “They are simple, yet very informative and not overwhelming. They are done in a fun way, to engage kids in learning more about Canada. A lot of the things we do with students around these units can be very rote and boring, but this brings the curriculum to life, and will help students learn more about our country.”
What’s on a quarter?
Meanwhile, Faulknor says even he learned a few things producing the show. “For example, I learned that it’s a caribou on the Canadian quarter not a moose. I always thought it was a moose.”
Ten episodes of My Canada will be broadcast on TVO and 10 extended episodes will be available at TVOKids.com .