As young people prepare for climate change, children’s TV goes green – CBC News | Directory Mayhem

When Ghanaian-Canadian animator Gyimah Gariba thinks back to his childhood, he thinks back to television animations from the 90’s Captain Planet and the Planeteersabout a ragtag team of superhero environmentalists its slogan “The power is yours!” attracted a new generation of children to take action for the earth.

“Even back then, as a kid, I understood that it’s totally natural to care about the place you live and the place that consistently nourishes you,” Gariba said.

Now Gariba is the creator and illustrator of an upcoming CBC Kids television series called Big blue, a quirky sci-fi animation that follows a crew of teenagers aboard a submarine exploring the natural wonders of the ocean. Their aquatic adventures teach them about teamwork, family and protecting planet earth.

Big blue is a case of green children’s programming, as broadcasters around the world seek content for children that will entertain and educate them – and their parents – about climate change. Fart jokes and climate awareness are also important parts of the package.

“I thought filling the room of hope would be a fun and interesting way to approach the climate talk,” Gariba said, as an antidote to what he calls “doom and gloom” reporting on the climate crisis.

Experts say the intent of this type of programming is to keep the content age-appropriate without leaving kids in the dark.

Children worried about the fate of the planet

A still from Big Blue, a new animated show from CBC Kids bringing climate change to a young audience. The series follows a young crew aboard a submarine as they explore the ocean and learn how to take care of each other and the planet. (CBC kids)

After the global climate conference COP26, where world leaders gathered to discuss rising emissions, environmental protection and a common approach to tackling climate change, it’s no wonder kids are feeling the heat.

A to learn A survey conducted by Cartoon Network last summer found that 91 percent of 4,000 children surveyed in Europe, the Middle East and Africa are concerned about climate change.

The six to 12 year old group expressed concern, fear and sadness as common emotional responses to the issue, with 83 percent saying they would like to do more to protect the planet and the environment.

With so much children’s media animated and this type of content spending years in production, it’s only now that we’re seeing the fruits of creators who took inspiration from the youth-led global climate protests of 2018 and 2019, said Colleen Russo Johnson, co-founder of Children’s Media Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto.

“I think that was really the moment a few years ago when people started realizing that this is an issue that’s bothering kids and it’s an issue that’s causing them a lot of stress,” said Russo Johnson.

CLOCK | Gyimah Gariba and Colleen Russo Johnson discuss kid-friendly climate content:

Animator, media expert discuss kid-friendly content on climate change

Broadcasters around the world are producing climate-conscious TV shows for young audiences. CBC News speaks to Gyimah Gariba, creator of the new CBC Kids series Big Blue, and Colleen Russo Johnson, a children’s media expert from Ryerson University.

Only five years ago, climate change was explicitly discussed largely ignored on children’s television, including series with environmental themes. Many shows approached the subject slowly, not wanting to overwhelm their young audience with details.

Russo Johnson said there are two common schools of thought when it comes to tackling climate change for younger viewers: Some believe avoiding the issue will spare children unnecessary anxiety. And others believe that the issue is inherently completely unavoidable.

“It’s a different time. You get these messages [about climate change]’ said Russo Johnson. “The question is, what do we do about it? And we don’t just want to give children doom and gloom.”

“We need solutions that empower children to be part of the solution and make them feel like they have a voice and find a way to make a difference.”

Broadcasters worldwide that broadcast child-friendly climate content

From South Africa to the UK, children’s TV shows grapple with the climate crisis, infusing serious issues with youthful energy, colorful landscapes and a sense of humour.

Isaura, an animated television series from Cape Town-based production company Lucan, tells the story of a young girl from a fishing village in Mozambique who can breathe underwater and fights to protect her beloved ocean from harm. in the Obkia show on UK broadcaster Sky, two lovable aliens travel to Earth and learn that small changes along the way can make a big difference.

A new octonauts Spin-off that brings its seamanship of animal researchers ashore is now streaming on Netflix and offers a stronger focus on climate change.

The Cartoon Network has launched a multilingual, cross-platform campaign to educate its young audience about the climate crisis. Another CBC show for kids and young teens, endlings, set 20 years in the future, follows a group of foster kids who are tasked with taking care of the last living elephant in the universe. A variety of other shows are at the horizon.

CLOCK | The trailer for the South African animated series Isaura:

Corresponding reporting from industry publication Kidscreen, channels from PBS to BBC to ABC Australia are actively pursuing content that addresses children-centric environmental concerns.

As Russo Johnson notes, content geared towards toddlers is different from that geared towards tweens. For the former population, the first step is to develop a fundamental appreciation for the environment and how the planet works. Using the planet as a point of common interest is an effective way to teach children the importance of unity, she said.

“If you teach them as they get older, up to school age, about the issues we face, they have a reason to care because of course they want to protect the planet they’ve grown to love.” [during] her preschool days.”

But the children’s media industry has a tricky task ahead of it: How can these programs convey the urgency of the climate crisis without sacrificing entertaining stories and sympathetic characters? Marie McCann, senior director of children’s content at CBC Kids, says “attentive, proactive storytelling” with an authentic voice is key.

“In a scripted series like Big blue, where we have two young heroes, they are basically on the hero’s journey. They’re hero-seekers, they don’t kill dragons or other humans,” McCann said. “They are there to save a planet and to take care of each other and other beings on the planet.”

Parents have a lot to learn too

Gariba notices this Big blue turns an ecological archetype on its head by turning Bacon Berry, the younger sister of the two main characters, into a proxy for Mother Nature. Instead of the character being a mother figure who takes care of everyone around her, the others have to take care of Bacon Berry.

It’s an analogy meant to teach children independence — and more directly, that they need to take a caring role when it comes to protecting the planet.

CLOCK | Colleen Russo Johnson discusses what children learn from TV:

What children learn from children’s television

Colleen Russo Johnson, co-author of a study examining children’s television in the US and Canada, explains how television can have a positive or negative impact on young viewers.

When it comes to creating climate-conscious content for kids, McCann said there’s no desire to “make dumb.” Instead, CBC Kids looks for shows that encourage their young audiences to use their own resources without relying on adults to solve the problem for them.

Because today’s adults didn’t grow up with an influx of eco-educational shows, they may not be as informed as they think they are, Russo Johnson said.

“We don’t mean to badmouth adults, but the truth is they could benefit from hearing how their children are being taught because these are complicated subjects. And when we break it down for kids, it naturally breaks it down for parents too.”

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