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Science the name of the game for Big Bird's new show

This series is the first co-production to focus on science.
This series is the first co-production to focus on science.
Courtesy Sesame Workshop.

Big Bird's returning to China with Elmo, teaching nature and science to Chinese children with their best friend Lily, a tiger. The show Sesame Street’s Big Bird Looks at the World for 3 to 7-year-olds will encourage hands-on exploration as a great way to learn.

Essentially in the same territory as Sid the Science Kid holds in Canada and the US, the characters in the show will ask questions about something they notice in the world around them. “What are sea shells?” “Where does the sun go at night?”

Each episode features two live-action films bringing in real-world visuals and information. The first will suggest a related activity, and show other kids participating — describing, comparing, sorting, investigating, cooperating, and drawing conclusion — while the second brings more detail and insight to the topic. Often, one question will lead to a second, sparking continued learning.

There's 52 episodes filmed in Chinese Mandarin, each 11 minutes long. The series actually starts on December 22 on a channel called Haha TV, before going to the larger cable network Toonmax TV.

It'll be interesting to see if the format can be propagated around the world, just as Sesame Workshop's ESL program Sesame English was. So far, nature discovery program “Elmo's Backyard” has failed to air anywhere, to my knowledge. The short-form series was filmed and promoted to international networks about a year ago, apparently to no real luck.

The Sesame Street characters are familiar to the Chinese. Select kindergartens across Shanghai have Sesame Street reading corners, One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure premiered at the Beijing Planetarium in 2008, and the “Magic Map of Sesame Street” stage show at Expo 2010. This is the second major co-production in China, after 130-episode Zhima Jie, which launched in 1998.

Just yesterday, I reported that the three organizations were partnering on an emergency preparedness program in China, in light of the earthquake this year, and for flood-prone areas.

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