Just Wondering Why

By: John A. Lanier

As we watch more shows, I’ll be looking for the lessons that I can reinforce on our walks around the neighborhood. I’m confident that over time, my kids will develop a genuine curiosity about how nature works.

I’m starting to live my life in 25-minute increments. Whether I need to take a phone call, make the kids their lunches, or hammer out a couple paragraphs of this blog, I better finish what I’m trying to do in 25 minutes. If I don’t, then whatever kids show we have on the television will end and my productivity will grind to a screeching halt as my children once again demand my total attention.

I’m exaggerating somewhat, but not much. Chantel and I treasure the brief periods of peace and quiet that television shows offer us. We still make sure to limit screen time, knowing that too much can be bad for youth development, but a couple of shows a day absolutely help us juggle everything we need to. Fortunately, there are tons of good kids shows available these days.

Right now, Cecilia is loving Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, while J.R. tends toward the old school 80s era Kidsongs videos. Recently though, a colleague (thanks Alan!) shared that PBS was coming out with a new science and biomimicry themed show called Elinor Wonders Why. It launched about a month ago.

We’ve watched it a couple of times now, and while J.R. is still warming up to it, Cecilia is already a fan. Elinor is a white rabbit who is curious about everything. She and her friends Olive the Elephant and Ari the Bat discover all sorts of things while playing with their animal friends, and each episode has two mini-lessons centered on a scientific phenomenon.In the most recent episode we watched, “The Science of Staying Warm/The Seed of an Idea,” Elinor and her friends observed that some animals have fur while others only have skin. They realized that the animals with fur could play outside in the snow without getting cold, and the episode then described the basics of how a thick coat of fur is insulative and traps body heat. In the second half of the episode, they observed how some seeds can get stuck on clothing with their microscopic hooks, which is the biomimetic inspiration behind Velcro.

I’m not sure how much of the science my kids are absorbing at their ages. Probably not much if I had to guess, but it’s at least laying the groundwork. As we watch more shows, I’ll be looking for the lessons that I can reinforce on our walks around the neighborhood (and with the cooler temperatures coming, I can now talk about how our fleece jackets are like animal fur). I’m confident that over time, my kids will develop a genuine curiosity about how nature works.

If you’ve got young kids, definitely check out the show. The creators were also interviewed by Fast Company, so give this a read as well. But be sure to read fast – your 25-minutes will be up before you know it.

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