#ThrowbackThursday: Remembering Our Favorite Educational Programs

August 29th, 2013 | by Michelle Manno
#ThrowbackThursday: Remembering Our Favorite Educational Programs
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The Magic School Bus

Everyone remembers the best days of school: you would walk in and see that big television being set up in front of the classroom. “Movie day!” While you and your classmates thought you were getting away with an hour or two of doing “nothing” and just watching tv, your teacher had ulterior motives. Watching classic programs such as Schoolhouse Rock or The Magic School Bus was, and still is, the perfect way to engage students while simultaneously teaching important pieces of the curriculum.

Using educational television programs as a means of student motivation is a tried-and-true teaching method, both when you were a student and now in your own classroom. Integrating these programs into your daily activities and/or curriculum allows students to be involved in their learning and draw meaningful connections to real life.

#throwback: Education Programs from the 1990s

The 1980s and 1990s gave birth to a variety of educational programs that continue to be useful in all subject areas. Although your students may view these TV shows as “old school,” here’s a list of past educational programs that you can integrate into your lesson plans:

  • The Magic School Bus (1994)
    The Magic School Bus was a children’s animated television series that aired in the mid-to-late 90s. Based on the popular book series of the same name, the show centered around Ms. Frizzle and her students as she took them on educational field trips that brought a new meaning to “hands on learning.” With the help of a magic school bus, Ms. Frizzle and student’s went on adventures such as learning about the digestive system by shrinking down and physically traveling through the human body. The Magic School Bus provided children with an accessible medium to learn about science “in a fun way.”

  • Bill Nye, the Science Guy (1993)
    Bill Nye, the Science Guy was a science-based educational program that aired in the late 90s. Hosted by educator/comedian/scientist William Nye, Bill Nye, the Science Guy taught science topics to a preteen audience through a mixture of science and humor. The program covered topics such as static electricity, space exploration, phases of matter, and the human body.

  • Schoolhouse Rock! (1973)
    Schoolhouse Rock! was an animated educational television program beginning in the 1970s. The program covered topics such as history, civics, economics, and grammar through the use of songs and musical numbers. Famous songs include “Conjunction Junction”, which taught students about the importance of grammar and parts of speech, and “I’m Just a Bill”, which provided children (and adults!) with an explanation of the structure of the U.S. Government.

What’s on TV Now?

While “the classics” are undeniably an important part of educational tv programming, it is important to take notice of contemporary shows that teachers (and parents!) can use to supplement students’ learning. In a time where television and other digital media is considered crucial to our culture, integrating contemporary television programming into your curriculum captivates students attention. Increasing your students’ motivation for learning impacts their overall success in the classroom — and hey, you get to watch TV.

  • Doc McStuffins
    Doc McStuffins is an animated children’s television show that currently airs on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. The series focuses on 6 year old Dottie McStuffins who aspires to be a doctor just like her mother. Doc pretends to be a doctor by fixing her dolls, toys, and stuffed animals. The series helps acclimate preschool-aged children with doctor check ups, and also advises viewers on how to stay healthy.

  • Dora the Explorer
    Dora the Explorer is an educational cartoon that airs on Nick Jr. The show focuses on Dora, a young hispanic girl, and her daily adventures. Through the use of both Spanish and English, Dora elicits help from her audience to complete tasks, overcome obstacles, and solve puzzles. The main purpose of the show is to teach Spanish to English-speaking children.

  • Mythbusters
    MythBusters is an educational science TV program that currently airs on the Discovery Channel. The show’s hosts test the validity of myths, plausible movie scenes, and news stories through the use of the scientific method.

Using Television as a Teaching Tool

Being that television has become such an important piece of our daily lives, using it in the classroom is a smooth and necessary transition. The use of educational programming not only acts as a motivational tool, but it also reaches those students who learn in different ways. As a teacher, it is important to cater to the variety of learning styles within your classroom; Using television shows in the classroom has proven effective for ESL students, students with learning disabilities, and those who are visual learners. Resources such as Busy Teacher provides teachers with resources in how to use television with ESL students.

Educational programming, both past and present, has undeniable value in supplementing students academic, social, and emotional skill sets. These programs are a great resource in fostering academic readiness, yet they also take their time to subtly teach students important core values, self-help skills, and social/emotional intelligence, providing children with positive role models and allowing them to learn through alternative methods. Making sure your students have fun while learning will provide meaningful end results for both them and yourself.

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