Curriculum, Character, Comedy + Chocolate Chip Cookies!
(the secret ingredients for Splash and Bubbles!)
by Jill Shinderman
There are so many wonderful things about creating great kids content with The Jim Henson Company and PBS KIDS, but one of my most favorite, is the importance placed on building a series with a thoughtful and relevant curriculum - that totally resonates with kids and their grown-ups.
When we first got the green light for Splash and Bubbles, before any scripts were written, and before any characters or environment designs were finalized, we put together a dream team of the best, the brightest, and yes, even some of the funniest experts, that formed our Splash and Bubbles Ocean Advisory Board. This group of renowned marine biologists, early childhood development experts, and leading digital media innovators helped shape the characters, stories, and comedy for the series - from the bottom up. Some of the most wacky and hilarious characters and stories in the series were derived from actual fish facts and sea creature behavior that we learned about during our Curriculum and Creative Summit.
For example: Did you know that an octopus has one main brain but also tiny neuro-receptors in each tentacle that actually act like their own individual brains? Neither did we! Until, one of our advisors taught us a little bit about how an octopus moves and coordinates with all eight tentacles. These facts, and the behavior we learned about, helped us to create and develop our character Wave, and were used in the story “I’ve Got Rhythm.”
Another really funny moment happened when we learned about decorator crabs. One of our advisors shared with us a little bit about this crustacean that actually likes to adorn itself with sea-shells, algae, and other living sea animals to help camouflage and protect from predators. Our artists and character designers thought what a fantastic opportunity to create a character that was so sea-fashionable - so we created the character Myshell and her story “Crabulous!”
Our incredible team of ocean experts, educators, and kids media thought leaders informed the curriculum, characters and a lot of the “only in the ocean” comedy for the wondrous and diverse sea life that’s portrayed throughout the series. The time we got to spend with them and the conversations that we shared over breakfast, lunch, dinner and of course – freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (from the Backstage Kitchen), were absolutely magical! So, in honor of World Oceans Day, we’d like to give each one of them a whale-size Reeftown Rangers THANK YOU!
These are the amazing people who comprise our blue-ribbon Ocean Advisory Board and truly served as an anchor for this series. They were instrumental in helping us create a fascinating and tangible world that inspires children and their families to connect with and care about the ocean. They are truly, our Ocean Friends Forever!
Dr. Sylvia Earle a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence.
Dr. Nancy Knowlton the Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Senior scientist emeritus at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.
Dr. Dennis M. Bartels, an internationally known science education expert, Executive Director of the Exploratorium from 2006 -2016.
Dr. Heather Kirkorian an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin- Madison in the Human Development and Family Studies Department.
Kevin A Clark Ph.D. is a Professor in the Division of Learning Technologies, and Founding Director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University.
Brian DuVall is President and CEO of the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium (formerly the New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences).
Dr. Jennifer J. Long is Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Biology in the University of California, Irvine’s Ayala School of Biological Sciences. Program.
Moisés Román is Director of Curriculum for UCLA Early Care and Education, where he oversees implementation of the STEM-based curriculum, Preschool Pathways to Science, and conducts teacher training for all three programs at UCLA serving 340 children.
Eric Solomon is Director of Arctic Connections at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Jill Shinderman is an executive producer and writer for the PBS KIDS series "Splash and Bubbles". She is also the principal of Barclay Square Media, a creative development shop and producer of children’s media properties, and has worked on shows for The Walt Disney Company, Scholastic Inc, Nickelodeon, The Jim Henson Company, 9 Story Media, Portfolio Entertainment, Los Angeles Repertory Company, Academy for New Musical Theatre, and The Music Center Education Division. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, puppy…and whatever the cat drags in. Just kidding, the whole family is allergic to cats.