PBS has a new show, Sid the Science Kid, handled in large part by Jim Henson's daughter. This digital puppetry was given a fairly luke-warm review by the New York Times:
His show, done in that hyperactive style that adults have determined is what the very young prefer, seeks to put across the fundamentals of science.
How fundamental? The first episode is all about charts. Sid makes a chart to record how many chores he has done, since once he has done enough he will get a new Turbo Robot Megaship toy. In school he and his classmates make charts of which kid has brought what snack to school. What does this have to do with science? Well, um, scientists use charts a lot, and, uh, that’s pretty much it.
There’s no point in trying to analyze whether this show will accomplish its educational objective, because who knows, really, what speaks to small children? So the only thing to do with “Sid the Science Kid” is to ponder it as a sociological statement.
I think that's a bit harsh, though. I checked out the Sid website and, while playing hide and seek with Sid is basically useless unless a kid has never used a computer, the episode excerpts suggest that this show may be on to something. The chart episode that the Times describes, for example, gives kids an important, elementary lesson on collecting and organizing data. They actually use the word, "data"! How many middle and high school math/science teachers will spend time at the beginning of this year reteaching charting. Charts aren't just something that "scientists use a lot." Collecting and reporting data is fundamental to the scientific method.
Sure, the style of Sid is distinctly Kid 2.0. It's fast-paced and jumps around between activities and settings. This isn't bad, though. I need to beta test Sid on my 6-year old (and anyone out there with a pre-schooler, feedback would be much appreciated), but since he sat through the better part of an 8-hour road trip this weekend watching Schoolhouse Rock, I'm thinking this may be right up his alley.