Learning is more fun when it’s relatable.
I don’t know how many times my mom complained about her students knowing song lyrics but not class material. What could I say? Memorizing “Get Busy” by Sean Paul was much more fun than trying to remember the Pythagorean Theorem. But, I’ll admit I did have a lot of learning tools that helped me through school. This is because it was presented in a more fun way, which let me engage with the material a lot easier. I had CDs that played multiplication songs. Nickelodeon even had a president song and a song about democracy back during the second Bush administration (look it up, it’s great).
I discovered that I didn’t hate learning; I liked to learn when it wasn’t strict and structured.
It wasn’t until I started spending more time at my best friend’s house that I discovered there were even educational TV shows. She didn’t have cable, so much of what she watched including Math and Science and Geography and History. It sounds boring, but these shows covered material in such engaging and storytelling and, more importantly, passive ways. After middle school I stopped watching these shows, but I’ll always remember the theme songs and maybe one or two episodes of each. I can’t be the only one to remember these, so here’s a list of throwback educational programs that got me through the early years.
Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Not only was it a show, but it was also a game! Each episode consisted of three middle-school-aged contestants (10–14 years of age) competing against one another answering geography-related trivia questions to determine the location of one of Carmen Sandiego’s cronies.
The Magic School Bus
I’m of course talking about the 1994-1997 series and not the revival series with shiny animation. Aside from Ozzy and Drix, I knew a lot about the human body because of the episode when one of the student’s was sick. Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus follows Ms. Frizzle and her class as they set off on field trips. Ms. Frizzle’s bus Mmagically transforming into a plane, submarine, spaceship or surfboard, and carries Ms. Frizzle and her students on super adventures and teaches them about science.
I won’t say I fell in love with Math watching this show, but it was a cool way to think about it. The series focuses around three children from Earth: Jackie, Matt, and Inez. They were brought into Cyberspace, a digital universe, in order to protect the world from the villain Hacker. The kids are brought into Cyberspace in an effort to protect the world from the Hacker and his clumsy assistants Buzz and Delete until a cure is found. They join forces with Digit, thus becoming the Cybersquad, and meet many supporting Cyber-citizens along the way.
Between the Lions
I know what a cliffhanger is solely because of the segment they had about Cliff Hanger hanging from a cliff. Lions and librarians Theo and Cleo, along with their young cubs Lionel and Leona, run a very unique library. Characters pop off the pages of the books and come to life; vowels sing and puppets dance. The young lions explore and learn all sorts of new things from all the books.
Low-key still traumatized by an episode about being tarred and feathered, so I just keep singing the theme song since Aaron Carter is in it. The series focuses on Benjamin Franklin and four fictional associates of his in their experiences during the American Revolution. Spanning 16 years from the Boston Tea Party in 1773 to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, viewers learn American history through the lens of the kids living through it.
Created almost entirely by children, Zoom was a daily interactive series that challenges 5-to-11-year-olds to “turn off the TV and do it!” Seven everyday kids play games, perform poetry, solve brainteasers, whip up recipes and have a good time as they bring to life contributions sent in by viewers. I’ll never tell my mom this was the reason I made random experiments in the kitchen.
Zoboomafoo, a playful little lemur, hangs around Animal Junction with Matt and Chris teaching kids how to respect and care for animals. The watering hole is an animal pit stop where a steady stream of animal visitors wander in from around the globe.
What were some of your favorite learning TV shows growing up?