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For those of you introducing young children to science, have you caught an episode of "Peep and the Big Wide World" yet? Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the premise of this television show is that three animated bird friends ask questions and explore the world as budding scientists. After the humorous cartoon segment, there is live-action video of preschoolers performing age-appropriate science activities.

I have to admit I wasn't that impressed the first time I saw this show. The simple round figures seemed a bit ridiculous. But it has really grown on me after watching a few episodes, and my tween son is definitely hooked. The characters are surprising complex for being circles with stick legs. From what I’ve seen, the television show seems to attract viewers on both sides of its target audience, both younger and older.

I am not a big fan of young children spending a large part of their day sitting around and watching television. There are times, however, when a little educational television comes in handy, like when your child is under the weather, or when you can’t get outside. You may want to use it as a jumping off point to inspire new discoveries, or kick start explorations.

The creators of this series have a great attitude about how to introduce kids to science. When asked, "What is the best way to introduce science to young children?" Peep Science Adviser, Karen Worth, responded "For young children, science is about active, focused exploration of objects, materials, and events around them. We introduce them to science by offering an environment where there are interesting materials to explore.” Read more here at the "About Peep" section of the “Peep in the Big Wide World” website.

Even if you aren’t interested in the television program, you might find the “recommended books” section useful. For each episode, they have picked two wonderful science-related books for further exploration of that topic. You may also follow the resources link from the website.

If you want to take a look at an example cartoon episode, here is a clip from YouTube.

Overall, I would say that "Peep in the Big Wide World" is one of those rare television shows for children that is able to teach science in a humorous and entertaining way.

More Resources:

"Peep in the Big Wide World" is available on DVD.

You might want to pick up some of the books for preschoolers based on the series. These books are not word-for-word rehashes to the television programs, but stand on their own. Two-year-old children seem to find them particularly fascinating.

PEEP Who’s Hiding? By Laura Gates Galvin.

Quack’s Masterpiece by Laura Gates Galvin.

Discovery Travel Pack by Laura Gates Galvin.

What’s That Sound? By Laura Gates Galvin.

A Very Good Smell By Laura Gates Galvin.

Animals and Nature Activity Book By Laura Gates Galvin.

Chirp’s Colors By Laura Gates Galvin. This one comes with a magnetic Chirp character to move around.

Please let me know if you find this information useful.

Have any of you caught the Master Blasters show on the Science Channel yet? The premise of this wacky reality show is that the Master Blasters team takes on a visiting team in a challenge to construct some sort of rocket-based machine and then blast it off. Dan Stroud and Terry Stroud (father and son) form the core of the Master Blasters team. The rest of the members vary from show to show.

Alert! If you are offended by salty language, give this show a miss.

In the first show I caught, the challenge was to blast up a rocket, have it land safely, deploy a robot vehicle, return the vehicle to the rocket and take off again. In the short time allowed, the teams were not able to design and build something that really worked. One did crash in a spectacular way, however.

Most of the blogs I checked pretty much panned the show. I have to say that I did enjoy the reality show flavor and the fact that it showcased people having fun with science. Although the science definitely took a back seat to entertainment in many cases, I can see some young viewers developing an interest in rockets and rocketry by watching. It looked the teams were having a blast (pun intended).

This show comes with a bold "Do not try this at home" message. The dangers of working with rockets are readily apparent as team members duck flying debris and the fire crews race to put out fires. These are real problems encountered when working with rockets. I know someone who started a vacant lot on fire with a small rocket when he was a kid. His parents had to call the fire department to come put it out. Under different conditions, he could have caused a lot of damage. Hopefully, the message will get through to potential rocketeers.

If you are looking for other inspiring tales of rockets, try the 1999 movie October Sky. This movie is rated PG and also has mild profanities and scenes of rockets blowing up. One the plus side, it does show how a childhood interest can literally lead someone to become a rocket scientist.