Teaching Kids the Power of Perspective (READY JET GO!)

One of my most thrilling moments as an Educational Consultant for kids TV happened yesterday. I watched an especially remarkable episode of READY JET GO!, a PBS science series I’ve worked on for a number of years.

ReadyJetGo-team

READY JET GO!’s educational mission is to build on children’s wonder and curiosity about astronomy and earth science via entertaining, funny stories that teach the basics about the planets, moons, stars, asteroids, comets and so on. The premise of the series is that an alien boy named Jet Propulsion has come to Earth from Bortron 7, a distant planet in the Milky Way, with his parents who are intergalactic travel writers. (It’s catchy opening theme song can be enjoyed here.)

The thing with animated programs is that they often take many months to produce, so an early draft of a script I would review takes a year to be presented on air. The episode that knocked my socks off yesterday is called “The Tiny Blue Dot.” This episode addresses the concept of “perspective.” Young children, as you know, can be very self-centered. It takes effort and maturity for kids to see beyond themselves, and have some compassion for the broader world. So, one of the learning goals of the series is to inspire children to think of Earth from a broader point of view, and to realize that our own Sun is actually a star—one of billions in the Milky Way galaxy (which is just one of more than a 100 billion galaxies in the universe)

While looking back at some old script notes I wrote, back in 2014, I found that I had suggested to the writers that we teach young children the word “perspective.” The episode I watched yesterday, entitled “The Tiny Blue Dot” (which is available via Amazon and YouTube for free for subscribers, or a small fee) was inspired by a photo taken in 1990 by NASA’s Voyager 1. As this famous space probe flew to the outer reaches of our solar system, it took a photo of Earth from that distant “perspective.” In it, Earth is just a tiny “pale blue dot” which Carl Sagan eloquently spoke about. He wistfully comments about this distant view of Earth: “On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”

Inspired by Sagan’s words, RJG series creator Craig Bartlett and composer Jim Lang wrote a beautiful, touching, song “Tiny Blue Dot,” sung by Jet’s parents and the other characters as they look at our planet, billions of miles away. HERE IT IS! Please enjoy and share it with the little “Earthies” that live in your home.

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Rave Review for CRAZY CONCOCTIONS

Happy Holidays! I was delighted to discover that a kids chemistry book I recently wrote, CRAZY CONCOCTIONS, was reviewed in Science magazine. Spread the word to any young mad scientists you know. But please don’t tell Dr. Fickleschmutz.

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Avoiding Parenting Mistakes…Ha!

Happy December! And Happy Chanukkah to those out there who celebrate this holiday!

As many of you know, since 2003, I’ve been writing a monthly parenting column for Sesame Workshop. The latest one was recently published and thought you’d enjoy it. The topic, about which I consider myself one of the foremost authorities, is PARENTING MISTAKES. Hope you find it entertaining and reassuring. I’d love to hear your reactions, especially any stories you care to share. (You can start your embarrassing story by saying, “A friend of mine …” and I promise to be totally fooled.)

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Ahhh!!! Invasion of the Bedbugs!

Are you a Micro Maniac? (definition: “someone inspired by my recent book MICRO MANIA to learn more about the many fascinating and gross creatures that share our planet). If so, you’ll be glad to hear that the “Dean of Children’s Science Writers” (New York Times) Seymour Simon just asked me to write a guest blog for his website. The topic? BEDBUGS! If you’re itchin’ to read it, here it is!

(And if THAT didn’t gross you out about bedbugs — then perhaps this short video by National Geographic will.)

And while you probably wish that all bedbugs were deadbugs — keep in mind that if ALL teeny-tiny creatures on Earth were to instantly vanish, our planet’s ecological health would probably go into a tail spin. Make no mistake: It’s a small world, after all.

Hope you all had a great Halloween. Curious to see my last-minute makeshift costume? I went as the would-be Batman villain BUG-FACE BROWN.

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Shaking Things Up in the New Year!

Happy New Year! Hope 2010 has been good to you so far. One of the first things I wrote this year was a parenting essay for Sesame Workshop’s web site. Enjoy! (Check out the new format – which features a photo of the writer and his/her child)
In this article, I share some of my resolutions as a parent for the coming year. One is to have a greater tolerance for my kids’ messes. Below is a picture of my daughter Olivia creating one of her fabulous concoctions, in which she raids our spice shelf. The one pictured here apparently features Old Bay mixed with…heaven knows what else. At least she realized it wasn’t wise to ask me to sample it…
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Holidays on a Budget

Happy holidays! Thought you’d enjoy my latest parenting column for Sesame Workshop’s website, starring my ebullient daughter Olivia, seen here in less snowy weather. The timely topic is Holidays on a Budget (PDF). Among other things, this article reminds moms and dads that the price of a present rarely has an impact on the child’s enjoyment. The cliche about the kid enjoying the box more than the gift inside is often true. Hope you and your family find plenty of low-cost, fun ways to spend time together. See you in 2010.

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Another Great Review for MICRO MANIA (by someone NOT related to me!)

I hope you (and the trillions of bacteria in your gut) all had a terrific Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to share some fantastic news about a review of my new kids science book MICRO MANIA, published by Imagine Publishing Inc. The following appeared last week on the “NSTA Recommends” Web site (those initials standing for National Science Teachers Association, not Never Skedaddle To Anchorage, as you might have guessed.)

Anyway, here’s the review…

Micro Mania

by Jordan D. Brown

Price at time of review: $19.95
80 pp.
Imagine Publishing, Inc.
Morganville, NJ
2009
ISBN: 9780982306420

Grade Level: 1-8

Reviewed by Daniel Kujawinski
adjunct professor

In his opening acknowledgements, author Jordan D. Brown thanks his editor “for always pushing me to make it ‘grosser.’“ He more than followed her advice. From explaining the nature of bacteria to the flatulence of whales, this extremely readable book will be appreciated by the typical middle school student as well as more mature readers.

Scientific vocabulary is used appropriately and in context. The roles of microbes in real-world environments such as kitchens, bathrooms, playgrounds, and pets are discussed, and practical applications are given. The photography is very good. Hands-on activities for extended, open-ended explorations are suggested with clear directions and safety considerations. I recommend this book for outside reading or as a reference text in a middle school library.

Depending on the student-teacher relationship, this book could also be used in a literacy program for reluctant readers. I would bet that after reading Micro Mania, colorful conversations over dinner, on trips, and at inopportune times would be generated with tidbits like “if a cockroach loses it head, it can survive for a week. Eventually it dies of thirst.”

Review posted on 11/24/2009

If you enjoyed the book, too, please feel free to post your review on Amazon’s web page.

In a couple weeks, I’m doing my first “Author Visit” for this book, at my children’s elementary school. I suspect I’ll be shaking a lot of hands… (to self) “Must not be a germaphobe… must not be a germaphobe…”

Have a great December!

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