One of our new favorite shows is PBS’ The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview lead science advisor, celebrated science author, and television host Jay Ingram. Jay is the one who, as he puts it, “ensures that lemurs and toucans aren’t in the same jungle scenes,” and the one who tells the animators “that type of cactus wouldn’t grow in that desert!”
The delightful Cat who dons his signature red and white striped hat has the voice of Martin Short and has become a huge hit in its first week on the air, especially in our house.
I loved talking to Jay about the show and getting his perspective many opportunities for kids to think and act like scientists, and how The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That can help further scientific exploration in classroom settings.
But enough from me, here’s Jay!
I don’t know of any data that supports the idea of a connection between engagement early and careers in science. It’s true for me, but I think the more important thing is to establish in kids’ minds that science/nature are interesting, not a turn-off. That’s actually more crucial later than pre-school though.
What’s your formal role in the project?
My formal role is to be ‘science advisor’ which really means to try and keep the story lines as close to natural as possible: if these are tropical flowers, then a Canadian bee shouldn’t be visiting them, or, that whale doesn’t have teeth, it has baleen. And so on. Obviously you have to stretch things (the fish has eyebrows, the animals talk) but the more consistent with reality it is the better.
What can a television show like “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That” do for kids’ understanding of science principles that a typical classroom situation cannot?
I think the main advantage CITH has over the classroom is that it is story-telling, and it is fun and fantastical. There’s absolutely no drudgery about it, and while I’m sure there are many classrooms that can claim the same thing, there are many that can’t. Kids already identify with the cat – that helps too. So there are none of the usual barriers. Whether it promotes scientific literacy is another thing.
Any topic that features interesting animals is the best kind of topic for CITH. I’m fond of those that stretch that a little, so that instead of birds and butterflies we have possums, and microscopic single-celled creatures – that’s a neat way of stretching kids’ concepts.
The show emphasizes that kids don’t have to go much further than their backyard to understand some basic but important science ideas. Do you think that’s true?
Backyard nature is full of riches. The issue is that most don’t think about small-scale nature – most people are, if anything, birdwatchers, not insect watchers – so much of it goes unnoticed.
Last year you were honored for making science accessible to the public and for leading future generations of science journalists. Has this always been an area of interest to you?
I’ve always felt that the most interesting kinds of science are overlooked by most people, and it’s not that they are scientifically illiterate, but that we’ve always been short of good story-telling when it comes to science. So that’s what I’ve focused on, and that’s also why I’m interested in recruiting more good story-tellers to science. It’s not even that we need to know these things because we’ll be better informed voters and all that stuff, but that nature (and science as a way of investigating it) should be a part of everyone’s cultural life, just as movies, novels, ballet, opera etc. are.
Jay Ingram is a Canadian science journalist, author and broadcaster. He has been host of the television show Daily Planet (originally titled @discovery.ca), which airs on Discovery Channel Canada, since the channel’s inception in 1995, and is the former host of the CBC Radio show “Quirks and Quarks.”
For more Cat in the Hat fun, visit Seussville, the official Random House site of The Cat in the Hat and PBSKids.org where there’s even more Cat fun to be had! Another great resource is PBS Parents’ downloadable Explorer’s Guide with “tips and strategies to help you support your child’s science learning and inquiry during everyday explorations and activities in and around your home.” Check local listings for times of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!
Come back tomorrow when I’m giving away a fabulous Cat in the Hat prize pack courtesy of Random House!
No compensation was received for this post however, I am receiving the Cat in the Hat prize pack that will be featured in tomorrow’s giveaway. I am a consultant for PBS Teachers but this blog post falls outside my realm of responsibilities. Images courtesy of PBS.
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Original post by Tech Savvy Mama