If you’re active on social media, you’ve probably seen this popular Fred Rogers quote. It pops up from time to time, especially in times of tragedy:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Fred Rogers didn’t quote the most popular character in the hottest preschool animated adventure to comfort children — or the adults that raise them. He quoted his mom. And it’s not a quip from a cartoon that gives us comfort as parents when we’re not quite sure what to say. It’s Mr. Rogers. A person many of us grew up with watching on PBS.
It’s that same human voice that Baltimore dad Danny LaBrecque hopes to bring back to children’s media through his Kickstarter campaign.
If you’ve been to Play Cafe on a Monday morning, you may have encountered “Mr. Danny.” The former preschool teacher and natural history museum educator is there to host Morning Mumbles with Mr. Danny, a popular preschool parent-and-me program that incorporates puppetry, creative play, and art. The puppets are made from simple, everyday materials and participating caregivers can easily recreate the puppets and stories at home.
He loves designing programming like this and interacting with small groups, but wants to be able to influence even more children and help support their social-emotional growth. How? By successfully integrating “old-school” education philosophy with new delivery modes.
Danny Joe’s Treehouse meet online interactive video.
Danny hopes to bring his stories to the small screen through an innovative and interactive web-based video series. (We’ll get to the interactive part in a second). Each week, he’ll climb “into his tree house” and introduce a topic inspired by a developmental milestone and/or current event for parents and children to view together. He’ll use the process of abstraction through play(think puppetry) to guide the family’s examination of the topic and then finish each session with an open ended art project. Like Mr. Rogers, Danny will passively interact with kids. Unlike Mr. Rogers, Danny will then interact in real-time with parents through Google Hangout after each show. A modern parent-teacher conference to discuss parenting topics related to the show. Pretty (cool), right?
Danny aims to building lasting relationships with the viewers by dropping the special affects and offering a consistent voice to both parents and kids. That’s why he takes a retro approach to the video itself involving minimal camera work and very little editing. Quite impressively, you’ll notice there is no splicing on his Kickstarter video. It’s just you (the audience), Danny, and a camera. The retro vibe is both a little bit ironic and a whole lotta refreshing.
“There was nothing to hide behind in these classics–what you saw was what you got,” said Danny, when talking about shows like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Ding Dong School and Bob Homme of The Friendly Giant. “These were real human beings. They were trusted friends. I’ve studied the visual and performing arts, and I spent a period of my life as a stage actor, but I won’t be acting on this program. Like the television educators that I consider to be my predecessors, I will offer you my true self on and off the screen.”
If funded, Danny will start working on a 22 webisode/Google Hangout series immediately. Production will begin this summer and the first episode will air in September. Episodes will air every other Saturday.
…. By the way, Danny is definitely one of the caring people Mr. Rogers talks about. Check out his video on how caregivers can use puppetry to support children’s emotional intelligence.