In the previous blog post, we shared 5 timeless educational tv shows that encourage learning and curiosity. In this post, we’ll be sharing five more. These shows we’ll talk about here are about science and reading.
6. Planet Earth
This BBC documentary series hosted by David Attenborough was originally released in 2006 as a sequel to The Blue Planet, released in 2001. It was an ambitious and expensive project, taking 5 years to produce. The production quality is very Hollywood, high quality.
In fact, it was the most expensive nature documentary series the BBC produced, but it paid off, receiving 4 Emmy awards, a Peabody Award, and a Royal Television Society Award. It was such a success, that sequels were made: Planet Earth: The Future, Saving Planet Earth, Planet Earth Live, and Planet Earth II. This is a convenient series to watch, as you can find some of the episodes on Netflix.
Each episode typically focuses on a specific biome or habitat: the desert, arctic, tundra, savannah, rainforest, temperate forests, mountains, the ocean, etc.
Below is a clip from Planet Earth II of snakes chasing an iguana:
The original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, with Carl Sagan, was released in 1980. It was PBS’s most watched series worldwide and won two Emmys and a Peabody Award. It is a 13 episode series all about the history of our universe from the origin of life to how stars and galaxies formed, . The series got people to think about the universe differently and introduced us to perspectives like the Cosmic Calendar being condensed into a year. What made the series special was that it introduced and explained an intimidating subject, space, in a simple way for the general public to understand. It opened the door for more science TV shows and showed that it can be a success.
Here is a clip from the original version by Carl Sagan:
While the production quality is not on par with what we’d expect today (they were amazing for the time though), it’s still a fascinating watch that gets one to think. The series is available to watch on Twitch (official). There have been many developments and new knowledge since when it comes to space exploration, but that doesn’t take away the educational value of the series.
Kids might better relate to the 2014 remake with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and the information is more up to date. Like the original, it is 13 episodes long and uses the same Ship of the Imagination (this time a rocket ship, not a dandelion) to explore space and time travel. Here’s a clip from the reboot:
This 90s children’s TV series re-tells stories from books that students read in primary and secondary school in a fresh way, relating the stories to real life situations one might find themselves in, giving the audience the gist of the story. Seeing the parallels can make these books more relatable and enjoyable, even if the stories take place in a different era.
The stories are re-told through the eyes of a Jack Russell Terrier named Wishbone and his owner, a middle schooler named Joe Talbot who lives in the fictional town of Oakdale, Texas. Wishbone is a smart dog who likes to imagine himself as different book characters and makes funny and witty comments throughout the show. In a typical episode, you see the show switching interchangeably from the story world to the real world.
What makes this series special is that it makes stories that one might consider boring or outdated more exciting and it stays true to the plot, not censoring unpleasant or sad parts of the stories. It’s great for getting the gist of these classics. Can be a great tie in for an English or maybe even history class.
Created by brothers Chris and Martin Kratt, this show features a talking lemur called Zoboomafoo, or Zoboo for short, who spends time in a place called Animal Junction. The show has a mix of live action, claymation, puppets, and animation.
Every episode of the show has a focus on particular animals. In a typical episode there are recurring segments like the mystery animal (and its accompanying song called “Who Could it Be?”), feeding Zoboo his favourite snacks and turning from real lemur to talking lemur, live action segments in the animals’ real habitats, flashbacks to Zoboomafoo’s stories in Zobooland, letters from the animal helpers that give advice on how children can help animals, slapstick comedy, animal facts, and animal related jokes.
You can easily find the episodes on YouTube. Below is an episode about penguins:
The show was short-lived, only originally released from 1999-2001, but if you want more Kratt Brothers stuff, check out their 2011 animated show, Wild Kratts, which is still on the air and being produced. You can find a couple seasons of the series on Netflix.
10. Reading Rainbow
This PBS show hosted by LeVar Burton aired from 1983-2006 encourages kids to have a love of reading and that books can take one to many different places. The show won so many accolades over its two decade plus run. Each episode focuses on a different book read by a celebrity narrator. Every episode begins with LeVar Burton introducing the theme and idea of the book and then goes into the main portion, telling the story in the featured book. There are also educational segments and interviews that tie into the story and share facts about the book’s subject. Kids also discuss related topics to the book. After LeVar Burton says “You don’t have to take my word for it,” it goes onto kids’ reviews of similar books that kids might enjoy if they liked the featured story, and that is the final segment of each episode.
Some celebrities who guested on the show include: James Earl Jones, Lou Rawls, Gilda Radner, Pete Seeger, Julia Child, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Helen Mirren, and Patrick Stewart. While the celebrity is telling the story, illustrations from the book or animations show up, immersing viewers into the story, making it come to life.
Even after Reading Rainbow was cancelled, the series’ legacy still lives on, with a paid subscription app, called LeVar Burton Kids Skybrary, available for Android, iOS, and Kindle Fire.
Below, is a clip from an episode of the show, where Pete Seeger reads Abiyoyo. A couple other clips can be found on the official Reading Rainbow YouTube channel.
So these are 5 more great kids TV shows that families can watch together or are great choices for a fun, relaxing day in class to rewards students for their hard work in class.