The kids and I are watching Zula Patrol on PBS this week.
Okay, we watched it today. For, like, two hours. I was zonked from a particularly grueling session with the physical therapist and could hardly move. This is noteworthy, because I never let them watch tv for two hours total a day. Because I am insane and prefer to build marble castles over and over again, and wash play-doh and markers off my kitchen table. Daily.
But, ahem, back to the show.
Zula Patrol is a preschool show that is actually a lot of fun, and educational to boot. As a scientist starting to do NASA E/PO (Education and Public Outreach), I was captivated by the approach. The show is fun and fast-paced and bubbles back and forth between the main aliens in Zula Patrol (a family unit of two parental types, a child type, and a dog type — all aliens, of course) and personified planets that “do the hula” in their orbits around the sun. We watched a series of episodes about the Earth’s moon and the moons of other planets (the episode on Io was particularly good, with details beyond the volcanic eruptions, including “her” gorgeous colors), and after each one, the kids asked, “More, please? Pretty please?”
The show is overall great, with lots of facts packed in pretty unobtrusively. Kids who are into space will love the talking planets and problem solving approach. Each 15 minute episode concludes with “the science part” as my son calls it, a short narration and video-within-a-video of the science behind the story. The science is real, true, and doesn’t shy away from controversy. I was pleased to hear “scientists used to think” in reference to Jupiter’s origins, the “big whack” theory of the creation of the moon (predominantly, although not exclusively accepted), and a pretty cool description of the solar nebula, all in the first episode we watched.
The pace is a little fast for the youngest preschoolers, but four to six year olds will be captivated. (UNC-TV says it’s aimed at K-2. I don’t have an eight year old, but it might be too cartoony for them. Then again, I was thinking during one episode how bits of it might be good stress relief and intro for middle school classes. You know, like they do with Bill Nye the Science Guy. (Of course, we never watched Bill Nye when I was growing up in the South. But my high school physics class did start occasionally with a tv short from “Dr. Julius Sumner Miller,” a physicist who liked to play with toys. I don’t know anything more about him, but he cracked us up. Oh, drat, I am WAY off topic now.))
Have you ever seen it? What do you think?
P.S. Leave a comment here or on Review Planet to be entered to win a set of two Zula Patrol DVDs, with a total of 11 episodes! Winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, September 9. PBS Kids sent me a set of two DVDs to review, and they’ll send you another set if you’re the winning comment!
P.P.S. I found an archive of the old physics professor on an Australian tv channel site. He’s Dr. Julius Sumner Miller. And physics is his business. (I know, two of you are laughing uproariously. The rest are confused. But it was worth it for the two.)
P.P.P.S. I have no idea why I posted this on this site instead of Review Planet. Maybe I just want to share Dr. Julius Sumner Miller with the world. His obvious joy — and obvious awkwardness — just makes me smile.