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Amy Mascott Reveals The Secret to Teach Mama

Amy Mascott is the creator of, a site that empowers parents to take a stronger role in supporting their children’s learning. 


A Conversation With Susan Meddaugh and Tolon Brown

By Carol Greenwald

Carol Greenwald, WGBH’s Senior Executive Producer for Children’s Programming, speaks with Martha Speaks author Susan Meddaugh Arthur producers Tolon Brown.


Introducing Loop Scoops!


Meet Annie Leonard, environmentalist, sustainability expert, and founder and writer of The Story of Stuff Project.  Annie is advising WGBH on a new project called Loop Scoops.

What are Loop Scoops?

LOOP SCOOPS are short, funny videos to get kids thinking about the stuff in their lives and what this stuff can do to the environment. Each SCOOP tells the story of something kids use or see everyday — a juice box, a magazine, an electronic gadget, a glass of juice, a pile of garbage. Our goal is to get kids thinking in new ways and asking new questions, like: What is this made of? Where did it come from? Who made it? What happens when I throw it away?

LOOP SCOOPS were inspired by the Story of Stuff, the award-winning video about the lifecycle of material goods, written and hosted by sustainability expert Annie Leonard ( We were SO inspired, in fact, that we invited Annie Leonard to be our Content Director and help us develop shorter videos specifically for kids, to get them thinking critically about their stuff.

How Annie thinks about stuff

Hi Annie, tell us a little about yourself and how you got interested in studying people and their ‘stuff.’
I am just obsessed with stuff— where did it come from, how did it get to me, and where does it go. It started when I was in college in New York City. I went to college on the Upper West Side, and when I would walk that 10 blocks up Broadway from my dormitory to my college every morning, there were shoulder-high piles of garbage on the sidewalk every morning. And I would come home in the afternoon, and they would be gone! And I would wonder, what is in that stuff? So then I took a field trip to the Fresh Kills Landfill, where New York City’s garbage went, and it was like a bolt of lightning hitting me. I stood there looking where as far as you could see in every direction were shoes and couches and refrigerators and pizza boxes, and I thought, “My God, we have a problem in this society, that we have made an entire economy that is converting natural resources into trash and so hidden.” So I thought, it’s so critical to share this information and get other people thinking about where their stuff comes from and where it’s going.

Why did you decide to do a children’s project with WGBH?
When WGBH’s Childrens Production Unit approached me and told me about this project, I was thrilled. I am just so excited about it. There is nothing that I can think of that is more important than encouraging young people to think critically, now, about all the stuff in their lives—where all this stuff comes from, where it goes, what’s the impact, not just overseas on producers that are making or disposing of this stuff, but on us. What is the impact of our obsession with stuff? Is it really serving either the planet or ourselves?

These are really important questions. We should be asking these as second nature just as we go through the day, before we think about buying or acquiring anything. If we can get people to start critically thinking about the stuff in their lives, we can really chart a different path towards more sustainability.

I definitely believe that younger kids can handle thinking about this, and not only “can handle” it, they want to—they’re curious, they want to know how the world works. I think it’s important that we don’t make them feel guilty. It’s not our children’s fault that their products contain neurotoxins and carcinogens. There’s a broader systemic problem here. And so if we can talk to kids about the problems with the way we’re currently making and using and throwing away stuff, without making them feel guilty, which is just what this WGBH project is going to do, then that will be a huge contribution to the discourse.

You’re a mother Annie. How does your daughter think about these issues?
Yes, I have a ten-year-old daughter. It’s a little different, probably good and bad, to grow up with a mom like me. But my daughter has traveled with me to a lot of factories and a lot of dumps, in Asia and Africa. She definitely has a heightened sense of where stuff comes from and where it goes. She still likes stuff, as much as the next person for sure, but the big difference I see is she really believes in sharing. She realizes that instead of each one of her friends having to get the same exact thing, they can each get a different one and then rotate them and share them, and that only reduces the amount of stuff you have to get, but it also builds community, because you got to talk to each other if you’re sharing.

What can parents do with their kids?
I think it’s important for parents and teachers to get kids thinking more critically in a couple of different ways. One is about the quality of the stuff that we’re consuming. Is it toxic? Is it loaded with pesticides? Where did it come from? Was it made with child labor? The quality, so we can get people to buy less toxic, organic, the safer, least exploitative products. But it’s also important to get kids thinking about the quantity. Even if we all bought green organic, we are still using too much stuff, so if we can get kids to critically develop that lens, about what is this material, is it something I want in my household, is it something that I want to hold in my hands, and …. Am I using too much? Do I really need this? Could I get this from the library instead? Could I borrow this from a friend?

There are a lot of things you can do in your own home to reduce your impact. Some are cheap and simple, like, I have a clothes line. I love my clothesline, I don’t have a dryer. I have an inside clothesline for the summer, I have an outside clothesline for the summer. The thing I love about it is not just the reduced electricity bills and environmental impact, but having a clothesline makes me stand still in my garden for just 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening, just breathing and putting up and taking down my clothes, and that is often my most reflective, cherished moment in the day. And that is cheap and easy, and anyone can do it.

Also, making intelligent choices about the products we buy has a lot of potential to reduce our impacts, and one of the biggest areas is packaging. Our products have too much packaging, and often too toxic packaging, if it has PVC plastic. So my daughter and I have really developed this critical thinking lens that before we buy anything, first we check to see if it has PVC. PVC is the single most toxic plastic out there. A lot of people are concerned about plastics, but not all plastics are created equally. The number one plastic we need to stop using is PVC. Luckily, it’s easy to identify because it often has a little 3 on the bottom of it inside the recycling logo, and it stinks, it smells like a shower curtain or a new car.

But the number one thing that I do to lower my impact is I live in community. I know my neighbors. We share things. If I need a down coat for my kid, or a bicycle, or a turkey roasting pan that I don’t have, anything I need I can borrow it from my neighbors. By living in community, we can turn to each other rather than the market to meet our needs, and that is definitely the single biggest thing I do to lower my impact.

We’re developing some materials for teachers to use these SCOOPS in their classrooms. What do you think the opportunities are for teachers and schools to help their kids think in new ways?
Schools, and elementary schools in particular, are critical partners in cultivating a new culture of sustainability, which we’re going to need for this planet to survive. There’s a bunch of ways that schools can get involved. They can get involved in their curriculum, by incorporating scientific information, sustainability information, into their classes. They can get involved in their values, in their organizational cultures. It’s really important for kids to sort of hear an echo chamber, that if they’re talking to their parents, or if they’re online on, or if they’re in school, everywhere they’re going, they’re hearing the same thing, that we can and we will and we must convert our society to be more sustainable.

Schools can also be involved in walking the talk and actually demonstrating a different way of living. In my daughter’s school, for example, they weigh the lunch after they’re done, and they chart it, and they see the waste going down-down-down, and they’re aiming for zero. Actually, they have a zero-lunch-waste policy at their school, so when you join the school you sign a policy that you will do your best to reduce waste. Every class has composting bins, has recycling bins. In the playground there’s a bench that actually opens up, and it’s a big worm bin, and so there are thousands of worms that are actually composting the food waste from lunch. And then there’s an entire second grade science curriculum that’s built around the composting of the waste, so not only are kids learning about biological systems, but then they’re going home and saying, “Mom, Dad, let’s compost!”

Learn More About Loop Scoops >

What matters to...


Ms. Wolsky is the Executive Producer of Design Squad, for which she oversees all aspects of the production, translating engineering content into entertaining media. She is also Senior Producer for PEEP and the Big Wide World, responsible for managing its production and overseeing the implementation of PEEP’s educationally rich science curriculum across multiplatforms. Prior to this, she worked on the development and production of many children’s series, including Long Ago & Far Away, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?, Arthur, and ZOOM.

What has inspired your career choice?
As far as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in children’s television. In college, I wrote my senior thesis on how Sesame Street came out of the political, intellectual, and social climate of the 1960’s. I was also fortunate to have two great internships at WGBH and Sesame Workshop (which at that time was the Children’s Television Workshop). I’m lucky in my career that I’ve been given the opportunity to translate academic subjects, including science and engineering, into a variety of entertaining television series. Every day I’m inspired by the impact these TV shows have on kids, parents, and educators.

What are mandatory characteristics of your program(s)?
The three Es: entertaining, educational, and enlightening.

What has been a standout achievement of yours?
The biggest achievement of my career was conceiving, getting funded, and then launching Design Squad. Equally gratifying was when the series won a George Foster Peabody Award, a rare achievement in the world of children’s television.

Any advice to today’s parents of young kids?
All television is educational, meaning kids learn both the good and the bad from television. It is our job as parents to choose wisely for them. This is not just in terms of TV shows based on a curriculum, but also in terms of choosing shows that are sophisticated in their language, visual style, and storytelling.

WGBH and Boston promote summer reading
BooksWGBH’s Kids Media Matters and the City of Boston are partnering this summer to promote reading to local children. WGBH President Jon Abbott, VP for Children’s Media and Educational Programming Brigid Sullivan, and special friend Arthur joined Mayor Tom Menino at the Tadpole Playground on Boston on July 15 to announce that WGBH will give 5,000 books to the City of Boston’s ReadBoston Storymobile Program. Among the books being donated are Arthur’s Reading Race by Marc Brown; Martha and Skits by Susan Meddaugh; and Curious George Finds a Friend, adapted by Steven Krensky.

Attendees show off their new books.
Mayor Thomas Menino, Arthur and WGBH President Jon Abbott hand out books to attending children.
Attendees enjoying some of the 5,000 books donated to the ReadBoston Storymobile program.

Mayor Tom Menino, VP for Children’s Media and Educational Programming Brigid Sullivan, and Arthur pose for a picture.
Summer Reading
A cool breeze, a comfy chair, the sun shining -- what else could you ask for? That's right, a book! WGBH presents its list of suggested reading titles for youngsters in preschool through elementary school. Encourage their reading development with a librarian-approved classic that your kids are guaranteed to enjoy. 

Browse our list of great summer titles

What matters to...


Kevin has been nominated for an Emmy and has renovated his own Victorian house, but his greatest challenge and accomplishment is being a father. In the new Kids Media Matters feature, Kevin talks about raising young children in a crowded media world.

What inspired your career choice to get into public television?
For me it was just good luck. I was working in finance at a bank when PBS came calling. As an avid fan of This Old House it was the first place my wife and I turned to when we started working on our own house. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was on two PBS television shows. You never know where life will take you.

How have you had the opportunity to get involved in kids media/projects in your current role?
We try to make at least one show a season dedicated to projects kids can build with their parents. As a father of three I know very well how much kids love building and how much they love working with their parents so the kids episode of Ask This Old House is always fun. I especially like when the kids get to come to our workshop and see that amazing space.

As a father, what do you look out for in entertainment for your child?
I look for something that is entertaining and educational. It has to be entertaining or the kids won’t watch it. It has to be educational or I won’t allow it. PBS is full of great shows, like Curious George, that I know my son loves and are safe for him to watch.

What was your favorite show as a kid?
There was a show called the Big Blue Marble, and it had stories from all over the world. I can remember watching it on Saturday mornings with my brothers and sister and being enthralled by all the stories from far away exotic places. It seems like the world is smaller these days but when I was a kid it seemed so huge.

Any advice to today’s parents of young kids?
Get involved. TV can be educational but it can’t replace a parent’s involvement. Even great TV tends to be passive and kids were meant to be active, physically and mentally. Get down on the floor and play with them, challenge them, love them unequivocally..

Read Kevin O'Connor's full bio >

When to give kids media-playing devices?

A unique new study on kids' and families' media consumption habits from New York-based researcher Ipsos has pinpointed the demographic sweet spot when parents begin to yield to their kids' desire for any number of media-playing devices.

Learn more >

Are your children safe online?

FacebookWorried whether your kids are being safe when they're on the internet? So, apparently, are Facebook and the PTA. The national education group and the social-media giant announced a long-term partnership Thursday aimed at teaching children, parents, and teachers about responsible Internet use. Find out more about the collaboration and comprehensive program being planned. Learn more >

What matters to...


beth kirschWhat has inspired your career choice?
I enjoy working with other creative people on projects that make a difference and that give me the opportunity to learn something new or expand my thinking. 

What are mandatory characteristics of your program?
They should have a clear educational goal and appeal to kids, parents, and teachers. They should be fun to produce and even more fun to watch.

What has been a standout achievement of yours?
Contributing to an Emmy award-winning TV series and related educational initiatives that have actually increased kids’ reading skills. As someone who loves to read, it’s very satisfying to create something that inspires young children to love reading too.

Any advice to today’s parents of young kids? 
Even when you’re rushing around, try to find opportunities to talk with your kids, sing with them, play silly rhyming games, and share a book or story. Every new word they learn helps them become better readers.

Read Beth Kirsch's full bio >

Design Squad cast member speaks at Smith College

lindsey nguyenSmith College senior and Design Squad season three alum Lindsey Nguyen was selected as the sole graduating senior to address students and alumnae at Smith's Ivy Day ceremony on May 15. A native of Brockton, Mass., Lindsey is graduating with a degree in engineering and ready to begin a position at Apple headquarters in California.

Lindsey cited her Design Squad experience as she spoke about the importance of teamwork and her role in encouraging future students to consider engineering. "I am grateful for the opportunity to define myself as an engineer, an athlete, a leader, and, most importantly, as a Smithie," she said.

Watch Lindsey's speech >

between the lions puppeteers
Pictured top to bottom: Jennifer Barnhart with Cleo, Peter Linz with Theo, Noel MacNeal with Lionel, and Pam Arciero with Leona

What matters to...


What has inspired your involvement in children’s media?   
Jennifer Barnhart: These days, kids are bombarded with so much information at such an early age. I feel it's important to provide parents with choices for quality programming that really help kids, either by teaching them how to read, how to sing a song, how to be creative problem solvers, how to understand and get along with someone who's different from you, or how to celebrate the qualities that make each of us wonderful and unique. 

I am so fortunate to work on shows like Between the Lions and Sesame Street, as they both have such strong curricula and are backed by evidence-based research and proven results... and they have characters that kids love and situations they can relate to.

Some of my favorite moments from the ten years I've worked on Between The Lions are from the educational outreach that we do, where we go into communities and schools and get to interact directly with kids and teachers and parents. When we shoot the series in a television, we feel like we're doing it in a bit of a vacuum — but when we're out in schools and libraries and children's hospitals, we get that immediate connection and remember why we do this in the first place.

What inspired you to become a puppeteer?
Peter Linz: It's all I ever wanted to be! Some of my earliest memories are of me entertaining my fellow preschoolers with this little squirrel puppet. I loved making the other kids laugh — something I discovered came naturally to me through puppetry. Also, growing up in the 70's, I was just the right age for the genesis of Sesame Street. After watching the premier episode of The Muppet Show, I knew beyond a doubt that I wanted to be a television puppeteer when I grew up. Of course, Jim Henson and Frank Oz were, and continue to be, hugely influential to me. I am awed by the genius and the deceptive "simplicity" of their work. 

Any advice to today’s parents of young kids?
Pam Arciero: I think you have to watch any media with them, at least at first. A lot of shows look great on paper, or in a preview, but you have to sit with them through one show to know what is going on. And it is great to talk with them about what you have just seen. If it’s not good for you, it’s not good for them. Both shows I work on, Between The Lions and Sesame Street, have always considered the adults in the audience, and have strived to make the shows appealing to both kids and grown ups. It makes it a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to work on.

Noel MacNeal: Not every single moment has to be steered to "learning." Kids learn so much just from playing. And sometimes, it can just be fun because it's fun.

As a parent, what do you look out for in entertainment for your child?
Noel MacNeal: It has to respect the fact that my child has a mind and an imagination that is open to new experiences and won't "dumb it down" for him to understand. Too many shows have the philosophy "kids won't get it" in their curriculum.

Peter Linz: First and foremost, I look out for something that doesn't require a screen. All three of my children have fantastic imaginations... My wife is an artist and keeps the playroom
well-stocked with art supplies; clay, beads, paper, paints, string, etc. We've always read to our kids and all three are now avid readers.

What was your favorite show as a kid and why?
Jennifer Barnhart: As a kid, I was all about The Muppet Show — I was a member of the Official Fan Club and everything! I was drawn to the family of the characters and their life in the theatre — not knowing that it would be a field in which I would ultimately find myself.

Peter Linz: I flippin' love the Muppets! Their irreverence and insanity was like oxygen to my brain. I loved the way they moved, how they were alive – even though they weren't. It's magical.

Pam Arciero: It would have to be a tie between Astroboy and Flipper. Flipper was the ultimate friend, and able to talk back, do tricks, and figure out mysteries. Astroboy was always saving people from bad guys and looking for his heart, which he had in spite of his mechanical background. Love is not limited to people. Inspiring.

Noel MacNeal: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was the earliest one with puppets I remember seeing and I loved that feeling that Mr. Rogers was talking just to me and not "at" me; that's the difference. I felt I was visiting him and his friends and loved that the story and topics lasted for a whole week.

When Families Grieve

Premieres Wednesday, April 14, at 8pm | WGBH 2

watch a preview of when families grieveThe death of a parent is one of the most difficult — and all too common — ordeals a child can face. But children are not the only ones who feel overwhelmed; grieving is a family event.

In When Families Grieve, Katie Couric offers a supportive shoulder and advice to Elmo, who lost his beloved Uncle Jack. The touching new special illustrates ways to help the whole family cope with the death of a loved one, and features real-life stories of growing families who've lost a parent.
Watch a preview >

What matters to...


ming tsaiWhat inspired your career choice to get into public broadcasting?
Public television at the time, and still to this day, is the only station that hosts and airs true cooking shows. I'm a chef at heart; it's about the food, ingredients, and techniques, and teaching people how to use them to create healthy, delicious food. 

How have you had the opportunity to get involved in kids media and projects in your current role?
I actually got to be an animated character for the first time when I appeared on Arthur. It was a show focused on allergies: Binky had a peanut allergy. I was on the show as a judge in a cooking contest. I also had the opportunity to appear on Zoom for an episode on allergies, and during the show we cooked lettuce cups with a bunch of kids.

As a father, what do you look out for in entertainment for your child?
My kids can watch any educational TV, public television, History channel, National Geographic channel, and sporting events. We do monitor their situation comedy. Only an hour a day, the same as my parents did for me.

What was your favorite show as a kid? 
Hogan's Heroes was the show I watched with my brother, we loved it. We somehow convinced my parents that it was historically significant and shouldn't count towards our one free hour of TV time — and it worked!

Any advice to today’s parents of young kids? 
Monitor what your kids watch. Make sure that they are selecting appropriate shows. There are many great educational shows out there for them to watch and learn from. Take time to watch a show as a family, Whether it's a comedy for you to laugh together or an educational show for you to learn together, it's time together.

Read Ming Tsai's full bio >

What are kids learning from Lady Gaga?

lady gagaBy now, you've likely seen or heard about pop superstar Lady GaGa's envelope-pushing antics. What do you think of her risqué videos and provocative lyrics? Is it high art — or highly inappropriate for kids?

Watch how kids of all ages have responded to Gaga's "Disco Stick," and find out what you should know about music and your kids.
Learn more >

What matters to...


carol greenwaldWhat has inspired your career choice?
I’ve always been interested in how we can use television to get kids to read. I love children’s books and was inspired by a study done at Action for Children’s Television in the 1970s (Peggy Charren, former WGBH trustee, was president of ACT) that showed that if kids saw books on television they were more likely to read them, even more likely to go to the library to get those books. That led us to create such series as Long Ago & Far Away in the 1980s, then Arthur, which went on the air in 1996, and since then, Time Warp Trio, Curious George, and Martha Speaks. And with these recent series, Curious George and Martha Speaks, we’ve also figured out how to layer in more substantive curriculum like science, math, and engineering (George) and vocabulary (Martha). 

What are mandatory characteristics of your programs?
I think it’s crucial that programs for kids have the same high production values and standards that our adult programs do. That means we have to pay attention to everything, from the music (we love to use real and varied musical styles such as Ziggy Marley’s reggae rendition of the Arthur theme song or the opera spoof on Martha Speaks), to the quality of the animation and design and especially the stories themselves. We work with the best writers in the business and they do a great job combining strong stories, interesting and relatable characters, and lots of jokes that appeal to parents and kids alike.

What has been a standout achievement of yours?
Though all of our shows are award-winning, the most meaningful stuff is when you can see that you’ve really had an impact on kids' lives. We were so thrilled to learn that a story on Arthur about our blind character Marina reading a Braille book helped make kids feel better about their own use of Braille. We’ve seen similar impacts when we did an outreach campaign around asthma using Buster Baxter, where research was done that showed that it helped kids do a better job managing their own asthma. And this fall, I was very thrilled to read in a blog about a mom who was amazed one day when she was on a hike with her three-year-old daughter who flung herself down and said “I’m so fatigued!” and it turned out she’d been watching Martha Speaks. Those are the moments you know you’ve done your job!

Any advice to today’s parents of young kids? 
There are so many things you have to juggle when kids are little, so I remember being very happy knowing that some of the simplest acts are the ones that can really support your child’s learning. Like reading to your kids every day. It’s so simple, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to help them gain early literacy skills. Another example is playing board games. That really helps them get the early math skills they need before entering school. And encouraging their curiosity and exploration; it’s really what childhood is all about and it’s also a way to help turn your child into a mini-scientist who just might grow up to love science!

Read Carol Greenwald's full bio >

Empowering Parents and Protecting Children

berkman center logoHarvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society has released the Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative's response to the FCC's Notice of Inquiry (09-94) on "Empowering Parents and Protecting Children in an Evolving Media Landscape." The response synthesizes current research and data on the media practices of youth, focusing on three main areas — 1) Risky Behaviors and Online Safety, 2) Privacy, Publicity, and Reputation, and 3) Information Dissemination, Youth-Created Content, and Quality of Information — to highlight issues of genuine concern and to discuss the positive and creative opportunities that electronic media provide for young people.
Read the full response >

How much media is too much for kids?

In a typical day, the average young person (age 8–18) spends 7 hours and 38 minutes either online, watching TV, or otherwise consuming media, according to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. PBS NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Vicky Rideout, a lead researcher in the study, about what these numbers say about young people, media use, and the impact of the Web on daily life.

What matters to...


between the lions producer judy stoiaWhat has inspired  your career choice?
Television is an ideal career for people interested in the marriage of creative expression and issues of social justice. Both as a journalist and producer of a children’s series, I have found enormous satisfaction in television and its ability to reach and influence a wide audience.

What are mandatory characteristics of your program(s)?
The children’s series I produce must be educational (following established practices for helping young children learn to read), entertaining, and of provable benefit to young children.

What has been a standout achievement of yours?
Over the years, we created a preschool literacy curriculum based on Between the Lions that has proved quite effective in high-poverty communities. Moreover, it’s useful and effective for children of any economic group.

Any advice to today’s parents of young kids? 
The most important things parents can do to help their children become lifelong readers is to talk to them (which builds vocabulary and awareness of the world around them) and read to them. It’s also fun!

Read Judith Stoia's full bio >

More Kids Media Matters >

You can make a difference

Every time children watch TV or surf the Web, they are learning something. But what are they learning? Grown-ups need to shepherd children through the maze of images that may shape their minds, for better or worse.

>> See how you can make a difference

kids media matters kitStart by signing up for the free kit: Kids, Media, and Values — A Wake-Up Call



Children and media

Discover how TV, movies, advertising, computers, and video games can shape your child's development and what you can do to create a media-literate household.

Boy watching TV

TV & movies

Girl at her computer


Boy with video game controller

Video games

Boy wondering about ads


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