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Zigby The Zebra

Educational Goals, Approach and Resources

Revised January 4, 2009

Jordan D. Brown, Educational Consultant

“It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.” — Alex Osborne

“Honor isn't about making the right choices. It's about dealing with the consequences.” — Midori Koto

“The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don't know what to do.” — John Holt

I. Introduction

Children love to imitate their favorite television characters. They copy the characters’ voices, quote their “catch phrases,” sing their songs, and much more. This imitation can happen at any time of day. At breakfast, a finicky 3-year-old who watches Sesame Street might try broccoli “because Elmo likes it.” On a family car ride, a 5-year-old who loves Little Einsteins might rhythmically pat-pat-pat his lap, proudly announcing the progression from “allegro” to “presto.” In her backyard, a curious preschooler might try a simple experiment she saw modeled on her favorite animated science series, Peep and the Big Wide World.

Knowing their children’s fondness for imitating what they see on TV, many parents carefully select what programs they allow in their home. They seek out high-quality, educational series that not only entertain but also enlighten—shows that present positive role models, and use the power of storytelling to convey worthwhile messages and ideas.

Enter…Zigby! Based on the popular book series by Brian Patterson, Zigby presents a curious, loyal zebra hero and his best pals, McMeer and Bertie. Through collaborative play, this appealing trio uses their imaginations and creative problem-solving skills to turn every day into an exciting adventure. Zigby is a good friend to all, and always goes out of his way to maximize pleasure for everyone on the island.

Sure, Zigby regularly “trots into trouble.” But he never blames others, nor is he fazed by these sticky situations. With a strong sense of responsibility, and an irrepressible eagerness to help his friends, Zigby uses his ingenuity to trot out of trouble again. He always fixes any problems he accidentally causes, and restores order by admitting his mistakes, and thinking in a fresh, out-ofthe- box way. Despite being a zebra, Zigby doesn’t see problems in black and white. He knows that there are many ways to look at a problem. Sometimes we need to consider a problem from a different perspective, or ask “What if…?” in order to reach a creative solution.

As young viewers laugh at Zigby’s silly situations and slapstick humour, they will see how Zigby and his friends accept responsibility for their actions, persist in the face of failure, and have a great time figuring out creative ways to save the day.

II. Zigby ’s Target Audience

Zigby was created for 4-6 year old children, with a special emphasis on 4-year-olds. Children in this age range are creative and enthusiastic problem solvers. Sometimes the problems they grapple with involve social skills, such as: “How can I get my big brother to leave my toys alone?” Other times, the problems can be downright silly, such as: “What would happen if I tried walking backwards all morning?”

Preschoolers love to play pretend games, as well as imagining themselves in grown-up roles. For this reason, many Zigby stories are based on the idea of Zigby and his friends taking on interesting new roles, such as dinosaur-relic hunters or members of a musical band. Whatever the premise, Zigby approaches problems the way a 4-6 year old might. He leaps before he thinks, and often relies on hands-on exploration to understand a curious situation better.

Preschoolers are interested in social interactions with peers. They are learning how to share, get along with others in groups, and figuring out constructive ways to handle their frustration. Zigby and the other characters provide excellent role models for how friends can support each other’s interests, and help each other solve problems creatively. Children in this range love to laugh and act silly, and often use this as quick way of making friends.

What children find funny sometimes offers a window into what they are thinking and feeling, including some of their concerns. 4-6 year olds, while much more physically competent than they were as toddlers, sometimes worry about appearing awkward in front of their peers. As Zigby’s good friend Bertie navigates the world, he frequently bumps into things, knocks stuff over, and generally makes a fool of himself. Unlike typical child behaviour, Zigby always responds to Bertie’s accidents with compassion, never laughing at him (even though the viewers will probably enjoy these slapstick moments).


III. Zigby’s Educational Mission & Goals


The Educational Mission of ZIGBY is to inspire children ages 4-6 to follow their curiosity, take responsibility for their actions, persevere when they encounter challenges, and work with others to discover fun, creative solutions. By addressing this mission in the context of character-driven adventure stories that are rich in physical comedy, ZIGBY will engage viewers, educate them about pro-social behaviors that help develop character, and introduce creative problem-solving strategies.

To fulfill the Educational Mission, Zigby has established the following Learning Goals. Please note that these goals apply across the season. Any given episode will strive to satisfy as many of these goals as possible.

A. Spark children’s curiosity, and encourage them to maximize the “fun factor” in their daily lives.
B. Inspire children to accept their mistakes, and take responsibility for their actions.
C. Encourage children to stay optimistic when solving problems, and persevere when things don’t work out at first.
D. Help children to solve problems creatively by using a variety of strategies.

Let’s look at each of these goals in detail…

Goal A: Spark children’s curiosity, and encourage them to maximize the “fun factor” in their daily lives.

Zigby and his friends will model behaviours that will inspire children to:

  • see every day as an opportunity for fun and adventure.
  • make life more enjoyable for others.
  • include as many children as possible during playtime.
  • invent joyful games and contests.
  • make creative costumes and wacky “inventions” with simple materials.
  • develop a wide range of interests, including art and science.
  • not be afraid of trying something new, even if it will lead to failure.
  • figure out clever ways to turn boring chores into lively games.

Some people see things as they are and ask, “Why?” I dream of things that never were; and ask, “Why not?” — George Bernard Shaw

Goal B: Inspire children to accept their mistakes, and take responsibility for their actions.

Zigby and his friends will model behaviours that will inspire children to

  • admit, accept, and learn from their mistakes.
  • be sensitive to the feelings of others
  • apologize for any harm they cause.
  • realize that being responsible and having a good time are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
  • understand that accepting responsibility is one way to be “a good friend” to others.
  • accept consequences of their actions.
  • “follow their gut” about doing the right thing.
  • go the extra mile to help others in need.

Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of oneself. — Charlie Chaplin

Goal C: Encourage children to stay optimistic when solving problems, and persevere when things don’t work out at first.

Zigby and his friends will model behaviours that will inspire children to:

  • realize that any worthwhile goal involves setbacks. To solve problems creatively, children need to ask questions, use their imaginations, and work together cooperatively (teamwork), and persist, persist, persist…
  • laugh at their mistakes, and not take themselves too seriously.
  • not dwell on what’s gone wrong but focus efforts on finding a positive solution.
  • search for win-win solutions
  • recognize that sometimes wacky or off-beat solutions can be more effective than traditional, “expected” ones.
  • Use resources around them to find inspiration
  • keep their senses of humour when things go wrong. By learning to laugh at their mistakes, children will feel less frustrated, and have more fun as they search for solutions.
  • act confidently and take (safe) risks, even when they are not completely sure of the outcome.
  • realize that they have the power to bounce back from failures or setbacks.

It's not that I'm so smart; it's just that I stay with problems longer. — Albert Einstein

Goal D: Help children to solve problems creatively by using a variety of strategies.

Zigby and his friends will model behaviours that will inspire children to:

  • create their own playthings—such as homemade costumes and instruments, or simple toys made of “recycled” materials.
  • use their imaginations when seeking a solution.
  • Have fun role-playing adult jobs (e.g. restaurant owner, mail delivery person)
  • ask others for help and ideas when trying to solve a tricky problem.
  • realize that compromise is often a smart way to solve a conflict.
  • consider off-beat, usual solutions to a problem.
  • recognize that with the right mind-set, it is possible to turn chores into games (finding the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down)

Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought. — Albert Szent-Gyorgi

IV. Educational Approach: How Zigby Addresses Our Educational Goals

• All the educational messages in ZIGBY are presented in a dramatic context, in which the characters are solving fun, kid-friendly problems. To help viewers “play along” with the action, the writers have sprinkled in clues that might help children at home anticipate the creative solution.

• During Zigby’s character’s development across the series, the writers have created a positive role model that children will be inspired to emulate. An important point we want to emphasize is that “being responsible” and “having a fun time” are not mutually exclusive. An on-going goal during story development is to show the benefits of accepting responsibility, and figuring out ways to fix tricky problems.

• To enable viewers to learn some of the “nuts and bolts” of creative problem solving, Zigby sometimes shows his thought process as he tries to make sense of a sticky situation. Viewers have the opportunity to hear him ask questions, pose wacky ideas by wondering, “what if…” and more. Ideally, children at home might try some of these approaches as they grapple with creative challenges in their daily lives.

• The series features a number of catch-phrases to help viewers cue in on the key problem solving moments. When Zigby realizes that he has indeed “trotted into trouble” he exclaims, “Crazy coconuts!” At the point that he figures out a creative solution, he calls out, “Cool bananas!”

Some Examples of Educational Objectives for ZIGBY episodes


Educational Objective: Encourage children to stand by their friends, take an interest in special experiences in nature, and to be persistent and creative when they encounter obstacles.


Educational Objective: Encourage children to admit their mistakes, and accept responsibility for their actions, as well as use creative thinking and persistence to fix any trouble they caused.


Educational Objective: Encourage children to be sensitive to others’ feelings during playtime, and to see how a competitive attitude can interfere with everyone having a good time. By thinking creatively, it is sometimes possible to turn a competitive game into a collaborative one.


Educational Objective: Inspire children to clean up their personal belongings (clothes, toys, etc.), be team players in collaborative efforts, and look for the “fun factor” in any task.


Educational Objective: Encourage children to be curious about the natural world, and to keep asking questions, and pursuing clues until any mysteries are solved.


Educational Objective: Help children understand that, when pursuing worthwhile goals, they should keep trying, even when initial efforts lead to failure. If you persist, sometimes problems can get solved in surprising ways. In addition, help children appreciate the challenges of being a parent trying to get children to sleep.


Educational Objective: Inspire children to create their own imaginative costumes out of assorted “stuff” they find around the house (old boxes, towels, etc.) As they create these costumes, encourage them to experiment, be open to wild ideas, and use their imaginations.

VI. Resources

Explore Creativity (PBS) http://www.pbs.org/parents/creativity/ Helping Your Child Learn Responsible Behavior with activities for children http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/behavior.html How to Teach Kids Responsibility Raise More Responsible Children http://www.myfavoriteezines.com/articles/teach-kids-responsibility.html I DIDN'T DO IT! Why children lie, and the words you can use to teach responsibility for actions. http://www.sesameworkshop.org/gwr?s=nl&t=48120 10 VIII. Jordan D Brown Resumé Jordan D. Brown Curriculum Advisor for ZIGBY As a writer, editor, and educational consultant, Jordan Brown creates books, articles, Web sites, television programs, and educational guides for children, teachers and parents. His clients include Nickelodeon, Nelvana, the American Museum of Natural History, Sesame Workshop, Scholastic Inc., TIME for Kids, Joseph Henry Press (National Academies of Sciences), Newbridge Educational Publishing and Thirteen/WNET. He currently serves as the educational advisor for Dinosaur Train, a science preschool series produced by The Jim Henson Company, which will air on PBS in Fall 2009. He was also the educational advisor for My Friend Rabbit, an animated preschool series produced by Nelvana, based on the Caldecott Award-winning book by Eric Rohmann, which focuses on divergent thinking and collaborative creativity. This series will air on NBC’s “qubo” lineup in Fall 2007. Brown was also the educational advisor for Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends, a preschool TV series on Nickelodeon (2004-5). Its curriculum focuses on social-emotional development and the wonders of the natural world. Nickelodeon hired Brown to develop the original curriculum goals for the preschool TV series that became The Backyardigans. As a writer and consultant for OLogy (www.ology.amnh.org), the American Museum of Natural History’s award-winning kids’ Web site, Brown wrote science content, activities, humorous interviews, and song lyrics about topics including marine biology, paleontology, astronomy, and genetics. (Highlights include Stella Stardust’s interview with the Sun, and a lively song about bioluminescence in the ocean.) His non-fiction books include Robo World, a biography of MIT roboticist Cynthia Breazeal for middle school kids (Joseph Henry Press, 2005), Everyday Inventions (Newbridge, 2004), A Student’s Guide to Mental Health and Wellness (Greenwood Press, 2004), and Easy HyperStudio Projects That Fit Into Your Curriculum (Scholastic, 2000). His fiction for children includes Just Kidding! (2001), and Animal E.R. (1999), both published by Scholastic. Since 2003, Brown has written a monthly newsletter for Sesame Workshop about the joys and challenges of parenting.

Overview Zigby's World Zigby McMeer Bertie Zara Laurence Wink, Tink and Stink El Clem Celeen Vicky Overview Zigby's World Zigby McMeer Bertie Zara Laurence Wink, Tink and Stink El Clem Celeen Vicky