Children’s Media Around the World: Study Abroad Program
As a scholar and professor of children’s media, I have taught my students for years about the incredible power and strength of the Sesame Street model for production of high quality children’s educational media. This model is built on collaboration between educators, producers, and researchers who work together to make learning fun and accessible for young children in the most effective ways through media. When Sesame Street went global, they made sure to touch the hearts and minds of children from different parts of the world by purposefully integrating the child’s culture into the Sesame Street model. Local in-country educators, producers, and researchers work together to produce culturally relevant educational content, and it became my mission to not just teach about this, but to experience it with my students. With Sesame Street as my inspiration, I developed a study abroad experience in which college students could learn about children’s media from around the world with an appreciation for culture, child development, and media production.
The first program was completed in the summer of 2013, and continues to grow. We expanded to Munich in 2016 to attend the Prix Jeunesse Festival. Check out our previous adventures below and follow us on Facebook!
CeltiCats in the Emerald Isle (2017):
In 2017, our biggest group yet, 25 new CeltiCats, traveled to the Emerald Isle. Once again, the program this year took an interdisciplinary approach with students and faculty (Laura Dell and Jenni Jacobs) from UC’s College of Education as well as students majoring in Communication, Education, and Psychology. This year we added a few new elements and visits including a 4-day stay in Galway where many of us became Apple Teacher Certified under the instruction of Seán Ó Grádaigh at Northern University of Ireland, Galway and traveled to the Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher.
We traveled north to Belfast by train to visit with our industry partner, Sixteen South and learned about their new adventures and projects in their new location. After our visit, we climbed the Giant’s Causeway, and crossed the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge!
After our return to Dublin, we learned more about children’s media with a visit to Brown Bag Films. What a memorable visit! We watched as animators brought characters to life and enjoyed spending time chatting with everyone there. Our graduate students even had a chance to present their work to the producer and director of Doc McStuffins! It was an incredible learning experience and an opportunity to exchange ideas and gain new insight about the children’s media industry. We also learned on the trip that the graduate student’s research had been accepted for presentation at a regional conference, the Ohio Communication Association.
Bearcats in Munich (2016):
In 2016, 12 Bearcats ventured to Munich, Germany and Salzburg, Austria to learn more about children’s media around the world at the Prix Jeunesse Festival. With a focus on German culture, we began our learning about Germany with a visit to Mecklenburg Gardens in Cincinnati to attend a Mustard Club Saturday meeting. We got our first taste, quite literally, of what to expect in Germany and enjoyed hearing about the German traditions and heritage of the Cincinnati area.
In May, 2016, Kathleen Bryant (CECH) and I left for Munich with our Bearcats. We spent time with German students at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and shared experiences learning about qualitative research methods in Communication. We traced our body shape on huge rolls of paper and drew images to reflect our own identity, just as youth research participants had for an international study conducted for the Prix Jeunesse. After completing our identity portraits, we hung them on the walls to share and discuss our ideas and our self-concepts with each other. Later that afternoon, we actually helped hang the pictures that the youth research participants drew for the Prix Jeunesse at the Festival site. It was amazing to see their pictures and consider how ours compared with the pictures drawn by the youth.
For the next 6 days, we attended and worked at the Prix Jeunesse Festival. This festival focuses on children’s educational television from around the world. Each day, television shows are shown and discussed by content producers. During the discussion sessions, our Bearcats transcribed these conversations. It was hard work, but so rewarding to learn what actual producers are pondering while they watch and make children’s media. When we got a chance, we would also visit sites in Munich between discussion sessions at the Festival.
After the Festival, we spent some quality time at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. Our new colleague from LMU, Senta Pfaff, joined us and gave us a guided tour of the Memorial. It was very moving and truly made us reflective of difference and acceptance. Later that day, we visited some local castles in the Munich area. The next 2 days were spent traveling outside of Munich. First, we visited the Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Royal Castles and visited Oberammergau. The next day, we traveled to Salzburg, Austria where the Sound of Music was filmed.
CeltiCats in the Emerald Isle (2015):
In 2015, 21 new CeltiCats crossed the ocean to Ireland and Northern Ireland for this year’s Children’s Media Around the World Study Abroad Program. Once again, the program this year took an interdisciplinary approach with students and faculty (Laura Dell) from UC’s College of Education as well as students majoring in Communication, Nursing, and Psychology. Together, we learned about children’s media, Irish culture, collaboration, and much more both in Cincinnati and abroad. We started here in Cincinnati with a visit to the Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati where were learned about Irish traditions through an Irish tea with traditional Irish music. We also had our own night at the museum with an evening tour of the Duke Energy Children’s Museum. Here we learned about the importance of play and the many ways children (and their parents) can learn through exploration and risk-taking. We also toured the studios of CET and learned about the educational outreach of PBS and CET in our local community.
In June, 2015, we boarded a plane, anxious to experience what we had only been able to read about and discuss while in Cincinnati. We arrived at the beautiful residence halls of the University College Dublin which would be our home for the next week then quickly ventured to Dublin’s City Center. We visited Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells and the Long Room and also experienced the Irish countryside with visits to Greenan Farm, Powerscourt Waterfall, Powerscourt Garden, and an Irish dinner with a Hooley show involving traditional Irish music and dance at Johnnie Fox's.
We then headed north to Belfast by bus and the Northern Coast by black taxi! We crossed the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, climbed the Giant’s Causeway, explored Dunluce Castle, and marveled at the Dark Hedges! But it wasn’t all about the view, it was also about learning about the conflict in Northern Ireland and the political unrest in the area. One way to call for conflict resolution and mutual respect is through education of the next generation which is the focus of the Sesame Street co-production called Sesame Tree. As such, we met with Colin Williams, Creative Director of Sixteen South, who produced and created Sesame Tree. Since Sesame Tree, Sixteen South has also made several other shows including Pajanimals, and most recently, Lily’s Driftwood Bay, which are both shown in the United States as well as many countries around the world. The students really enjoyed the behind the scenes look at how children’s animation gets made and visited with animators, sound directors, and many others. Colin showed us the creative art room which housed the tiny bits of treasures washed up on the beaches of a bay in Northern Ireland that became the characters and animations of Lily’s Driftwood Bay. He also showed us the pitch bible and clips that they are using to spark interest in new shows and projects.
After our return to Dublin, we learned more about Irish media with a tour of RTÉ, Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster. We toured several studios and walked on the outdoor set of where they produce a soap opera. This year we learned that some of the set had changed to incorporate real businesses in Ireland and that RTÉ is in the process of rebranding with new colors and designs. No visit to RTÉ is complete without a chat with Stephen Plunkett, Executive Producer, Young People’s Programmes. He spoke about the growth of RTÉJr over this past year and shared with us clips of the television programs that are produced for Irish youth. Following our visit to RTÉ, we explored Imaginosity, Ireland’s only children’s museum. It was quite a site to see and to learn about the design of the museum with Irish children and families at the heart of the planning.
CeltiCats in the Emerald Isle (2014):
In 2014, 23 new CeltiCats journeyed to Ireland and Northern Ireland for this year’s Children’s Media Around the World Study Abroad Program. Following in the tradition of the Sesame Street model, the program has expanded to include faculty and students from UC’s college of Education including my colleague, Laura Dell. Together, we have joined future educators from CECH with our own Communication majors to learn from each other about collaboration, culture, and children’s media. We started the program here in Cincinnati with a visit to the Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati. We also visited the Duke Energy Children’s Museum in Cincinnati during Celtic Fest 2014 in anticipation for our cross-cultural comparison to Imaginosity.
In June, 2014, we made the trip across the ocean to complete our adventure, combining cultural visits with educational experiences. Our first stop was the Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub, for a night of Irish folklore and traditional Irish music! We then ventured to Imaginosity, Ireland’s only children’s museum, to learn about Irish families and about the design of the museum. Here we were also able to make cross cultural comparisons with children’s museums from the United States. We ventured on to Dún Laoghaire for a seaside afternoon exploration and the Book of Kells at Trinity College the following day.
We then trekked north to Belfast by bus and the Northern Coast by black taxi! We crossed the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, climbed the Giant’s Causeway, explored Dunluce Castle, and marveled at the Dark Hedges! We even had a chance to do a cheer for UC at the rope bridge! While in Belfast, we met with Sixteen South, creators of Sesame Tree, Pajanimals, and most recently, Lily’s Driftwood Bay. The students really enjoyed the behind the scenes look at how children’s animation gets made. They visited with animators, sound directors, and many others. Colin Williams, Creative Director of Sixteen South, answered questions and told us about his mission to make quality children’s television. He led us to the creative art room which housed the tiny bits of treasures washed up on the beaches of a bay in Northern Ireland that became the characters and animations of Lily’s Driftwood Bay. It was AMAZING!
We visited several other cultural sites while in Dublin including Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and Kilmainham Gaol on our journey. Of course, no trip would be complete without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, too!
Our other stop to learn more about Irish media was in Dublin with RTÉ, Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster. We toured several studios and walked on the outdoor set of where they produce a soap opera. Thank you, Killian McCrea, for hosting us on our visit! In addition, Stephen Plunkett, Executive Producer, Young People’s Programmes at RTÉ, showed us some of the television programs that are produced for Irish youth. He discussed with us the role of television in the lives of youth in Ireland and shared his commitment to producing quality media for young people.
CeltiCats in the Emerald Isle (2013):
On a sunny day in June, 2013, my students and I learned how to get to Sesame Street…well, Sesame Tree, that is. Seven UC students and I traveled to Dublin, Ireland, and Belfast, Northern Ireland in June, 2013. We visited with scholars in Dublin from Trinity College to learn about their research on children growing up in Ireland.
Colin Williams, Creative Director of Sixteen South, spoke to us about his experiences working in children’s media and building his production company from the ground up. We also got a chance to see props from Sesame Tree and hold the muppets from the show. WHAT A THRILL!
Stephen Plunkett, Executive Producer of Young People’s Programmes from Ireland’s public television station RTÉ, welcomed us to their studios and let us watch as children’s television was being made.
Rebecca Dolan, Education Development Manager, taught us about the design of Imaginosity, Ireland’s only children’s museum. And we visited several cultural sites in Dublin as well including Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, The Book of Kells at Trinity College, and, of course, the Guinness Storehouse.