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STEM-powered superheroes land on PBS

Ahead of its summer 2020 launch, the pubcaster's Linda Simensky breaks down why Hero Elementary is a good fit.
October 2, 2019

PBS KIDS is launching the new animated series Hero Elementary in the summer of 2020. Co-produced by Twin Cities PBS and Toronto’s Portfolio Entertainment, the new 40 x half-hour episodes will bow in the US on PBS stations, PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS’ digital platforms.

Aimed at kids four to seven, the show follows a group of super-powered students who use science and their powers to solve problems, help others and make the world a better place. It was the combination of science, characters that give kids a model for being curious and who use their powers to help others—which builds empathy in viewers—that makes the series an appropriate fit for the PBS Kids catalogue, while also helping it stand out in the market, says head of PBS KIDS content Linda Simensky.

“We have a lot of different science shows for different ages,” says Simensky. “We’re working on a preschool series about life science right now, for instance, but [Hero Elementary] aims to give kids the tools to solve problems by showing them how to think and act like scientists. At the same time the series will ignite their natural curiosity and empathy and we felt that was just different from everything else.”

The superhero aspect of the new show also isn’t unique to the kidsnet’s portfolio as it joins other series including literacy-focused four-to-nine fare Word Girl and preschool series Super Why! However Hero Elementary is more focused on science and math education than the other animated series in the kidnset’s portfolio, which also helps it skew slightly younger, differentiating it from PBS’ other STEM-heavy, problem-solving-focused, live-action hit Odd Squad.

“The school setting was intriguing but what really got us interested in this show was the idea that doing math or doing science was a superpower,” says Simensky. “We thought this was a cute and funny twist on math and science—the idea that it’s a superpower that every kid has—and we thought that that would make a great show different from everything else we have.”

Sparking kids’ curiosity and giving them content that can help foster a passion in science and math is a top priority for PBS KIDS, Simensky says. And the series’ clear curriculum⁠—with a focus on critical thinking and the scientific process of developing and testing ideas⁠—fits the kidsnet’s mandate for the type of shows it thinks will resonate with kids, she adds.

The new series is also going to rollout with a collection of interactive digital components, including games that will launch on the PBS KIDS Games App and the kidsnet’s website. Clips and full episodes will also be available for streaming across PBS KIDS’ Video App, and resources for educators are going to launch on the PBSLearningMedia platform.

Hero Elementary joins a growing collection of animated superhero kids shows that have been announced this year, including Genius Brand’s Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten and Kickstart Entertainment’s preschool series StarBeam

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Online writer for Kidscreen. Have a story that's of interest to Kidscreen readers? Contact Ryan at rtuchow@brunico.com

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