'Hero Elementary' combines superheroes, science - Albuquerque Journal

‘Hero Elementary’ combines superheroes, science

“Hero Elementary” centers around a diverse group of super students, led by their quirky and enthusiastic teacher, Mr. Sparks, at left. (Courtesy of Pbs)

Learning can take all different forms.

Add in some superheroes and science and you’ve got the formula for the PBS animated series, “Hero Elementary.”

Not only can viewers participate while watching each episode, but there is a collection of interactive digital components to supplement and expand the television world, reinforce learning, and encourage interactive play for kids everywhere.

For Dennis Ramirez, working on “Hero Elementary” was an opportunity to expand the Latino representation with the show.

When Ramirez was growing up in Albuquerque, there were very few shows he watched that had characters like him.

The University of New Mexico alum was developing educational games when the opportunity to work on the series popped up.

“It was a new property and that was awesome,” he says. “The sky was the limit in what we wanted to accomplish.”

Ramirez is digital manager for “Hero Elementary.” The series premieres at 9 a.m. Monday, July 13, on New Mexico PBS.

“Hero Elementary” centers around a diverse group of super students, led by their quirky and enthusiastic teacher, Mr. Sparks.

The team works together to help people, solve problems, and try to make the world a better place. When their imperfect powers aren’t up to the task, they look to their other powers – the superpowers of science – to help them investigate, observe, make predictions, and figure out a solution.

The science curriculum in the series addresses crucial components of children’s learning – the ability to develop and test ideas, ask questions, predict, and observe.

The crew consists of Lucita Sky, an empathetic natural leader with the power to fly – and a fear of heights; AJ Gadgets, a superhero who is passionate about all things “super” and has the ability of thought projection and making super gadgets – and who also happens to be on the Autism spectrum; Sara Snap, who’s tiny, but mighty, with super strength and the power to teleport; and Benny Bubbles, a loyal and protective animal lover with a heart of gold, who can create amazing bubbles that double as forcefields and more.

Both Sparks and Lucita are bilingual Spanish/English speakers.

“It’s cool to have Mr. Sparks,” Ramirez says. “There’s not a lot of Latino or male teacher representation. The fact that he uses Spanish while he’s teaching is an amazing push forward. It’s really important to show as much diversity as possible with the show. The way Mr. Sparks approaches his teaching is amazing. He’s about learning from his mistakes and trying new things out. Failure isn’t an end, it’s a next step.”

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