It’s time for a trip to Treeborhood.
This is the fictional town in the PBS KIDS animated series, “Work It Out Wombats!,” where viewers will learn lessons from Malik, Zadie and Zeke.
The animated series premieres at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 6, on PBS KIDS, channel 5.2. It will then rebroadcast at 11:30 a.m. on New Mexico PBS, channel 5.1. It will also air on the PBS Video app.
The residents of the Treeborhood – wombats, snakes, moose, kangaroos, iguanas, fish, tarsiers and eagles – bring varied skills and abilities, assorted ways of thinking, and different family structures and traditions to this diverse and vibrant community of neighbors, a place where even the adults join in the play.
“Malik, Zadie and Zeke are passionate about their goals, but they don’t always know the best way to go about meeting them,” said Marcy Gunther and Marisa Wolsky, executive producers, GBH Kids. “But in every story, we see the Wombats using computational thinking, a powerful toolkit, to work it out.” Gunther says the series strikes a balance of telling stories for preschoolers that are educational, fun and engaging.
Malik is thoughtful, considerate and sometimes set in his ways (which can be a good thing when you’re problem-solving). His speedy, adventurous younger sister, Zadie, is a brainstormer extraordinaire, with ideas that range from silly to very smart. Zeke is the youngest sibling – a funny, curious cuddle-bug who loves to play and explore. Super, their grandmother, is the Superintendent and unofficial “Mayor” of the Treeborhood.
Each episode includes two 11-minute stories, accompanied by a 90-second music video, featuring the Wombats as they demonstrate their computational thinking skills, learning as they go. Their aspirations sometimes exceed their abilities, but with every problem they encounter, the trio stops, takes a breath, puts their heads together and comes up with a workable solution, using the design process, sequencing, debugging and other key computational thinking skills.
Creative producer Darlene Mortel Edouard and Gunther were part of the driving force behind the series.
Along the journey, there were plenty of learning curves.
“Working on the series, we didn’t have a property behind it so we started everything from scratch,” says Mortel Edouard. “We wanted the show to inform the viewers. When we met with the writers, we wanted them to think on their own lives and experiences as a child. I’m the oldest and I’m more like Malik. My younger sister is like Zadie. It was a truly collaborative process.”
Gunther says the writers were encouraged to write about their experiences growing up.
“The writers would pitch an idea and then we’d try to find one that is a good fit for computational thinking,” Gunther says.
Mortel Edouard says computational thinking is a way to solve complex problems in the field of computer science.
“For preschoolers, we take an unplugged look,” Mortel Edouard says. “We wanted the stories to be entertaining and relatable.”
Gunther says there was an emphasis on the family dynamic for the series as well.
“We wanted this community to reflect and represent different family structures and families that speak different languages,” Gunther says. “We made it so every child in the audience can see themselves in the show.”