Fashina Aladé, assistant professor of advertising and public relations, recently was awarded a WGBH Educational Foundation grant.
Titled “Creating with Intention: A Phenomenological Case Study of Crafting Children’s Media with Intentional Inclusivity,” Aladé will use the $27,075-grant to study a new children’s PBS show, “Work it Out Wombats!” created by GBH Kids and Pipeline Studios.
“As a community engaged scholar, I am most passionate about doing research that directly impacts the communities I study – children, families and producers of children’s media,” Aladé, who also holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, said. “I am very excited about this project because of the direct impact it will have on children’s television production.”
According to PBS, “Work it Out Wombats” features three marsupial siblings who “will demonstrate computational thinking for preschoolers, a way of thinking that enables them to solve problems, express themselves, and accomplish tasks using the practices, processes and ideas at the core of computer science.”
Aladé said during the creation and airing of the show, she will document the process and perspectives of the writers, producers and animators, in addition to investigating parents’ and children’s attention to and interpretations of the culture and inclusion cues that are featured in the program.
“There are certainly plenty of children’s television shows that aim to be inclusive, but what’s unique about WoW is that even though the primary focus of the show is to teach computational thinking, the producers are trying to be leaders in inclusive practices both on-screen and behind the scenes,” she said.
She said the show was being created at a time of great international unrest, during the summer of 2020, “in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, when many industries, especially the entertainment industry, were being called out for maintaining systems of white supremacy and upholding barriers that systematically exclude people of color and other marginalized people trying to break into the industry.”
“[WGBH] had a desire to do better and to shake up the system of how they usually go about producing their programming,” Aladé said. “WoW is the one of the first ‘proofs of concept’ of what this could look like, at least for children’s public television.”
Aladé, lead researcher on the grant, will be joined by Tara Mesyn, Ph.D. student in the School of Journalism, as well as a graduate student from Northwestern University, Breniel Lemley, who works in the Center on Media and Human Development.
The two-year grant will conclude in June 2023. “Work it Out Wombats!” will premiere in early 2023.
By Jennifer Trenkamp