Kashina Ayala
Com 410 Mass Media and Children
Professor Hobbs
28 September 2012
Is Dora the Explorer the modern Magic School Bus?

Description: http://adaddyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/dora-the-explorer2.jpg?w=300
Description: http://adaddyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/dora-the-explorer2.jpg?w=300

Dora the Explorer is a fantastic, imaginative, interactive, animated show for children that can be found on Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. Its target age group is preschool to young elementary (ages 2 to 6). The show offers great creative ways for children to learn shapes, colors, numbers, and problem-solving skills. Not only is this show kid-friendly, but it offers a way for families to come together and have some fun for at least 30 minutes a day. Each show is approximately 30 minutes, which includes commercials, offers problems and puzzles to solve, and has great music for the whole family to sing along to. The show starts with Dora stating a problem, in which she and her friends ask for the audiences’ help, by using a talking map, shapes, colors, helpful stars, and interactive language. This interactive way of learning is great for children of all ages. The content of Dora the Explorer is one that is seen as positive versus other shows offered at the preschool level. “The content of television is an important factor in determining whether the impact of television is positive or negative. For example, one study found that at 30 months, watching Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues, Arthur, Clifford, Dragon Tales, or Sesame Street was associated with better language development, while watching Teletubbies was associated with lower language scores” (Diehl and Toelle, 2012, p. 1). Problem- solving and critical thinking are excellent skills for a person of any age to learn, so why not have your children start learning crucial skills at an early age? Perhaps this is what the creators of the show were thinking?

Not only does the show provide an interactive way of learning, but Dora also provides a step-by-step style of solving problems. Each obstacle that she and her sidekick, Boots the Monkey, faces is an educational twist to the show. The obstacle helps the child feel they are helping the animated characters, but it also provides time for the child to critically analyze what the right option or solution to the problem is. The educational aspect of this show is seen not only within the main character Dora, but within her family and other animal friends. What else does this show provide?

As if you didn’t think this show could get any better for kids, Dora the Explorer teaches kids the Spanish language. Dora is a Spanish character who is bilingual and she speaks the language throughout the show. She says one word and then teaches the audience what the word means and how to say it. Kids are not only learning how to solve problems, critically analyze problems, learn how to create solutions to problems, but they are also learning about a new culture. Many of the episodes offer facts on traditional Spanish food, dance, events, and the language. The review of Dora the Explorer on the website Commonsensemedia.org also stated, “The bilingual and cultural aspects of the show are right on target, featuring music, holidays, and plants and animals relevant to Central and South American culture. And Dora often decides to "stop and think" about a problem when she can't immediately solve it, proving her to be a thoughtful, patient heroine (2012). What better way to spend quality time with your child, than to help them understand the importance of other cultures?

While watching Dora the Explorer for the first time the format of the show reminded me of the animated cartoon The Magic School Bus. Perhaps I am showing my age by bringing up a show that was created in 1994 and originally aired on PBS, but the familiarity in themes between these two shows are phenomenal (tvguide.com). The Magic School Bus had many more characters than Dora the Explorer, but both shows had a narrator that helped solve problems. The characters in The Magic School Bus consisted of students and the teacher. The students include Carlos, Phoebe, Keesha, Dorothy Ann, Tim, Ralphie, Arnold, and Wanda (tv.com). In The Magic School Bus Ms. Frizzle, the spunky science teacher, proposed that her class learn topics by experiencing them, similar to how Dora interacts with the at home audience. Ms. Frizzle would teach her students about the digestive system, the water cycle, the plant life cycle and many other things by bringing her students on class field trips. The animated show would provide vivid animation of the theme at hand within a 30 minute episode. Not only did the cartoon show children on a field trip, but “the colorful teacher owns a Magic School Bus which can transform into different things like a spaceship, a battery, or even an alligator! These things can help Ms. Frizzle with visual teaching methods as she reveals information about anything in science” (tv.com). For instance, the digestive system episode, showed the children, the bus, and Ms. Frizzle inside of a stomach. The cartoon did a great job of providing visuals for the audience. What child doesn’t like a field trip?
Description: http://img164.imageshack.us/img164/259/0310grcomm1aj5.jpg
Description: http://img164.imageshack.us/img164/259/0310grcomm1aj5.jpg

I realize that the animation was not as great in 1994 as it is now, but the way that The Magic School Bus provided education with a twist of fun helped promote learning in school. Both shows have done a great job of helping expand children’s imaginations by providing great pictures and themes in each episode. The amount of adventure in each episode helps create a thrilling atmosphere.

Both shows have not only been hits on the television, but they both have produced books, movies, and merchandise available globally. Although The Magic School Bus stopped airing in 1997, reruns still show on many networks because of the great success it once had. Each show provides great family fun, educational learning, and imaginative creativity that promote the importance of children education. Although The Magic School Bus came out before great animated technological advances were made, it is important to see that shows like Dora the Explorer and The Magic School Bus are positive ways to help enhance children’s minds, attitudes, and willingness to learn. It is apparent that each show as its own tactic of promoting childhood learning, like Dora the Explorer using the interactive way of learning and The Magic School Bus using the visual and come along with me approach, but each show has similarities that show telling a story is not the only way for a child to listen; rather providing examples, explanation, and critical thinking techniques provide a greater gratification for children.

It is also important to understand that the target audience for Dora the Explorer is designed for ages 2 to 5, while The Magic School Bus is aimed at ages 6 to 10. Dora the Explorer is designed to help preschoolers and early elementary kids with learning cognitive, motor, and problem-solving skills; while The Magic School Bus is designed to help build a background in knowledge about geographic locations, historical time periods, friendships, relationships, the body, and science skills.

An example of The Magic School Bus learning objectives is seen in the episode about the human body. The episode starts off with Arnold, a student in Ms. Frizzle’s class, being upset because his friend and fellow student Ralphie is sick. Ms. Frizzle decided that the class field trip should be inside of Ralphie’s body. The planned broadcast day has to be altered due to Ralphie’s illness; however, the students and Ms. Frizzle head inside of his body and determine his illness is due to sore vocal cords. When the school bus gets close to the vocal cords Ralphie’s body naturally rejects the bus and spits them out of his body. The problem-solving skills come into effect when the students and Ms. Frizzle have to figure out another way into Ralphie’s body to get the inside story on where his infection his coming from. They use their problem solving techniques by finding a second way into his body through a cut on his knee. The students, with the guidance of Ms. Frizzle, work together to find out what the sickness is and how to properly cure it. During this time in Ralphie’s body the students learned how to broadcast a live action story, how to cure a sore throat, and the scientific knowledge of sickness and infections. The whole episode is interactive, informative, and full of suspense.

In contrast the episode of Dora the Explorer, “Dora Saves the Mermaids”, Dora and Boots describe their setting right away and introduce themselves to the audience. Dora and Boots then describe their scenery with colors, shapes, and textures. These are often things that children learn from ages 2 to 5 in hopes that they become familiar with their surrounding environments. Dora and Boots ask the viewers to help them clean up the beach, which is a lesson in itself, but then other problems are presented to the audience. The creators of the show do not have Dora state the problems, like on The Magic School Bus, instead they have talking creatures yelling for help. In this episode they have a talking clam, map, and sea creatures. The audience at home can learn from the repetition of directions, places, and instructions on how to find the mermaid. The show introduces songs, music, and simple language for the viewers at home to feel they are interacting with Dora and Boots. This kind of format aims at its target audience in a different way than The Magic School Bus, because you have objects with shapes, numbers, and colors to help with problem-solving skills. The Magic School Bus takes the approach of presenting a story line, stating the problem, and then solving the problem by team work, scientific knowledge, friendships, and interactive elements by Ms. Frizzle. This show doesn’t ask the viewers at home to help; instead they instill knowledge, suspenseful elements, and creative adventure in each episode.

All in all, these are two shows that parents can enjoy with their children. Dora the Explorer and The Magic School Bus are educational shows that help promote and instill great values and skills that any parent would love for their children to maintain. While comparing and contrasting our childhood educational shows to the current ones perhaps you may think like these parents, “We remember watching episodes of The Magic School Bus with our children, hoping that our toddlers would someday have teachers as dynamic, quirky, creative, and flamboyant as Ms. Frizzle. But it seems like today’s teachers are getting all the Ms. Frizzle drilled out of them, both on-screen and off” (Marni Barron and Leigh Dingerson, 2012). The Magic School Bus was a great show that showed educational values by promoting great leadership and role model qualities to children and parents. Dora the Explorer is also a show that most say gives preschoolers a positive role model to look up to.

Works Cited
Barron, Marni, and Leigh Dingerson. "Preview of Article:." Rethinking Schools Online.
Rethinking Schools, 2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2012. <http://www.rethinkingschools.org/restrict.asp?path=archive/26_01/26_01_barrondingerson.shtml>.
Diehl, David C., and Stephanie C. Toelle. "Making Good Decisions: Television, Learning, and
the Cognitive Development of Young Children." EDIS. University of Florida IFAS Extension, 2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2012. <http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1074>.
Herman, Joly. "Dora the Explorer." - Television Review. Common Sense Media, 2012. Web. 21
Oct. 2012. <http://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-reviews/dora-the-explorer>.
"The Magic School Bus on PBS." TV Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2012
"The Magic School Bus." TV.com. N.p., 2005. Web. 21 Oct. 2012.

Good effort here! These shows target different age groups and have different instructional goals, but they both blend entertainment and information strategically and use cross-merchandising to promote the brand. Both shows have developed products for digital media, including video games, apps and web content. Here's a source about how computer scientists test the usability of products like the online version of the Magic School Bus:

Hanna et al. The Role of Usability Research in Designing
Children’s Computer Products