A children's show produced in Southern Alberta is educating children through a modern lens.
Kujo's Kid Zone takes cues from classics such as Mr. Dressup and Mr. Rogers' Neighbourhood and is produced with help from a culturally diverse advisory board with an emphasis on inclusion and acceptance.
It covers a broad range of topics including sign language, how to make slime, and basic physics.
Modern social issues and currents events are also discussed, including Pride, Black Lives Matter, and COVID-19.
Randy Quansah, who plays the titular character and hosts the show, says episodes on those social topics are meant to be easily digestible for both children and their parents.
"When you take something that's really complicated and break it down to its basic function, it makes it palatable for even adults to understand. So in the Black Lives Matter episode, I talked about 'Hey, what is skin? What is melanin? What is discrimination, What is privilege? What can you do to help the problem?'"
Quansah recalled an experience in his youth where he was victimized by a group of peers who uttered a racial slur toward him.
He says that the incident was his introduction to his own identity as a black male and that he hopes to provide his daughter and countless other children with a way to embrace their own identities in a more constructive way.
At the same time, he says the show is intended to bring parents in on the learning experience, as kids are often left to interpret lessons from these kinds of programs themselves.
"What ends up happening is there's a disconnect between parent and child, so teachers and coaches understand whats happening in the child's life more than you do. This show is trying to bridge the gap, and it does that through learning and entertainment."
Kujo's Kid Zone also includes some Foothills talent in the form of Foothills kindergarten teacher Madison Amber Laliberte, who lends her voice to the show's musical segments.
She says music can be an excellent learning tool for younger children.
"Having that musical experience and passion for the arts bring so much into children's lives in terms of their education, especially before they're heading off to kindergarten."
Laliberte says she's proud to be so directly involved in a program that embraces subjects that some parents may not know how to approach.
"I feel like there's not a lot of children's shows that have that aspect to them. Just being able to have those conversations with kids that are so young about diversity and that everyone is unique, it's okay to be yourself, you need to appreciate all different cultures and languages, I'm really proud to be part of programming for such young children that is able to help them understand those aspects."
Quansah says the show, at its most fundamental level, is about acceptance.
"I encourage everyone to be themselves. Don't hide and try to be anybody else. Embrace yourself, embrace your uniqueness, embrace your quirkiness. It's in the theme song of the show, 'Just you like, I'm gonna be me.'"
For more information on Kujo's Kid Zone, click here to view the show's website.
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