Panda cub: difficult topics and kids
With the sad news of the death of the giant panda cub at the National Zoo, I’m reminded of other times educational media teams have had to grapple with difficult issues for young children. When I was in graduate school, I remember Gerry Lesser, one of the pioneers at Sesame Street, playing for our class the episode where Big Bird’s friends have to remind Big Bird hat Mr. Hooper had died. The most challenging episode ever for the cast, dealing with their own sorrow for their friend and colleague, playing the scene all together, in one take. (There wasn’t a dry eye in our class as we watched the scene, and thankfully Gerry left the lights in the room low for quite a while).
Last week I was watching Arthur with our five year old, and the episode, “The Great MacGrady”, focused on their beloved lunch lady at school who has cancer and undergoes treatment. (Reminded that my second grade teacher died after an extended absence, and when someone came in to talk with our class about it and asked if we had any questions, I could only wonder if our book club books would still come in). And before my time at Boston Children’s Museum, around 1984, the exhibit Endings: An Exhibit about Death and Loss covered the topic, including examples of death on tv, one of the first exhibit talkback boards, and a dead frog.
It’s a sad story, the death of the panda cub, and one that impacts young audiences. The Washington Post Kids Club column captures nicely some of the issues and concerns, incorporating some of the approaches common to all the above, including:
- dealing with the issue directly
- acknowledging difficult feelings
- leaving a space to follow up with parents on the topic in the end