At the Television Critics Association Press Tour, PBS KIDS announced the premiere date for Work it out Wombats!, a new animated series for kids ages three-six produced by GBH Kids and Pipeline Studios, starring a playful trio of marsupial siblings – Malik, Zadie and Zeke, who live with their grandmother, Super, in their treehouse apartment complex. Work it out Wombats! will introduce computational thinking concepts that will help young viewers solve meaningful problems, learn flexible thinking and how to express themselves, all while using the practices and processes at the core of computer science. The new series will debut on PBS KIDS on 6 February 2023.
PBS KIDS senior VP and general manager Sara DeWitt said, “The Wombats are all about exploring the world around them and, much like preschoolers, their curiosity and love of adventure know no bounds. Computational thinking is a way of approaching problems in strategic ways, helping young children respond and adapt to the world around them. We’re excited for viewers to explore these foundational skills and mindsets while having fun with their new marsupial friends.”
Work it out Wombats! takes place in the Treeborhood – a massive treehouse complete with secret passageways, gondolas and rope swings. 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 neighbours, place where even the adults join in the play.
GBH Kids executive producers Marcy Gunther and Marisa Wolsky said, “Malik, Zadie and Zeke are passionate about their goals, but they don’t always know the best way to go about meeting them. But in every story, we see the Wombats using computational thinking, a powerful toolkit, to work it out.”
Pipeline Studios executive producer Luis Lopez said, “Work it out Wombats! strikes a perfect balance of telling stories for preschoolers that are educational, fun and engaging. Bringing an exciting world filled with diverse characters to life has been incredibly empowering for our artists and technical talent.”
Full of endless energy, Malik, Zadie and Zeke run, bounce, roll and romp, always on the lookout for interesting Treeborhood problems to solve. Malik is thoughtful, considerate and sometimes set in his ways. 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. Whether they are tackling a big mess by breaking down the job into smaller tasks, creating a process for finding a lost beloved stuffy or solving the mystery of a scary sound in the neighbourhood, the Wombats are always able to work it out.
In producing Work it out Wombats!, GBH Kids, the award-winning public media producer, and Pipeline Studios, an entertainment company, have been deliberate in taking an inclusive and authentic approach to telling stories. Marcy Gunther and Marisa Wolsky are executive producers for GBH Kids. Luis Lopez and Juan Lopez are executive producers for Pipeline Studios. PhD. Marina Bers, a leader in the field of computational thinking and professor at Tufts University, is the content director. Creative producers PhD. Darlene Mortel Edouard and PhD. Kareem Edouard, who have expertise in cultural and visual studies, intersectionality, and STEM engagement from communities underrepresented in STEM fields, helps ensure that all aspects of the series are looked at through the lens of culture and inclusion.
Work it out Wombats! games will launch in tandem with the series on PBS’s website and the free PBS KIDS Games App. To extend the learning at home, parent and caregiver resources, including tips and hands-on activities, will be available on PBS KIDS for parents. For educators, PBS Learning Media will offer classroom-ready materials, including videos, games, teaching tips and printable activities.
The series is part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS Ready To Learn Initiative with funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The Ready To Learn Initiative is a federal program that supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted to preschool and early elementary school children and their families.
Corporation for Public Broadcasting educational media and learning experiences senior VP Debra Tica Sanchez said, “Work it out Wombats! introduces problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration to young learners in a fun and age-appropriate way, helping children get excited about learning and laying important groundwork for success in school and life.”
Major funding for Work it out Wombats! is provided by: a Ready To Learn Grant from the U.S. Department of Education; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and public television viewers. Additional funding is provided by the National Science Foundation and the GBH Kids Catalyst Fund.