KIDZONE: D — STREET SMARTS
Volume 20 Number 6
This series of videos features excerpts from "Kidzone," an award-winning magazine-style television series for children aged seven to twelve. It is produced by the Knowledge Network, British Columbia's educational service. The three videos screened for this review were Kidzone Program D: Street Smarts (driving and street safety), Kidzone Program H: Thanks But No Thanks (substance abuse), and Kidzone Program I: Super Safety (home and occupational safety). A teacher's guide and student activities are available for each video.
Each video consists of four segments of approximately 5 minutes each; most are humorous dramatizations of situations that illustrate how children and adults should behave to keep themselves healthy and safe. These vary in their approach, and some are more successful than others. For example, in "There's a Beetle in My Juice" (Program H), Sarah is tempted by a Beetlejuice-like character to abandon her bike-a-thon training for the pleasures of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and TV. She fends him off successfully; the message is clear. However, it isn't very clear why he would be tempting her, since a Beetlejuice-like character is fairly far from reality. "Straight Skating", a more successful segment on the same tape, features two kids being tempted by older competitors to use marijuana to give them confidence in a skateboard competition.
The best segment on each tape is the one featuring the No Seriously Players. In these an improv team of three adolescents roleplay various responses to difficult situations. The adult host directs the players and discusses their responses with the audience. In "Drinking and Driving" (Program D), they deal with the question, "What would you do if you were babysitting and one of the parent driving you home had alcohol on their breath?" by offering three scenarios with different conclusions. These segments are well done and easy to understand.
Virtually all the characters are played by children; this brings immediacy to the messages. It is obvious that these are not high-budget, slick productions; however, the enthusiasm the young cast brings to the screen will appeal to the intended audience. The skits may be funny, but the messages are not.
Unfortunately, the sound reproduction is not good. In some segments it is just plain muddy, in others it is uneven, in a few (including the No Seriously segments) it is adequate. While the relatively non-professional visual values will probably not affect the appeal to children (and in some instances may even enhance the appeal), the poor sound values are annoying to everyone.
Recommended with reservations. Individual segments would certainly be useful in a classroom context. They are short and amusing, and should work well as discussion starters. However, the uneven quality of the various segments and the poor sound quality are negative factors.
Christine Jacobs is a freelance indexer in Montreal, Quebec, who for the past six years has indexed films and videos for Film/Video Canadiana.
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