Our Stories: TVO’s Pat Ellingson on Getting Kids Ready for School and Life

Pat EllingstonTwenty years ago, Pat Ellingson stepped into the role of Creative Head, Children’s Programming at TVOKids. In partnership with Let’s Talk Science, Pat’s vision has led the way for TVOKids to help families explore and discover the science in our everyday lives with innovative and award-winning children’s programs. As Pat closes a chapter of her career at TVOKids, she shares her insights on why science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning is so critical for children.

What is it about Children’s Programming and science that motivates and inspires you?

I found Children’s Programming to be the most challenging content to create and the most rewarding when you get it right. I have a particular interest in creating content that can help inspire and motivate young kids—especially those considered “at risk”—to help them realize their full potential.

Also, creating content with an educational mandate allowed me and the entire TVOKids team to provide a safe place for kids and families that provides a value-added option in the sea of children’s media.

Science in particular offers so much visual “eye candy” that it’s a natural to help create entertaining content that can lead the viewer/user to investigating other areas of STEM. We use our science programming to ignite that interest and we know it works. Science gets kids excited about learning.

What insights do you have for parents and their children as well as educators about children’s needs for the future and the importance of STEM learning as they grow?

Science is about finding out how things work. It teaches kids how to plan, communicate, problem solve, and ignite their creative thinking skills. All of these are important skills for every aspect of life.

Moreover, STEM is the ground so many careers are built on today. STEM jobs offer higher than average salaries and are expected to increase much faster than the overall growth rate for other occupations. STEM is where the good jobs are.

It’s critical we demonstrate STEM as being fun and approachable—not intimidating. Our programs reach out to parents to help them help their kids and model a love of all things STEM.

Why was TVOKids seeking an education partner in Let’s Talk Science?

What makes TVOKids unique is the educational blueprint used to create all of our content. This includes working with education specialists to help guide every aspect of our content creation.

I was introduced to Let’s Talks Science by Bob McDonald who hosted one of our most successful science series, Heads Up. I quickly realized Bonnie Schmidt and Let’s Talk Science shared similar goals and priorities [such as] making STEM a priority [and] creating resources where all kids can see themselves reflected—no matter the gender, physical challenges or ethnicity.

How has Let’s Talk Science made a difference to TVOKids’ kids?

The shows that Let’s Talk Science has helped to create have all gone on to win multiple awards and to draw a significant audience. Research has shown again and again that well crafted content has a positive impact on a child’s learning. Success for us is hearing from kids who watch shows such as Annedroids and decide they want to become scientists, inventors, and astronomers, for example. Let’s Talk Science has a wealth of experience in creating content for young children and have helped guide us to create content that is not only curriculum linked and age appropriate but also raises the learning outcomes bar.

What do you predict the next 20 years will bring for early years learning?

My expertise is in creating media that engages kids. At its core, I don’t think the basic formula in how to engage young children will change: entertainment wrapped around a solid learning outcome. What is changing is how content is being delivered. Using technology to deliver content has made it more accessible for everyone. The next innovations I think will come will be how we integrate video, gaming and personalization tools.

From all of us at Let’s Talk Science, thank you, Pat, for your many contributions to inspiring discovery in children and being a fantastic STEM champion. We wish you well with your move back to B.C. and your continued involvement in Children’s media.