Mass media is not a vast wasteland of useless information. I have had the pleasure of watching numerous episodes of Octonauts with my granddaughter. This is a tv show about a group of cartoon animals who help the creatures that live in the ocean. It is set up like many working environments. There is the polar bear captain who is in charge. There is a cat who is his assistant. The other main characters have the roles of consultants and workers. One of the positive things about this show is the characters are all different and yet work together to do the things they need to do. In most of the episodes, this is saving or helping one of the ocean creatures. This teaches the viewer to accept other people’s differences. It also teaches that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but puts the emphasis on their strengths. These are important lessons for not only children to learn, but also all human beings.
One episode that I remember particularly well was an episode about an octopus. This creature fascinated my granddaughter. She watched the entire episode without moving. This is a huge feat for a four-year-old child. When the episode was over, she started asking me questions about the octopus so I decided to turn on the computer. We ran a search for octopus. The first thing we did was look at the pictures. It was amazing to see all the different sizes and colors. I never knew there were so many different kinds of octopuses. Then we proceeded to watch a few videos. One of them was of an octopus running along the ocean floor carrying two halves of a coconut under his arms. He must have felt threatened by the people filming him, because he dropped the shells and used them for a hiding place. We both laughed at the antics of the octopus. I thought it was amazing that the creature had the sense, intelligence, or instincts (whichever one it was) to use the shell as a hiding place to protect himself.
The next thing we did was read some interesting facts about the octopus. One of these facts was that it is very smart. They can even solve problems like unscrewing a lid from a jar. They are able to change colors to hide in plain sight. They can also regrow new limbs if they lose one. We both learned they are truly fascinating creatures.
By this time, I figured my granddaughter would be tired of studying about the octopus. I was wrong. Now she wanted to know if I could draw an octopus for her. We turned off the computer, got out the paper, crayons, and scissors, and proceeded to do arts and crafts. We had to make a different octopus for everyone in the family. When they were all drawn, colored, and cut out, we looked at the little octopus family and decided they needed a home. We grabbed another piece of paper and turned it into an ocean. We used colored coconut to make seaweed and coral. We used grape-nut cereal to make the ocean floor. Then we added fish and the octopuses. By the time we were finished, she had a beautiful picture she could take home with her.
As you can clearly see, mass media is not a vast wasteland of useless information. In this case, it was a vehicle that taught us about working with other people to help others. It taught us to search for answers when we had questions. It led us to use our imagination to create something beautiful. It also allowed us to make memories that my granddaughter will remember long after I am gone. These are all very good things that came from using mass media.