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"We'll do it ourselves" | MeteoHeroes' message to governments failing kids' climate education

Wed 20 Jul 2022 | 02:51 pm GMT
Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

MeteoHeroes will be at the centre of the USA's largest and most comprehensive climate education campaign

The children’s and family entertainment mega-hit maker and producer, Kenn Viselman has, quite frankly, had enough. The final straw came when plans his firm, itsy bitsy Entertainment, had been drawing up with the county of San Bernardino in California to launch a MeteoHeroes-themed climate education programme for preschoolers were suddenly and mysteriously, scrapped. An individual who wears his heart on his sleeve and a self-appointed advocate for children around the world, Kenn is calling time on the inactions of the US government, nay, governments around the world. If they won’t deliver on climate change education for our youngest generation, then stuff them, he says, because he will. And that’s exactly what – through a tie-up with Kids First and the MeteoHeroes IP – he plans to do: deliver the most comprehensive education initiative that America has ever seen. And then he’s going to take it to the rest of the world.
An age-graded curriculum will launch online, in-school, and wherever MeteoHeroes is being broadcast or streamed.
A children’s content producer whose name is attached to some of the most ground-breaking kids’ TV series of all time, including Thomas the Tank Engine, the Teletubbies and some 50 others, Kenn is now taking the reins on the next global ambition and empower children today to act towards a better tomorrow. Working with Kids First, Kenn and his team have launched a new GoFundMe campaign in order to establish and embed a comprehensive climate education initiative in the US curriculum to roll out in schools across the nation. The move follows a recent study from Bath University in which it was found that 84 per cent of kids around the globe are ‘worried’ to ‘extremely worried’ about climate change. Many of these children are now experiencing a potential mental crisis of epidemic proportions known as Climate Anxiety. To help counter this and the feeling of helplessness that many children experience in the face of the climate change discussion, Kenn is executive producing MeteoHeroes, a series centred on climate education that is now already airing in 145 countries and rolled out in 22 languages. For those as yet unacquainted with the MeteoHeroes, this is a group of superheroes, each of whom represent the seven continents and the different natural elements. Together they work to fight climate change disasters using their unique abilities to save earth.
MeteoHeroes, this is a group of superheroes, each of whom represent the seven continents and the different natural elements.
So successful has the series been in the short time since its official launch that, Kenn tells us, it is now being used ‘as a tool by child psychiatrists across the globe’ to help children deal with climate anxiety. But when it comes to educating and empowering children to understand that they can make a difference, Kenn wants MeteoHeroes to do more. Simply because the government won’t. “MeteoHeroes is unlike any project I have ever worked on. Unlike some other series that are based on an idea that an adult has about what they think children want to watch, MeteoHeroes was created to give children who are being bombarded with images of climate devastation on a daily basis, a sense of hope for a brighter future,” Kenn explains. “The short answer [to why I’ve launched this Go Fund Me campaign] is that I have had enough. I’m mad as hell and simply cannot sit back any longer…” We catch up with Kenn to learn more about the project. Buckle up, we warned you Kenn is mad as hell right now… Jumping right into things Kenn, why have you chosen to launch your Go Fund Me campaign? This is a rather long story. The abridged version is that I have had enough. Our elected officials around the globe seem more intent on fighting with each other than to fight for our children’s futures. What’s the unabridged version, we have the time and space…? OK, specifically in America, one senator has found a way to block America’s entire climate initiative and the Supreme Court has its own agenda that is not consistent with the needs and wants of the American people. The final straw emerged a few weeks ago. My team and I were working closely with the county of San Bernardino in California on an extraordinary opportunity to bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars to a relatively poor part of the state of California and for us to launch a climate education programme for pre-schoolers that we would eventually roll out to the rest of the country and beyond. In fact, the San Bernardino Unified School District was set to write the age-graded curriculum and the local PBS station KVCR was in a position to make enough money as to sustain themselves. Additionally, Governor Newsum is a major proponent of climate education… All your ducks appear to be lined up. What could go awry here? Well, mysteriously, the line item was anonymously removed from the budget without warning or explanation. We’ve drawn some conclusions ourselves to do with sabotaging the Governor’s agenda or simply denying climate change… But the team was told ‘Sorry, why not try again next year?’ This infuriated me. And understandably so! Children around the world are suffering and your answer is ‘better luck next year’…? I don’t think so! Personally, I always saw myself as an advocate for young children… not an activist and definitely not a political figure. The matter is, we need a comprehensive climate education initiative for every child between the ages of four and ten years old in the USA and beyond to the rest of the world. Every day our governments don’t act is another day that children and their families suffer. So, I guess you can say I’m on a crusade now to make the world a better place for kids, to take fear out of the world and make it magical again. I think you voice the frustrations of many millions around the world. So, what’s your plan? I sat down with an incredible group of committed individuals and said we have to do something and we have to do something now. Now, instead of thinking about kids exclusively in the State of California, we have decided to take on children of the globe. My honest hope is that Governor Newsum steps up and says ‘how can we help?’ He has $19,6bn in the most recent budget to fight climate (and apparently several billion in surplus from last year). This entire campaign would be almost nothing more than a rounding error for the state and would right a heinous wrong that has been perpetrated on young children and their families. We’ve teamed up with Kids First and the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media to start this Go Fund Me campaign to launch the largest climate education initiative ever in the US, with a plan to extend to all corners of the globe. This initiative includes community outreach, in-school learning, an age-graded climate curriculum, online education, and an exhaustive list more. We’ve already worked out agreement with Mondo TV Studios SA, Meteo Experts – a global team of renowned meteorologists, as well as Adventure 2 Learning to put this climate education initiative into 30,000 schools across the country with an age-graded curriculum for kids aged four to ten years old. We have also teamed up with many PBS affiliates across the country for them to broadcast or stream MeteoHeroes in conjunction with an original companion series, Real Superheroes Don’t Wear Capes, to be produced with the co-operation of Kids First. We will be implementing both on-screen and online educational materials, as well as creating opportunities for these PBS affiliates to be active partners in our community outreach campaign by bringing their audiences in as part of this initiative. We will also extend this campaign with our global partners wherever possible. The age-graded curriculum will be made available to any existing media partner of the series, anywhere on earth, for them to share with their audience and anyone else who wants to access this material online.
The educational programme will be available to all MeteoHeroes audiences, wherever they are in the world.
This is then, a rather epic campaign! How is this campaign and the educational project reflective of what MeteoHeroes is, stands for, and delivers for kids and families? I love this question because MeteoHeroes uses humour and adventure to make children feel more hopeful. Every corner of this campaign carries that theme of hope and makes children feel more empowered to tackle what is clearly the existential crisis of their lifetimes. The online age-graded content for kids aged four to ten also has information for the caregiver on how to use the episode to talk with their children, as well as fun and funny activities to do together. Kenn, it was evident pretty quickly that there’s a lot of passion behind this project. Where does your passion for this subject come from? What is your relationship with the sustainability and climate education topic? Honestly, on the surface, I am the last person on earth to crown themselves with the title of “Child Advocate” and yet here we are. Early on in my career, I learned that children live in the same world we do, but they receive information differently from us. A very sweet little girl sent me a letter when I worked with Thomas the Tank Engine… She wanted to know if Thomas liked to dance and what he liked to eat for breakfast and could she have directions to the Island of Sodor so she and her family could come visit when they go on holiday. Another child, nearly seven years old, who had autism and had never spoken… spending most of his day in a catatonic state, spoke his first words after he received a t-shirt from me in the mail. It’s taught me that we have the power to change the world, and I take that responsibility very seriously. Ironically, I am learning about the necessity for changing the way we live on the earth right along with most of her inhabitants. It’s something that I am truly trying to embrace and accept as my contribution to being part of a community… the human race.
The project aims to deliver a raft of educational content for kids online, in school or on the go.
What makes the project the obvious next step for MeteoHeroes? Necessity breeds invention. If we can’t get governments out of their own way, then we the people need to stand up and say “Get out of the F*UCKING way.. we’ll do it ourselves.” I’m not sure that many people would say this is the next “obvious” step, but it is a step forward. Like MeteoHeroes, this campaign puts the power back in our collective hands.  If we don’t like the way things are working (or not working more accurately in this situation), then why not try to correct the situation ourselves? So many children and their families are suffering… this is their opportunity to stand up and help carry the load. MeteoHeroes has a history of community projects - the video game launch was linked to global tree-planting projects, of instance - what is it about the IP itself that galvanises such an active community? It’s so true… this series is more than a programme  it’s a movement… it represents “possibilities.” And what’s good for the earth is good for you too. We have established two MeteoHeroes forests so far, one in America (at the location of the “lake fire”) and the other in Cameroon, Africa. We’ve planted thousands and thousands of trees already and are hoping to plant one million more with this initiative. For every  donation we receive, we will plant a tree in honour of the donation. The type of Guava Tree that we plant will be used for cooking, commerce, medicinal purposes and will help regenerate the honeybee population. I truly believe that people across the globe, especially the youth of the world, are desperate to be heard on this issue and are actively embracing the series and its message. MeteoHeroes does a really good job talking to kids on a wavelength that feels honest, sincere and accurate. According to the Bath University study that I mentioned earlier, more than 2/3 of the 10,000 children interviewed believe that their governments aren’t doing enough to fight climate change, they do not believe their governments are being honest about climate change and perhaps most shocking these kids believe that their governments are not following the science. Let’s hope that your Go Fund Me campaign goes some length towards rectifying the current situation, then. Kenn, it’s been great chatting. Best of luck with the campaign as it goes live this week. For more information or to check out the live MeteoHeroes educational programme campaign, click here.
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