This weekend WNED is hosting KidFest. It will feature the popular PBS Kids character Daniel Tiger. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is being used in some preschool classrooms to help develop social and life skills.
“It’s not Daniel the Frog?” asked the preschool teacher. “Daniel Tiger!” declared a preschooler.
Preschoolers at Saints Peter and Paul School in Williamsville are big fans of Daniel Tiger. They can tell you about episodes and what they learned.
“He is nice,” answered one preschooler. “Does he teach you how to be nice to your classmates?” Buckley asked. “Yes,” responded the child.
“He teaches me how to tie my shoes,” another student replied.
Pre-school teacher Michele Ganschow instructs three and four year olds at the school. Ganschow incorporates Daniel Tiger lessons for both age groups in her classroom.
“Whenever I’m doing my plans for the month, I check to see what Daniel Tiger has to offer because it is easier for the children to understand a lot of things when it is more on their level and they get the basic concepts and then we will be able to apply it to what they have to do during the day, so Daniel is used a lot in the classroom,” Ganschow explained.
A study published a couple of years ago reviewed preschools watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. It found those young students displayed 'higher levels of empathy ' and confidence in themselves in social situations.
“It shows that the life skills and it shows the morals that we would like to instill to our children at Saints Peter and Paul, beginning at the ages of three and four so that way they can carry it through their lives forever,” said Gancshow.
Daniel Tiger is helpful in developing social skills, but the study pointed out that children experienced benefits when they have regular discussions with their parents.
In Ganschow's preschool classroom, those conversations help re-enforcement lesson from the episodes.
“And after we’re done watching Daniel I make sure we talk about what happened to Daniel and how we can use it within our lives and within the classroom. Today, for example, we watched ‘Daniel Got Sick’ and how he couldn’t go to a birthday party because he was sick and how sad he was,” Gancshow explained. “The children understood you have to get better if you want to be able to do different things, so it was a good stepping ground for them and talking because of the flu and everything happening, I wanted them to see that.’
“And why do you like Daniel Tiger?” Buckley asked a student. “Because he misses the birthday party. He got sick,” replied the child.
“They’ll go home and tell their parents what they listened to that day and their parents will come back and go ‘wow where did they get that from?’, so they’re not actually saying ‘well we watched it on Daniel Tiger’, but they’ll go home and state what they had learned through Daniel. So that’s kind of cool that I don’t have to say anything – the children are just going home and saying what they have to say,” Gancshow said.
These young students react well to a visual lesson and Gancshow said she highly recommends, to other pre-school teachers, to incorporate Daniel Tiger.
“I think it is one of the best ways to show the children what you mean when you are talking about a specific article or a specific idea. Children these days need visuals to understand more of what’s happen and Daniel definitely shows it in an age appropriate way,” Gancshow responded.
And just as past generations learned social lessons while watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, this modern-day cartoon, created by the Fred Rogers Company, featuring Daniel Tiger, is certainly hitting home for these young students.
“He is the modern day Mr. Rogers. That’s what I tell people. When people say who is Daniel Tiger? – Well in our time – he was Mr. Rogers, with the trolley and just even the concepts that he uses and the other characters besides Daniel like the owl Mr. Rogers had – so yes – he is Mr. Rogers,” Gancshow remarked.
“Why do you like Daniel Tiger?” asked Buckley. “Because I learn about stuff,” replied a preschooler. “I play Daniel Tiger games,” another child responded.
“Do you like Daniel Tiger?” a young student a classmate. “Yes!” the other student responded. “Why?” the student asked. “Because – well I like him,” answered the preschooler.
This weekend's WNED KidFest takes place Saturday and Sunday in the WNED Television studio in downtown Buffalo. Click this link for ticket information.