A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this informative documentary special brings to light some important environmental issues that affect -- or may eventually affect -- all living organisms on the planet, from plants to humans. The three participants' dedication and passion may inspire tweens and teens to do their part, however small, to help curb these growing problems.
What's the story?
The two-part reality special A YEAR ON EARTH follows three environmentally conscious teens as they participate in research projects around the globe that are designed to aid our troubled planet. Their mission is to help save the Earth in whatever way they can and inform other kids about current environmental issues -- from global warming to the extinction of certain species -- and how they affect the planet. With the world as their classroom for a year, the three intrepid students -- 18-year-old Jamie Fiel from Texas, 17-year-old Arsen Ewing from California, and 16-year-old Tyler Robinson from Massachusetts -- work alongside Earthwatch scientists in exotic locales like Kenya, Botswana, Costa Rica, and Sri Lanka. Sometimes the work is dangerous -- such as snagging a writhing, snapping, hissing crocodile in order to perform tests that will help ensure the species' survival; sometimes it's delicate, such as helping baby sea turtles find their way into the ocean before a predator gets to them. In addition to their responsibilities out in the field, they have to send daily blogs and reports to Web sites and phone in to classrooms where students ask questions about their research and experiences; they also try to rally kids to write letters to their government regarding their concern for the environment.
Is it any good?
The going gets tough for the Year on Earth cast -- the work can be dirty and exhausting and the schedules grueling, there are personality conflicts within the group, and the teens are forced to grow up a bit and even do some unexpected soul-searching along the way. Jamie, the only female in the trio, is a bit more serious than the two boys and feels alienated from them at times. Arsen is stunned when he visits Africa and discovers that the natives won't readily accept him with open arms just because he's black. And Tyler is forced to rethink the goofy, offhand reporting style he uses in his documentary videos when the kids' mentor reveals his disappointment that the trio aren't taking their reporting tasks seriously enough.
But overall the show is riveting, to say the least; young viewers will learn some fascinating things about animals and nature and will no doubt be inspired by Jamie, Arsen, and Tyler's enthusiasm and passion for their work and excitement about their discoveries. Although the special is aimed specifically at tweens and teens, it's never too early to teach kids about being kind to their environment, and A Year on Earth is a great place to start.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the environmental issues the show raises. What is global warming, and how does it affect plants and animals? Why are certain kinds of animals, like the crocodiles and flamingoes in Africa, becoming extinct? What are the scientists doing about it? How are Jamie, Arsen, and Tyler helping to save these species? What other ideas do they have for protecting the environment and informing kids around the world about these issues? How do you think you could help? What is the media's role in issues like conservation and environmentalism? Whose responsibility is it to "spread the word"?
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