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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that friendship, self-confidence, and the importance of trying new things are central themes on An American Girl Story: Summer Camp, Friends for Life. The story is set in a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) camp where girls enjoy unplugged fun and an adventure that challenges them to use their knowledge of science concepts. There's diversity in the heavily female cast and excellent examples of the rewards of being open to new -- and renewed -- relationships. As it centers on Z, one of the American Girl dolls, there's the product tie-in to consider, but it's a minor concern in an otherwise innocuous choice.
What's the story?
In AN AMERICAN GIRL STORY: SUMMER CAMP, FRIENDS FOR LIFE, when best friends Paz (Alison Fernandez) and Z (Zoe Manarel) arrive at STEAM summer camp only to have their tech devices confiscated by the director (Camryn Manheim) for an unplugged experience, they're convinced this will be the worst summer ever. But then they meet an eccentric counselor named Jordan (Monique Green) who challenges them to an epic adventure of scientific riddles and treasure hunting that yields new friendship and a new start for two of the camp's residents.
Is it any good?
What this American Girl presentation lacks in compelling entertainment it makes up for in reminders about the importance of being open to new experiences. The story isn't nearly as engrossing as others such as An American Girl Story – Ivy and Julie 1976: A Happy Balance, but its messages are relevant to kids' experiences today, particularly when it comes to the value of screen-free fun. And it never misses an opportunity to drive home important social themes of friendship, communication, forgiveness, and being true to yourself.
The fact that the story is set at a STEAM camp plays a lesser role in the plot, but it still presents the idea that science and technology concepts are fun and, given the female-dominant cast, entirely gender-neutral. Not only do the characters love disciplines such as film production, physics, and chemistry, they also get to apply what they know to real-life situations that make that kind of knowledge enticing. An American Girl Story: Summer Camp, Friends for Life is a win-win for kids who tune in, even if it's not a particularly memorable watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about STEAM topics. What interests do your kids have in these areas? How does learning about science and math help us better understand the world around us? Does An American Girl Story: Summer Camp, Friends for Life make you want to learn more about STEAM topics?
Kids: Have you ever discovered friendship in an unlikely place? Why are first impressions difficult to get past? How do you keep an open mind when meeting new people?
What are some of your family's favorite unplugged activities? How does turning off the technology help us connect to each other better? On the other hand, how does technology help us in our daily lives?
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