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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shop Class is a lively building competition series involving teams of tweens and teens paired with a shop teacher who design and construct woodworking projects. The show challenges contestants to manage their time well, blend unique design with function, work as a team, solve problems as they arise, and accept criticism from the panel of judges. It also emphasizes the value of skilled trades like woodworking and challenges stereotypes with its diverse contestant pool. Disney does use the involvement of some of its Imagineering staff as guest judges to plug projects like movies and themed destinations, but that's a small price to pay for the otherwise exceptional messages in the show.
What's the story?
In SHOP CLASS, teams consisting of two students and an adult shop teacher compete in building contests in the hopes of winning the show's grand prize. Host Justin Long tasks three teams with a common creative challenge, such as building a little free library or a miniature golf fixture. Contestants have three days to design and construct their creations, which are put to the test to assess how well they function. Three judges -- architect Brooks Atwood, interior designer Lauren Makk, and a guest judge from Disney's Imagineering department -- determine the winning entry and send that team forward in the competition.
Is it any good?
This show does for workshop chops what shows like Top Chef Junior and Kids Baking Championship do for culinary skills: It makes them appealing to a young audience. The Shop Class student contestants aren't all woodcraft prodigies; some are more experienced than others, some favor the design aspect of the work more than the manual labor, some look at the practice as a hobby, and others see a related career in their future. But that's what allows the show to impart so many great messages -- messages about the value of skilled trades, teamwork, constructive criticism, and critical thinking abilities.
Shop Class is an excellent pick for families to watch together. The diversity among the contestants -- and the effort that's made to showcase both male and female builders in a traditionally male-dominated field -- challenges stereotypes in an effective way. The projects are of manageable size and scope, which encourages the teams to balance functionality with creative flair. For families that want to take watching it to the next level, the show could inspire a collaborative project similar to the ones in the challenge. Even if that's not in the cards, though, the positive themes make this series a worthwhile watch for any age group.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how teamwork contributes to the contestants' success in Shop Class. How do the teams collaborate to design a project that reflects all of their individual styles? Is a leader necessary for effective teamwork? Is that leader always the teacher, or does a student take the reins in some cases?
How do industries like building trades, auto repair, and electrical wiring installation contribute to society's needs? In general, are jobs in these fields valued as much as those in medicine or law, for instance? Why or why not? How do shows like this one help change people's perceptions of this kind of work?
What is the media's role in perpetuating or challenging stereotypes? How effectively does it do either in Shop Class? Are stereotypes always a bad thing?
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