Fred Rogers Productions program inspires children to explore nature

In the animated series “Through the Woods”, a young boy named Rider and his dog, Wolfie, embark on the daily adventures any child might have in a patch of woods or even a backyard: curious and respectful encounters with butterflies, rabbits and frogs.

The series of 10 three-minute animations, Pittsburgh-based Fred Rogers Productions, airs nationally on PBS and locally on WQED. It debuted on mobile devices in 2018 and won awards including a Daytime Emmy before expanding its platforms to YouTube and PBS Kids. Now the series has inspired Family Nature Days, a partnership with WQED and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources intended to encourage families to get out into nature like Rider and Wolfie do.

The first Family Nature Day takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 16 at Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset. Two more are scheduled, Aug. 20 at Point State Park and Sept. 10 at Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County.

“Through The Woods”, created by Ellen Doherty, was not designed with anything like Family Nature Days in mind. But Fred Rogers Productions President and CEO Paul Siefken called it good.

“It’s a show that encourages kids to get outside and explore the nature that’s in their own backyard, and the parks system is truly dedicated to making sure kids and families have the opportunity to explore. nature in the region,” he said.

Each event includes a screening of an episode of the show, crafts such as nature art collages and suncatchers, and a nature walk led by rangers. The events will be themed, Siefken said. For example, during Saturday’s launch event, an episode in which Rider gazes at a butterfly will be paired with a pollinator-focused nature walk.

While “Through the Woods” is aimed at preschoolers, Siefken said Family Nature Days are for anyone with an interest in nature.

“It’s an interesting aspect of getting out and exploring nature: if you haven’t done that much, it’s new to you. It doesn’t matter how old you are,” he said.

Ryan H. Bowman