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TV show is fun and educational


Did you know that in the 18th century the average woman stood 5 feet 1 inches tall and the average man stood 5 feet 8 inches?

Do you know what the average height is today?

You would if you watched last Sunday's "Benedict Arnold" episode of "Liberty's Kids" on PBS.

What does Benedict Arnold have to do with how the human race is growing taller?

It's all about history. Where we've been, and where we are now.

Between segments of a show on one of the most infamous acts of treason against America, vignettes provide a study of the time period, a frame of reference and an interactive element.

This animated series on the birth of democracy in America is told through the eyes of two teenagers and their 8-year-old friend. It debuted last fall on PBS.


Targeted to 7- to 12-year-olds, it is quickly becoming a favorite in our household.

I can't say that I mind.

Since school ended, my children have asked for more television and computer time.

Normally, they're allowed to watch a half-hour of Mom-approved programming each day. Or, they can spend a half-hour playing educational CDs, such as JumpStart or Big Thinkers.

We won't be spending the summer in front of a screen, but I'm going to bend the half-hour-a-day rules a little this week.

On Friday, July 4, four episodes of "Liberty's Kids" are planned. That will give parents just enough time to prepare for a holiday picnic while the kids are watching the shows, and, if the TV is on in the background, we can brush up on our history. Just imagine the conversations we can have with our kids over lunch.

After viewing one of the episodes a few weeks ago, my son asked if I would print the schedule from the Maryland Public Television Web site, He didn't want to miss an episode, and he wanted to read the descriptions of the shows in advance.

Historians from Stanford and UCLA have reviewed the scripts to assure that they are accurate and engaging, says Jeff Abrams, a spokesman for DIC Entertainment, a children's entertainment company that is working jointly with PBS on the project.

Feedback for the show has been positive, Abrams says, noting that a Liberty's Kids CD-ROM is proving popular with parents and teachers alike.

Abrams says the shows will be aired for a minimum of two years. Forty episodes are planned.

Maryland Public Television typically broadcasts the 30-minute show at 8 a.m. Sundays on WWPB-TV, channel 13 (Antietam Cable channel 3). The timing couldn't be better for our household. My kids know that before they watch the show, they need to eat breakfast and get dressed for church. What an incentive! The before-church struggle and rush has subsided.

On the Fourth of July, "The Boston Tea Party" kicks off the holiday run at 8 a.m. Next up, at 8:30 a.m., Paul Revere and William Dawes spread the word that "The British are coming!" in "The Midnight Ride." The third show is "The First Fourth of July," which will air at 9 a.m. The last show is "Born Free and Equal," the story of Massachusetts slave "Mum Bett." She sues for and wins freedom, renaming herself Elizabeth Freeman.

The episodes we've seen so far have reinforced some of my son's history lessons from this year. The shows have been great for review.

They've also sparked his curiosity about the time period. He wants to read more on pre-Revolutionary America.

He also likes to figure out the "Mystery Guest" and "Guess This Group" segments of the program.

"Now and Then" is interesting as well.

By the way, in case you're wondering, the average height today is 5 feet 5 inches for women and 6 feet for men.

Guys, we're gaining on you.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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