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Noggin Finds New Pre-K Focus

Placing a greater emphasis on pre-kindergarten education, Noggin will add several new shows and revamp its schedule to better support a "connected learning" curriculum for toddlers, executives said.

Noggin is embracing an emerging educational concept — called "connected learning" — which aims to teach preschoolers lessons through everyday activities.

Each show on commercial-free Noggin will touch upon subject areas in a standard, pre-school curriculum now in use in 25 states, such as emergent literacy and language, mathematics, science and technologies, social sciences and visual arts.

To mimic a preschool classroom environment, Noggin will introduce an animated instructor, Moosey A. Moose, and a teacher's "helper," a bird named Zee. The characters will appear during interstitial programming to reinforce lessons through such activities as field trips, story times and show and tell.

Nick's move

The repositioning effort follows Nickelodeon's purchase of former partner Sesame Workshop's 50 percent stake in Noggin last August. The predominantly digital network has about 30 million subscribers, up from 25 million a year ago.

"Nobody has tried to do this in the media today, so it's a way of differentiating ourselves," Noggin general manager Tom Ascheim said. "We want to become the PBS of the next generation."

The repositioning does not change its target-audience focus from kids ages 2 to 5, said Ascheim.

"Children learn when they make connections with the world they know," Noggin director of education Russell Miller added. "By bringing serious preschool subjects into the context of engaging stories and activities, Noggin can help young children learn not only while they're watching but all day long."

Backing the rebranding effort — "Preschool On TV" — are three new shows to premiere April 7: Miffy and Friends, a stop-motion animated series based on books by Dutch artist Dick Bruna; Tweenies, a popular British puppet show; and OOBI, emanating from Noggin's original short-form series.

All three fit the connected-learning mantra — especially Tweenies, rooted in Great Britian's own comprehensive national Early Learning Goals educational standard, Ascheim said.

They join Noggin the original series Play With Me Sesame
and classic Sesame Street
episodes, along with other regular fare, including the Nickelodeon shows Blue's Clues, Maisy
and Franklin.

Ascheim would not comment on the cost of the repositioning, but said the network would not increase its license fee to operators.

Seeking cohesion

While many children attend some form of preschool, there isn't a cohesive and comprehensive effort to educate them. That could have adverse affects on learning potential once kindergarten begins, said Noggin's GM.

"Sixty percent of kids pre-school age are in pre-school today, so it felt like a good time to connect what we're trying to do with education with what they're trying to do," said Ascheim.

Said Carnegie Corp. education division programming officer Andrés Henríquez: "What it could do for the education community is give it a sense of how to use the medium as a way of demonstrating that you can take a really good curriculum and teach it via television."

Carnegie provides grants for educational programming and was an initial investor in Sesame Street.

Nickelodeon will air Noggin's three new shows during an April 7 preview. Noggin will air a daily four-hour block of Nick Jr. programming beginning in April, including such shows as Bob The Builder, Dora The Explorer, Maggie and the Ferocious Beast
and Oswald.

Ascheim said Noggin will work with the National Association for the Education of Young Children and other groups to ensure that its curriculum conforms to national standards. But it isn't looking for its programming to air in schools.

"Preschoolers don't watch a lot of television in their [class]rooms and we're not proposing that they do," he added. "We want to further their education at home."