The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation

Ages: 13 - 16Producer: Litton Entertainment

The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation opens with host Mo Rocca welcoming the audience, then throwing his arms open wide and declaring, “You are about to get smarter!” We live in a world of hyperbole but in this case Mo Rocca is simply speaking the truth. This half-hour TV-magazine show, spotlighting history’s innovators and today’s big thinkers, features stories that hit the sweet spot at the intersection of entertainment and education.

Dying to try a board sport but pretty sure you couldn’t manage to stay balanced, regardless of whether you’re on snow, water, or rolling down the sidewalk on a skateboard? OneWheel! Inventor Kyle Doerksen explains how this electric board uses technology to balance riders on a single wheel and “drive” them around with a hidden two-horse-power motor. Another story features a 16-year-old who uses art and technology, first to cope with her own feelings as the target of bullies, and later, to help others avoid that same fate. She created an app called “Sit With Us” to promote kindness and inclusion. Users post a pledge that they are open to having others sit with them for lunch in the school cafeteria and kids who feel ostracized or excluded can seek them out to avoid the painful act of eating alone. Segments are divided by an interesting short sequence titled “The Mo You Know,” challenging viewers with quizzes and providing a short history lesson to explain the answers using graphics, animation, and still photos. Programs conclude with a review of some of the vocabulary words and concepts used in that episode.

The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation stories are well-produced, the graphics are bright and energetic without being intrusive, and the writing is creative without being corny or overly clever. Steering Maker-minded tweens in the direction of this program will likely inspire long sessions of tinkering, concocting, fabricating, and designing.

Gina Catanzarite ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster’s Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.