Although kids are officially back at school, with COVID-19 incidents quadrupling in the past week, parents may find themselves back to home schooling sooner than they expect. If so, Whovian parents will be happy to be reminded that BBC Studios and the education publisher Twinkl have collaborated to provide a range of materials based on recent episodes.
The materials deal with the science, geography, and history of Series 11 and 12 episodes, such as Arachnids in the UK, Demons of the Punjab, Orphan 55, and Rosa. The themed packs include activity sheets, interactive presentations, and reading comprehensions, directly linked to the UK’s national curriculum for school years three to six, and explore topics such as how to use electricity safely, artificial intelligence, and Britain’s partition of India. They can be used in conjunction with the episodes themselves (available on the BBC iPlayer) or alone.
Providing these materials complements Doctor Who’s longstanding – if now much more informal – brief to educate children as well as entertain the family. The series’ father, Sydney Newman, wanted each story to have a ‘strong informational core based on fact,’ made the first companions two schoolteachers and a youngster, and famously (and futilely) ruled that there would be ‘no bug-eyed monsters.’ The Doctor has always been a teacher as well as a student. As Twinkl says,
The Doctor’s compassion and desire to help people also make them a solid role model for young people… children feel safe with them. It’s a big scary world out there, full of super complicated dilemmas, and as exciting as this is, it can be difficult to explore in a non-threatening way. The Doctor provides this safety blanket by taking us along in their seemingly indestructible blue box and being a reliable protector that we come to trust.
It’s far from the first time that Doctor Who has been used for educational purposes, of course. In 2010, TES provided Who-themed script writing tutorials for year sixes, including specially recorded video challenges from the Doctor, Amy, and Rory; short films about how to create characters and settings and use stage directions, and downloadable images and sound effects. The BBC has also slipped in a little learning with several of the Doctor Who computer games. The Gunpowder Plot, City of the Daleks, Blood of the Cybermen, and Shadows of the Vashta Nerada all allowed for historical facts to be learnt through play. As Vanessa Hamilton, Head of Brand at BBC Studios said,
Doctor Who has been inspiring and entertaining children for generations, so we’re thrilled that we can bring this much loved series to the classroom in an educational and engaging way.
The Twinkl materials can be downloaded for free by visiting their website, here.