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Sparks

This Chicken Named Potato Will Teach Your Kids About Climate Change

A chicken from the future, to be clear.

Future Chicken.
Heatmap Illustration/CBC, Getty Images

If I told you there was a chicken named Potato who was going to teach our kids about climate change, would you think I was kidding? Either way, I’m here to inform you that Future Chicken, an “ECOtainment platform” co-created by Catherine Winder and Annabel Slaight, launched last year, including original content like a TV show that airs on CBC and YouTube, games, and a podcast, all aimed at warding off climate doom and instead highlighting climate solutions.

Winder and Slaight have, to put it mildly, impressive resumes, with Slaight having been an executive producer of The Big Comfy Couch and Winder a force behind multiple Angry Birds movies. The show’s premise is fun, and was actually thought up by kids. The main character is a chicken (named Potato) from the year 2050, a time when climate change has seemingly been solved. She travels back and forth between the future and the present, sometimes talking about the solutions of her time.

As one of Heatmap’s resident Climate Dads, the question of how and when I should talk to my kids about climate change actually vexes me a lot, so I’m always open to new media on the subject. A couple years ago, being a millennial parent, I reached out to one of my own childhood bards (and longtime climate advocate) Raffi, of “Baby Beluga” fame, for his advice.

Here’s what he told me:

Wait. Wait until the child asks you about climate change. And then, depending on the child’s age, your response can be brief and not alarming. You don’t want to get into a long climate-data talk. Keep it brief, don’t say too much. If and when the child returns for more, then say more. We want to comfort, not add to the child’s anxiety. Comfort comes in knowing that many are engaged in climate action, and we’re in this together.

Future Chicken, from what I’ve seen, follows similar guidance. In one episode, Future Chicken introduces us to climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe (for a quick second her on-screen name reads Katharine Play-Dough), a “planet protector who helped us build a better future.” She talks about how individual actions like reducing food waste or walking or biking to school affect others. “When we talk about them with other people,” she says, “that’s how we catalyze change.”

When I showed Future Chicken to my kids, my seven year old son was most drawn to an episode featuring a video game influencer named Mackenzie Turner, who emphasized trying to get outside and away from screen time. (The show playfully called it getting more “green time.”) As an avid videogamer, my son didn’t quite see eye to eye with her on this one, but it led to a good conversation about the importance of nature.

My almost-five year old daughter really liked the episode with Robin Greenfield, a climate activist famous for trying to reduce waste in every way possible, which has resulted in stunts like wearing all the trash he produced in a month.

I asked my daughter what she learned from the episode.

“I learned that there are leaves that grow out of your butt.”

“That doesn’t happen,” I gently explained. “The guy talked about wiping his butt with leaves.”

“That’s what I meant,” she said.

Future Chicken is no Bluey, a.k.a. the “best kids show of our time.” But it did keep my kids’ attention for the three 11-minute episodes we watched.

The real test will be if they ask to watch it tomorrow – or if my daughter asks me to fetch her some fresh leaves.

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Mike Munsell profile image

Mike Munsell

Mike is the VP of Sales at Heatmap. He previously was the founding director of growth at Canary Media, where he authored a column on the intersection of climate and culture.

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