Sheila Shoff is Thrilled with Success of ‘Squibs’ on DVD

By Edwin L. Carpenter – Associate Editor, The Dove Foundation

The creative team at Ignite! Learning have produced a series of science multi-media DVD’s, a total of nine volumes, which are being used jointly with curriculum in several classrooms across the United States. The programs combine animation, music, and characters, along with interesting facts, to creatively bring science classes to life.

Sheila Shoff, the Product Representative for an educational DVD series from Ignite! Learning recently spoke to The Dove Foundation about the series’ success and about future plans. “It’s an amazing process to me, considering the fact that I’m not a technical person,” Shoff said. “All of the material in ‘Squibs’ is pulled off the curriculum which we sell to schools. We do Science and Social Studies and the thought behind the DVD’s was that it is more of a take-home product that could have parent involvement or follow-up, or just a simple, single product that children will enjoy at home.”

She spoke about the initial efforts which lead to the finished product. “Everything is created here. We have a creative staff that does research for the product of course and it is all science based, and skill based, and it meets the requirements for the skills and projects they have to study at school. It’s correlated to many of the states, the actual curriculum is.  So the ideas that we have pulled off for the DVD’s may not cover every single thing, but our actual curriculum does. The DVD’s compliment the curriculum. It’s a multi-media curriculum. There is obviously more to the curriculum than the DVD’s. The curriculum is not necessarily meant to replace a text book but the school doesn’t always get a neat text book so this is intended more to compliment the text book.”

Shoff thinks the impact has been positive. “The whole purpose of multi-media, for lack of a better word, is that it addresses all learning styles. So children that learn visually, audibly, or kinesthetically all benefit from this modality of teaching. One of the owners and creators of our company was dyslexic, and so this really hit home because if he had this when he was growing up then ‘voila!’ it would have been much easier for him. One of the benefits of this is that it is great for special education and a number of different specialties really benefit from the product.”

She was happy to talk about the creative team and commented, “There are about three different men who work on the animation. You’ve got someone who does the base creations. About two men create and a third one comes in and adds to it. And there’s a researcher and a writer, and it’s really a great team because there’s also coding involved. They all throw the project back and forth. It takes anywhere between nine months to a year to create a full series like this. We have musicians who come in and add the music, and some of the voices that you hear are employees of Ignite! Learning and some are contracted to come in and do a particular voice for us. We do have a sound room and a projection room and it’s really, really exciting especially since we’re a small, fairly new company. We’re in our seventh year.”

The programs include various songs and she said, “We use to have our little chants when we were children and now they have more songs than chants. And we have teachers and parents tell us that their child walks around singing a song or they’ll have our curriculum at the school and they’ll say, ‘Can we look at our curriculum today?’ Our curriculum is on wheels and it’s purple so it’s called ‘The Purple COW.’ And the kids love it. They’ll say, ‘Can we listen to the Purple COW today?’ And that is the point—to keep their attention. We’ve had a couple of generations now who are very technically-inclined children. They’re use to computers, they’re use to iPods, they’re use to X-Box, and this really fits in with the life they’re use to but it’s all educational.”

Shoff said that the DVD’s and curriculum are geared for ages eight and up. “Our curriculum is really for grades five through nine. ‘Squibs’ DVDS are really almost like ‘School House Rock,’ but really for ages eight and up. Really, I still like ‘School House Rock’!”

As far as future releases of “Squibs,” she said, “We haven’t scheduled any future releases just yet. Since this is brand new we’re really working to get it out there, and we want some feedback and to learn what our customers love about them, and what else would they like to see, and what maybe doesn’t work for them. We want to be able to make some improvements, and maybe we don’t need to make any improvements! But we want some time for a little more feedback. We do Social Studies curriculum as well so I guess there is the potential that we could do Social Studies’ DVD’s some time. We could do more Science. We’re going to see what the market’s demanding, but at the moment we don’t have anything scheduled.”

The company has received some early feedback: “We’ve gotten great comments; people are really excited and they’re thoroughly enjoying it. I really haven’t had any negative feedback at all. I guess the one thing is that sometimes people don’t know what a squib is (this writer had to confess he did not know what a squib is either). A squib is a short blip of information. And in the movies if someone shoots a gun and it makes a noise, the squib is what explodes. So the intention of squib is to ignite learning. Also, this is a kind of collection of squibs because they’re short blips of information. They’re short two-minute little videos meant to quickly give information that can be followed up on, or added to; hence the tough word (Squibs) on the DVD as well, and it’s meant to tie-in to what children might be learning. And there is a character named Squib who is on the first DVD, on the cover.”

An example of one of the volumes in the series is Volume Five, titled “In Matter: Atoms, Elements, & Chemistry.” The video list includes nineteen brief chapters with such titles as “Properties of Matter,” and “Things are Changing.”

“I came on board when the product was close to completion,” Sheila continued. “My job is to roll the product out. I determine the channels, contact people such as yourself and The Dove Foundation, and actually get the product out into the market.” She said although she arrived near the completion of the product’s first nine DVD’s in the series, she is enjoying understanding the product, and “to actually know the people who are so amazingly creative and put this all together and then to see it get out and watch the children really enjoy it.” Recently she watched as the DVD’s were shown to children and there was a coloring contest of the characters and some of the children started singing along with it. She was pleased that some replayed the DVD’s and “really got it, really enjoyed it. You knew you were going to really help them and make a difference.” She mentioned that as far as the characters are concerned, the DJ seems to be the most popular. “Children just love the DJ,” she said. “He’s a mainstay.”

The DVD’s can be purchased directly by parents at the website: www.squibs.com  They are available as well from Amazon.com. Shoff said a lot of libraries have purchased the DVD’s. When future releases are created, she said, “It will probably be another series of nine, especially if we are pulling it off of curriculum. That way it’s complete. These are great for home-schooled children as well, especially since they won the Dove Seal of Approval. So clearly they’re proper, family entertainment. And generally home-schooled children have a religious base. I think it’s a great item for home schooling, parochial schools, that type of thing too. It’s good for after-school programs as well.”

In her closing comments, Sheila said, “We are thrilled to be awarded The Dove Seal. We appreciate the opportunity and recognition so that people do know that it is a good, quality, family product.”