“Lyla in the Loop,” an animated series featuring the problem-solving adventures of a 7-year-old girl named Lyla Loops, premieres February 5 in English and Spanish on PBS KIDS. The series focuses on Lyla and her close-knit family: her mother, Lydia, and father, Louis, who run Loops Lunch diner in a big city; older twin sisters Liana and Louisa; and younger brother Luke; plus Lyla’s blue sidekick, Stu, and best friend, Everett Phan.
Funded by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Ready To Learn Initiative, "Lyla in the Loop" is produced by Mighty Picnic and Pipeline Studios and features Lyla, family and friends taking on challenges such as repurposing materials to make carnival games. Their creative problem-solving introduces children ages 4-8 to computational thinking concepts, such as sequencing, breaking a problem into parts, recognizing patterns, and using logic. Additional "Lyla in the Loop" learning resources are being developed for PBSKIDS.org and PBSLearningMedia.org.
CPB caught up with series creator Dave Peth, story editor Monique D. Hall, and digital producer Nneka Bolden to talk about the vision for the series and including real places and real people in the creative process.
Q: Dave, you are based in Philadelphia, and the theme song (by Grammy-nominated Divinity Roxx) includes vocals by students from the public School District of Philadelphia, and the series incorporates artwork by schoolchildren from Philadelphia as well as other states. What are you conveying by including them?
Dave Peth: The main message of “Lyla in the Loop” is that kids at home can use their innate creativity and strategic thinking to tackle any problem they set their mind to … and have a lot of fun doing it! And that message matters both on screen and behind the scenes. By including kids from our local Philly public school to record vocals in the theme song and inviting kids from across the country to submit their art to be included in the show, we’re delivering the message to kids that they’ve got what it takes to participate in making a TV show!
Q: What other real-life influences can be seen, and how do you incorporate them in ways to make the series relatable to children everywhere?
Monique D. Hall: Many of the storylines in “Lyla in the Loop” are inspired by those universal experiences of childhood, like making a new friend, coordinating chores with siblings, or dealing with frustration when things don't go the way you'd hoped. We wanted to reflect these moments, so that all kids can identify with Lyla and also be inspired by how she (and Stu!) are able to figure out creative solutions to these challenges.
Q: The show has a large cast, and their interactions and collaborations drive much of the storytelling and humor. What makes the Loops family special and what are you hoping to role model and inspire through them?
Monique D. Hall: What makes the Loops family special is that they're incredibly loving and supportive of each other. They work together in Loops Lunch, but they also have lots of fun together. We wanted to portray a family that was warm, modern, and relatable and we feel we did just that.
Q: The series models inclusive problem-solving, and you’re doing that behind the scenes as well. With CPB support, you’re working with public television stations to develop a STEM toolkit. How does collaboration affect the work itself?
Nneka Bolden: We’re developing a toolkit for local stations to get kids and their grownups laughing and playing while they try out computational thinking in everyday life. We connected with four stations (WHUT in Washington, D.C; WQED in Pittsburgh, Las Vegas PBS, and Detroit Public TV) to co-design activities for families and educators. Together we created a 40+ set of cards that feature different activities for kids that help them engage in computational thinking skills. The stations were able to review these cards along with local partners who also gave input. We couldn’t have created such exciting materials without the collaboration with the stations!
Q: Dave, you’ve worked on digital content for “Peg + Cat” and “Odd Squad” and know firsthand about local PBS stations and their education mission. How has your experience with these other PBS KIDS properties informed “Lyla in the Loop”?
Dave Peth: Both “Peg + Cat” and “Odd Squad” draw kids into the series, digital content, and offline activities with a lot of wit and whimsy and never underestimate their audience. Both of those series focus on math learning goals, and they weave those concepts so seamlessly into the narrative you don’t even notice that you’re tackling some tricky math concepts alongside the characters – you’re just along for a fun ride! We aimed to do the same with “Lyla in the Loop.” Our learning goals focus on computational thinking, which may be an unfamiliar term for many, but our stories ground this in everyday life with a little fantastical element added with Lyla’s little blue sidekick, Stu!
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The contents of this spotlight were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. The project is funded by a Ready To Learn grant (PR/Award No. S295A200004, CFDA No. 84.295A) provided by the Department of Education to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.