Mascots That Educate
The best way to learn is by doing…. We’ve all heard that one before. We’d like to add to that sentiment, however, by insisting that the best way of learning is by doing something memorable. That’s where mascots come in. Numerous organizations have been incorporating mascots into their educational programs for years, in order to captivate children and adults alike. Over the years we have seen mascots teaching extraordinary issues from the rules of the road, to fire safety, environmental awareness, nature, recycling and even obesity! We explore some mascots that educate and why they make an impact. Maybe you’ll get some ideas of your own!
Using a mascot is a great way to teach children about safety in a manner that is relatable, non- threatening and (dare we say?) fun. Consider Work Safe New Brunswick’s use of Stella the Safety Skunk. Stella is incorporated into school teachings about safety. Work Safe provides a complete learning program; which includes Stella the Safety Skunk puppets for teachers to use. Taken from their website: “Students learn how skunks use a variety of warning and defense mechanisms to help them stay safe, and then through Stella’s classroom activities, they learn how they can do the same at school and at home.” Teachers lead children in a hazards assessment of their classroom and run through safety procedures for at school and at home, using Stella’s interactive programming. Classrooms can then book life-sized Stella to come into classrooms for special visits! Where was the giant skunk teaching about at- home safety when we were kids?!
Elmer the Elephant is a safety mascot that was created by the Canada Safety Council, and born back in 1947. Like Stella, his safety program rapidly gained attention Canada- wide: “The Safety Elephant’s fame grew. Other Ontario communities asked for the program. Demand became so strong that the Telegram, owner of the copyright, authorized the Ontario Safety League to administer the program in Ontario outside Toronto.”
Both Work Safe NB and the Canada Safety Council do it right by combining fun and engaging mascot programming with highly interactive and engaging websites with great resources for kids, parents, and educators. They’ve both created successful programs by letting their character lead in the creation of content for the web and the classroom.
Water Safety organizations have jumped on-board with mascot education as well! In an interview, Megan Cleary, a program representative for The Canadian Red Cross, discussed their mascot Buckles, “Buckles attends small Swimming & Water Safety workshops accompanied by staff/volunteers to help spread the word about staying safe in, on, or near water. This includes learning how to select and use a proper life-jacket. “ If I was a five year old kid, I would definitely be more inclined to pay attention to a tutorial on life-jackets led by….. a giant life- jacket. Wouldn’t you? (Read full interview transcript with Megan Cleary here.)
Mascots can also be useful when teaching kids about serious topics such as civic, environmental and personal responsibility. Waverly School, located in New York City, decided that they would use mascots to teach a class about the election process by having two mascots run against each other to become the school’s new representative; “It was a close race, but the “Waverly Eagle” snatched the title from the would-be “Waverly Wizard” by one vote. During the inaugural assembly, the mascot swore an oath to uphold school traditions and attend every assembly.” This proved to be a fun and engaging way to teach kids about the very serious topic of the electoral process!”
Many environmental organizations also incorporate mascots into their kid’s programming. Some use recycling bins brought to life to teach kids about the 3 Rs (reuse, reduce, and recycle, in case you forgot!) Others use giant water drop mascots to educate kids about water conservation.
In a conversation with Ruth Griffin, from Metroparks of Toledo, we learned about how they are using their three mascots to create a broader educational program about the conservation of wildlife found in their parks, “We are developing a Fact Sheet on each of our Mascots – Owlberta the Barred Owl, Boggs the Leopard Frog and Otis the Oak Leaf. This fact sheet will interweave facts about the Characters (we have developed a personality for each) and facts about their real life counterparts. This will provide the main educational opportunity with the public. All of these animals are found in our Metroparks. So they serve as the catalyst to start the education about the Oak Openings Region.” Ruth further quips about taking advantage of spontaneous opportunities to use the mascots for educational purposes: “And we turn every encounter into an educational experience. Such as at the Holiday Parade when Owlberta came face to face with Mascot Mice from another organization. As owls eat mice this was quite the educational moment.” (Read full interview transcript with Ruth Griffin here.)
In another instance, Henry the Hamster from Henry Gets Moving teaches kids about leading a healthy lifestyle. “Henry the Hamster is a young boy who overcomes his obesity challenge with an active lifestyle and healthy eating.” Henry the mascot visits classrooms and reads the book with children to teach them about taking care of their bodies. He also runs exercise programs (that’s right, this mascot is probably fitter then all of us put together!) As childhood obesity is an ever growing problem in the US and Canada, this is a relevant and perfect way to educate children in a manner that makes sense to them!
So, why does this work?
Marketing specialist Jill Purdy has a few thoughts on the emotional connection that humans share with mascots, “Mascots help us relax, entertain us and distract us. They can bring us to tears, make us laugh uncontrollably or even behave like fools.” Jill also mentions the role of mascots over history. She claims that we “were raised on mascots”. Children see animated characters all around them in brand advertising, in television, books, on the internet. So, when one of these characters actually pops off the page, the screen etc. and seeks to teach them something, kids are all ears (and eyes!)
Not only this, but mascots are memorable. As Ira Kalb from “Business Insider” says: “Mascots, aka spokes-creatures, are branding elements that can help people better remember your company and product.” This rings true with educational mascots as well. Children are far more likely to remember the safety tutorial taught by Stella the Skunk, then the one taught by their homeroom teacher. Therefore, it can be argued that not only is it fun to incorporate mascots into educational programming, but it is hugely beneficial in ensuring that kids remember important lessons for many days to come!
These are just a few theories on why mascots are a great tool for educating children. Have any ideas of your own? Give us a shout!
Cleary, Megan. Interview. 06 February 2015.
“Elmer’s Story | Elmer The Safety Elephant : Elmer L’Éléphant Prudent.” Elmer’s Story | Elmer The Safety Elephant : Elmer L’Éléphant Prudent. Canada Safety Council, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.
Griffin, Ruth. Interview. 10 February 2015.
“Henry Gets Moving.” Henry Gets Moving RSS. 2012 Henry Gets Moving LLC, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.
Kalb, Ira. “How Mascots Work, And How To Pick A Memorable One.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 15 Jan. 2012. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.
Purdy, Jill. “Mascots Are Good Learning (and Marketing) Aids.” All Ears: Jackrabbitclass Blog. Jackrabbit Class 2014, 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
“Stella The Skunk.” Stella The Skunk. Work Safe NB, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
“Voting for Mascots Teaches About Elections, Inspires Fun.” Education World:. Education World, Inc., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.