Irving Elementary School teacher Joel Blecha was heartbroken when the 2019-20 school year had to end with remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The kindergarten teacher was about to start an exciting bug unit with his students when learning went online. Despite the circumstances, Blecha decided to move forward with his lessons, and with the help of his two children, "BugTV" was born.
“We were all ready to do a big insect unit," Blecha said. "Each kindergarten class would have a set of caterpillars to watch the process of metamorphosis and then release the butterflies—we have a butterfly garden at Irving."
"And then everything happened."
Blecha said all the Irving kindergarten teachers were on board to continue the bug unit and decided to raise the insects at home. They decided to order even more bugs, including ladybug larva and praying mantises.
As a part of the unit, Blecha wanted to create videos to explain metamorphosis and talk about each bug, but the process turned into something much more.
“We were just going to make these little videos, talking about how to look at them, and then it became these pretty long episodes,” said Asa, Blecha's youngest son.
Blecha said the involvement of his two sons in "BugTV" became natural. Before the school year moved to remote learning, Tate and Asa interacted with many of their dad’s students.
“It makes it all the more fun for me," Blecha said. "It’s one of the silver linings of this pandemic that the three of us guys can have this creative outlet together. Some days are hard and feelings are running high and then we get to work on "BugTV" and these guys are now even bringing their own ideas.”
"BugTV" isn’t just about learning the process of metamorphosis or watching the insects hatch, there are also hands-on activities like bug yoga, which you can see in Episode 8. Other teachers have also participated in the series. The theme song of "BugTV" was created by Irving music teacher Patrick Deaton.
"BugTV" has become a huge hit with parents, other grade levels, and has even has reached international levels!
“This is a show that was intended for Irving kindergartners, but then it spread to other District 97 schools, and families heard about it on Facebook and Twitter," Blecha said. "My friend is reporting that she and her kids are watching it in Argentina. Some guy in Saudi Arabia replied to one of my tweets saying, ‘We love the show, and we are learning so much!”
Even though the remote learning process has been a difficult transition for many teachers and students, the "BugTV" series has opened a new pathway of learning for Blecha’s students.
“Kids are made out of questions. This has really fired up their curiosity in a really exciting way,” he said
You can watch all the episodes of "BugTV" online by visiting their website.