It has the hallmarks of a classic children’s show – a catchy theme song, a host and a cast of loveable characters.
But the idea for Fredrick Fox and Friends was borne out of modern-day necessity and physical distancing.
Stoffel was teaching students from kindergarten to Grade 7 at Seven Stones Community School when the Saskatchewan government cancelled classes to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
With that came a challenge – how to get kids moving and being musical without having the same access to classroom resources and instruments.
Stoffel, along with other creative arts educators, began putting together home-based activities related to the curriculum for students to do throughout the week.
“Just to know that there are kids getting something out of it, just makes me feel useful even for just a small part of my day.”
For the younger kids, however, Stoffel decided to create his own episodic children’s show on YouTube.
With a cast of animal puppets ranging from the lead fox to a raven and an elephant, Stoffel teaches the fundamentals of music.
“It struck me very much, at first, of going, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I doing? I’m sitting in my home, playing with puppets about eight-ish hours a day,’” he laughed.
“It’s certainly been very encouraging over the last little while. It’s very clear that some of my students are watching, and it looks like some other folks are watching, too.”
In the three weeks since the first episode of Fredrick Fox and Friends was posted on April 3, it has clocked over 450 views.
“Just to know that there are kids getting something out of it, just makes me feel useful even for just a small part of my day,” Stoffel said.
“As far as I can tell from people responding to me, it looks like some of my older viewers didn’t have much of a music education, so they’re getting something from it, too.”
Stoffel now spends most mornings filming an episode, which averages around 12 minutes in length, and then edits and posts it for a one-day turnaround.
The educator does almost all of the production on his own, with help from his fiancée in scenes where he plays an instrument and puppets are involved.
He noted that some Grade 7 and 8 teachers at Seven Stones Community School have added to the project, getting their ELA students to write scripts for upcoming episodes.
He said when he eventually returns to the classroom, he will likely continue the show as an extra project to increase music appreciation.
“A person can go their entire lives hearing stories, but not knowing how to read. And in the same way, music has a lot of underlying ideas that I think is important for everyone to understand and appreciate,” he said.
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