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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Little Einsteins’ smart and delightful show

Jeanne Spreier The Dallas Morning News

What parent, given the option, wouldn’t want their little one to grow up with the Einstein edge?

While the title of “Little Einsteins,” the latest preschooler program on Disney, oversells itself (no 30-minute TV program can make any kid an academic wizard), it does nevertheless provide charming television and enjoyable music.

In this past Sunday’s premiere episode (which repeats Saturday at 8 a.m.), Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1: Morning Mood” underscores the plot about recovering a music baton that a mother eagle takes from Leo, one of the Little Einstein pals.

Leo loves to conduct, and each of his pals has a different performing arts passion: dancing, playing instruments and singing. The eagle uses the baton to build her nest and the four friends, aboard their rocket ship, depart on a mission to retrieve it.

In a stab at interactivity, the children buckle up on the rocket and start patting their laps. “Pat with us,” they command, asking viewers to pat faster and faster to provide the energy needed to launch the rocket.

It’s a bit of a Tinkerbell moment, but once in the air, the rocket zooms by Mount St. Helens, giving the Little Einsteins the opportunity to talk about volcanoes, crescendo and diminuendo (as the rumbling gets louder and softer) and the California redwood forests. (It all makes sense when you watch.)

As fine arts programs get slashed in schools across the nation, it’s wonderful to see that preschooler television is embracing lessons in music and art.

Look for “Little Einsteins” weekdays at 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 8 a.m., on Disney (cable channel 41 in Spokane, 32 in Coeur d’Alene).

Energy to spare

For other aspiring Einsteins – teens studying chemistry and physics in school – this week’s “NOVA” special on PBS, “Einstein’s Big Idea,” offers some texture to the E-equals-MC-squared formula that marks the scientist’s greatest achievement.

In docu-drama fashion, “NOVA” goes back to 18th century France and 19th century England and Germany to trace the building blocks that allowed Albert Einstein to come up with his groundbreaking revelation.

The special makes sure viewers realize all these scientists had a personal life (one French aristocratic lady’s goings-on with Voltaire while her general husband was away gets notably mentioned). But what’s most revelatory, at least to those of us who aren’t scientists, is how many women scientists (including Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire’s lover) made discoveries that were essential to Einstein’s understanding of light, matter and energy.

Even Einstein, typically portrayed as a wizened, white-haired wonder, gets a human look, begging his mathematically inclined wife to stay home for a morning of relaxation rather than rushing off to the university for lectures.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s “great year” of scientific papers, when he wrote about the natures of light, molecules, atoms and energy. For older kids, this special offers an opportunity to study for school, without really having to try too hard.

Look for it Tuesday at 7 p.m. on KSPS-7 in Spokane, and at 8 p.m. on KUID-12 in Moscow and KCDT-26 in Coeur d’Alene.

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