Samuel Y. Gibbon, Jr. – Setting a Standard for Educational Media

Frank B. Withrow - The Dawn Patrol

There are many acceptable producers and creators of learning materials.  There are a few rare geniuses that can conceive of and develop extraordinary learning products.  Samuel Y. Gibbon, Jr. is among the top creators of high quality digital resources. He pioneered in work on Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact and The Voyage of the Mimi.  In the 1980s we envisioned that multiple media programs would include television, books, and computer programs. In fact, we believed and still believe that coordinated computer programs can be embedded in the television signal.

Bearded sailor holding binoculars, sailing boat, tale of a whale and compassPeter G. Marston as Captain Clement Tyler Granville in The Voyage of the Mimi

Sam, as the executive director of The Voyage of the Mimi, designed, developed and produced the series featuring twelve-year-old Ben Affleck as C. T. Granville.  The program featured fifteen minutes of drama and fifteen minutes of documentary science that supported the dramatic actions. A book accompanied the television series, and computer programs supported the science and mathematics.

The first season had a deaf woman scientist, and the second, a one-legged female scuba diver. In the first season, one of the documentary sessions visited a deaf blind woman at Gallaudet University. She was working on her masters degree in social work but liked to tell people she spent her honeymoon cycling through New England. Her husband was sighted, and they went on a bicycle for two.

Sam has a unique ability to integrate the multiple media components of a product. I foolishly believed that all future programs from the U.S. Department of Education would include this multimedia pattern. In a budget cutting frenzy by the administration and congress, the television authority was eliminated in USDOE.  In later years the authority was restored but with limitations.

Sam ranks among the greats in children’s television production such as Fred Rogers, Jim Henson and Joan Ganz Cooney. Sam, like Fred and Jim, has the unique ability to get into the minds of his audience.  For example, how does a twelve-year-old C. T. Granville think, feel and dream? Sam’s ability to create storylines that ring true is part of his success. In the late 1980s, The Voyage of the Mimi was used by approximately 60 percent of the nation’s upper elementary schools.

2 Responses

  1. I had always hoped that another series would come along that would be the next Voyage of the Mimi. The elements of the program, the teaching resources, the ways in which the program supported many types of learning were remarkable. I still think there is room for a “new” Voyage of the Mimi.

    Bonnie Bracey Sutton

  2. I wish to see Captain Granville again… and Pepper as First Officer. This series is one of the best I´ve ever seen.

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