The United Nations have formed an unlikely collaboration with Mattel to educate young children through Thomas the Tank Engine. The new 26 part series and 80 minute feature film of Thomas and Friends will promote 5 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development goals, which were adopted by world leaders at the historic Sustainable Development Summit in 2015, with the ambition of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
Mattel inc. and the UN have chosen 5 of the goals to incorporate into story-lines which can be understood and enjoyed by pre-school aged children. Specifically, the Goals selected are: #4 Quality Education, #5 Gender Equality, #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, #12 Responsible Consumption and Production, and #15 Life on Land.
Thomas and Friends has been running for 73 years and has previously received criticism for classism and sexism. The new gender balanced fleet travel around the world, learning about new cultures and bringing to light issues such as the importance of clean water, why we need to take care or forests and the problem of polluted air in cities.
Resources on the accompanying website show video examples of each to the goals, along with resources for parents to encourage discussion and learning about each topic. The premise ‘I’ve been on a big world adventure, I’ve learnt what an amazing place the world is and how important it is that we take care of it’ opens each video.
The reach and influence of Thomas and friends is huge; it is broadcast in over 160 countries, in 55 languages and one toy train is sold every second. Thomas and Friends is playing an important part in using the power of storytelling to instil important values and a responsibility for the planet from an early age.