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Girls Inc. Behind-the-Scenes Writing Science-Based Scripts for TV

By Annie Chen, Youth Counselor, Girls Inc. at YWCA Minneapolis
January 31, 2017
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Over Winter Break Girls Inc. Eureka! had an opportunity to attend a scriptwriting workshop focused on integrating scientific concepts. The workshop was presented by Liz Hara, originally from Minneapolis. Liz currently lives in New York City and works for Sesame Street as a puppet builder, wrangler and writer. She and her team won the 2015 Emmy Award for costume design on Sesame Street. Liz also writes plays and has built puppets and costumes for Mirror Mirror, The Lion King on Broadway and Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.

Liz shared with the girls what she does on a day-to-day basis including: creating puppets and costumes for episodes, “wrangling” puppets and keeping track and taking care of the puppets when they are not filming. In addition, Liz shared that she has started writing scripts for the show. The girls learned that it takes about a year for an idea to go from a concept that is pitched to filming and becoming a product. They also saw a behind-the-scenes clip showing how green screens work and how puppeteers often have to wear green gloves and sometimes entire body suits to film episodes.

After the introduction, Liz and the girls went over the basics of creating a plot and how to use a science concept to create conflict. Together the group worked to create a plot about Neil deGrasse Tyson and a penguin living in a refrigerator trying to make water freeze into ice. The girls were split into small groups, given costumes and props to inspire them and reminded of different science concepts about which they learned.

Each group had the opportunity to present their skits. Topics included: exploration of chemistry through lip gloss making; convincing a gorilla not to cut down trees because they produce chicle, an ingredient in gum; and teaching someone about the environment and conservation through a Christmas Carol-esque storytelling.

The girls expressed that they enjoyed learning about the behind-the-scenes aspect of Liz’s career. They had many questions about living in New York City, what she studied in college and her favorite costumes she built for familiar Sesame Street characters.

“I was so excited to get involved with Eureka! Getting girls interested in STEM is something we are particularly passionate about at Sesame Street, and I heard so much about the cool things girls were learning in this program. I had an awesome time with everyone—these young women were so smart, engaging, funny and creative. I was impressed with the work they did, and loved watching the plays they created in such a short time.”