A new animated video to help kids understand the ins and outs of COVID-19 is hitting the internet as children head back to school.
The video, produced by a team at the University of B.C. (UBC), features Super Dot, a spherical superhero who helps explain the coronavirus in a comic book setting.
“It’s really hard to explain microbiology to your kids,” said Zachary Rothman, a senior video producer with the UBC faculty of medicine.
The cartoon superhero helps explain the complexities of the coronavirus in the short film “COV-Ed 4 Kids.”
“We worked really hard to find that line between being really fun and really accessible for kids, and also not trivializing the seriousness of the pandemic,” Rothman said.
To ensure the video is geared for kids, it is also voiced by one.
Rothman hadn’t initially planned to have his own daughter, Saskia, voice Super Dot, but as he used her to help test out lines during the writing process, it became clear that she embodies the character.
When the pandemic started, the six-year-old said she didn’t like it.
“I couldn’t play with my friends and I couldn’t get out,” she said.
Those are some of the issues the video tackles.
The video starts off with a series of questions: “Why do all the grown-ups tell us to stay home? And why can’t we play with our friends? I’ve heard that it’s because of something sneaky called the coronavirus.”
The video explains how the coronavirus was discovered, ways people get infected and the various symptoms.
Super Dot said everyone can be their own superheroes by using the powers of sneezing and coughing into their elbows, staying at home as much as possible and washing their hands for at least 20 seconds.
The resource is part of a series of educational videos on the topic, courtesy of the UBC Medicine Ed Tech, the COVID-19 Medical Student Response Team and infectious disease expert Dr. Mary Kestler.
When the pandemic started, the rotations for medical students were cancelled.
Faizan Bhatia and Celia Kwan, both third-year students, wanted to use their extra time to help with the fight. They realized there aren’t many resources for kids, so they got to work and helped write a script.
“COVID-19 can be this very scary and daunting subject, so we wanted to create something that was more lighthearted and fun and in simple language,” Bhatia said.
The team of about 20 started working on the video in March. They relied on peer-reviewed research and information supported by experts.
Kwan hopes the video inspires kids to contribute to the fight against the disease.
“I think one of the main things is for children to feel like they're more empowered and more in control to do things, to help protect themselves and loved ones during the pandemic, and also to help them feel just a little bit more reassured during this period of uncertainty,” she said.
Rothman said he noticed a change in Saskia after her involvement in the project. She became more understanding about why things are different during the pandemic.
The team is now working on a video game about hand washing, which will be released in the coming weeks.