Team Kentron, a new original Sci-Fi children’s series premiers in Loudoun County Public Schools this week.
The series was created by A Place to Be music therapy working with Lindsay Orme, the coordinator for social and emotional learning for the school division.
Tom Sweitzer, co-founder and creative director with Middleburg-based A Place to Be, said they’ve had a great relationship with Loudoun schools for years. Before the pandemic the music therapy nonprofit would put on assemblies in both middle and elementary schools that focused on emotional well-being, acceptance, and diversity. Sweitzer said once COVID-19 hit, they were no longer able to go inside the schools.
He said Team Kentron was born out of the desire to help children better understand their emotions, while being creative about how to bring the message into schools with COVID still around.
He said they figured out the best way to expand the reach of their mission was to create the video series while everyone was still coming out of the pandemic.
“At our core we are a music therapy center, but our values are acceptance, belonging, and love,” Sweitzer said.
He said for the past two years they have seen children go through difficult times.
“For children this is the most vulnerable time, so we wanted to create a small project to offer them. It’s uniquely made for them. It’s from the LCPS curriculum and we are honored that the public schools trust us and very grateful they trust us to make content like this,” Sweitzer said.
He said the social emotional curriculum creates a map to working with children and their emotions that helped guide them as they made the series.
The five-part series is about a group of non-earthlings who have been tasked with earning crystals. To do so they have to go to Earth and figure out some human emotions.
The title, Kentron, in ancient Greek means “center.” Sweitzer said the show is about centering yourself. Also, the non-earthlings come from the center of the universe he said.
A new episode is released about every three weeks on YouTube. Students in second through fifth grade will watch it in their classroom then have discussions about each episode. About 23,000 students will watch the series.
Sweitzer said they will watch how the students respond, and assess by mid-October if another season will be made or a 45-minute movie to be played in the spring.
Sweitzer said children seem to grasp an emotion better when they view it from a non-human perspective. He said it’s science fiction that’s fun and not too scary, but identifiable to where children can relate.
Not only is the series made in Loudoun County and uses LCPS social and emotional curriculum, but all of the actors are local as well. The actors are music therapists and current and former clients from A Place to Be—giving performance opportunities to neurodiverse kids as well as student volunteers from the community.
Filming was done over the summer. Sweitzer said it was quite the undertaking building the set, including the spaceship and coordinating schedules around summer camps and possible COVID exposures, but he said it was a lot of fun.
“Our team created a UFO, and it seriously looks like a real one. Inside its completely workable with all sorts of lights and buttons and buzzers. It looks like something from Star Trek,” Sweitzer said.
The series premieres Wednesday, Aug. 31, in second through fifth grade classrooms. Watch the trailer here.
Sponsors of the Team Kentron series include the Loudoun Education Foundation, Inova Loudoun Hospital, Microsoft, The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.
This article was updated on Sept. 1 to mention the sponsors of Team Kentron.