I've spent a lot of time perusing web sites for kids but not in a creepy way, I promise. As the Program Director of an afterschool program in Austin, TX during my last years of graduate school, I was in charge of supervising what our students viewed on the Internet. And being the single aunt of four nieces and nephews and the frequent visitor to teen and preteen cousins, I’m often drafted to participate in various and sundry online activities.
While there's good stuff out there, over the years I’ve been bored, underwhelmed and even horrified by what I’ve seen promoted for kids on the web. I’ve been forced to play goofy café games, tried to get Swiper to stop swiping on Nick Jr, and have hotly debated the appropriateness of kid-friendly Second Life-like sites with colleagues for computer free time.
But in all that kid friendly surfing I’d never encountered anything like Smart Girls At The Party, the web series and online community founded by Amy Poehler for young girls -- oh, and me.
I’ve been a fan of Poehler’s since her star turn at Saturday Night Live and I’ve come to adore her even more as the sweet smarty pants "Leslie Knope" on "Parks and Recreation." The show's hilarious, crazy and sweet without being too syrupy and the female friendship between Poehler’s Leslie and Rashida Jones’ Ann, is the best on TV right now. So what better celeb is there to help shine the next generation of superstars online?
In one of my favorite episodes, “Ruby The Feminist,” 7-and-three-quarters-year-old Ruby explains Feminism to Amy Poehler: "I think boys and girls are of equal value. That means if a boy can do the monkey rings then so can a girl."
Smart Girls is a web-series and community site that lets girls know that they can “change the world by being yourself." Real life best friends Amy Poehler, Meredith Walker and Amy Miles created the site to showcase girls who are important and excellent just because they are doing things that they are interested in and that they believe in.
In each episode of the show, Poehler interviews a girl about what she does. It could be dancing, gardening, science or yoga. Poehler treats her tiny interviewees with sincerity and kindness, as if what this little girl has to say is interesting…because it IS interesting! Then at the end of the interview, this is the best part, everyone in the room explodes into a spontaneous DANCE PARTY!
Ruby then presents the book she wrote in Kindergarten on the subject, shares a piece of her own art entitled “Make Your Mind Crazy” and stresses the importance of being a good friend. Normally, the show's musical director Amy Miles sings a 20-second song dedicated to the girl being interviewed, but Ruby has composed her own song for the occasion. Ruby is hilarious, brilliant, charming, inspirational and only seven.
There’s even more to be found at the Smart Girls Facebook page where Amy, Amy and Meredith share pearls of wisdom from some folks we know and those we should know better like comedy inspiration Carol Burnett, pioneering African American aviator Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman, Grammy winner Adele, architect Maya Lin, Meryl Streep and that Parks and Recreation political dynamo and fearless leader of the Pawnee Rangers, Leslie Knope:
I am a Goddess. A glorious, female warrior.Queen of all that I survey.Enemies of fairness and equality, hear my womanly roar:YAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Because I'm very old now, nothing quite like Smart Girls would have existed when I was a girl because there was no Internet long long ago. Although I did have lots of great people in my life telling me that being smart and being myself was more than enough to make me a superstar, decades later I still have to work to ignore those messages that say I have to be something more to be awesome.
So, these days I share the link to Smart Girls at the Party with the girls I know and the people that love them in the hopes that if more girls get the chance to see Amy, Amy and Meredith’s website, it’ll encourage them to look inside themselves for starpower. And change the world by being themselves.