Hey, There’s Some Science in My Cereal!
Quick, do you know a hibernating bat’s heart rate? Did you know that glass is actually a liquid? If you know the answers to questions like this, there’s a fair chance you grew up watching the now-classic Children’s Television Workshop television program 3-2-1-Contact. From 1980 until 1992, the science and technology show opened kids’ eyes to the fact that every aspect of our planet, from the miraculous to the mundane, has its roots in science.
Through mini-documentaries, music videos, and animation, young hosts on the magazine-format show explained the scientific principles behind everything from snowflakes to sexual reproduction. In the interest of sparking career ideas, 3-2-1 Contact also featured adults involved in scientific pursuits, from astronauts to Malaysian rubber growers.
The program also featured a series of much-loved mystery vignettes, The Bloodhound Gang, in which a group of teen detectives used their science knowledge to solve crimes. These story arcs aired over the course of several episodes and employed a clever scientific twist that led to the solution. In “The Case of the Cackling Ghost,” for example, the young team comes to the aid of Mrs. Fairbanks, who hears cackling laughter and thinks she sees a ghost. When the gang finds an emptied bottle of pheromones used to trap moths, the detectives deduce that Mrs. Fairbanks’ nephew had used the pheromones to attract a cloud of moths that resembled a ghost!
It was no mystery that 3-2-1 Contact dealt head-on with real topics relevant to a pre-teen audience. From showing the effect of hard drugs on the human brain to addressing the challenges of natural resource conservation, the program encouraged kids’ curiosity about the world around them and aimed to spark discussion among children and their parents.
The show’s creators also produced half-hour special editions, or “Extras,” that explained the scientific principles behind stories in the news. The Peabody Award-winning episode “I Have AIDS, A Teenager’s Story” featured interviews with hemophiliac Ryan White and explained the basic science behind the AIDS virus. “The Boy Under the Ice” told the story of a youth who survived an hour of submersion in icy waters and explained the scientific reasons behind his survival.
A print magazine, also called 3-2-1 Contact, entered circulation in 1980. Later renamed Contact Kids, the magazine was published until 2001.
“Bloodhound Detective Agency, wherever there’s trouble we’re there on the double! Mr. Bloodhound isn’t here.”
In 1980, a young Sarah Jessica Parker appeared in three episodes.
Notable Cast Members
Stephanie Chen Yu
Nan Lynn Nelson
Leon W. Grant
Number of Seasons
Number of Episodes
Season one: 60
Season two: 40
Season three: 20
Season four: 20
Season five: 20
Season six: 30
Season seven: 30
Sesame Workshop (Children’s Television Workshop)
Target Audience Age