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The Sydney Morning Herald

Schools out for fun

Author: Jenny Tabakoff
Date: 02/03/1998
Words: 545
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: The Guide
Page: 13

Wednesdays at 4pm (repeated Sundays at 4.30pm), on NICKELODEON

A SHOW in which teachers are "slimed" in green gunk? In which kids can complain about anything they like for 10 seconds? In which teachers are forced to confess that they don't know the names of the members of the cult group Hanson?

Segments such as these help make up Nickelodeon's first locally produced children's series, Nick Takes Over Your School.

The 13-part series, hosted by Lizzie Trevan, is aimed at six- to 12-year-olds. It has been made for Nickelodeon by the independent production company Becker Entertainment. The TV crew is given access to a State primary school for the day, allowing children (mostly from Year 6) to show off their classrooms and playgrounds and generally enjoy themselves in front of the cameras.

But just because NTOYS (as it is known) is filmed in schools does not mean it is educational.

"It's definitely not educational," says Donna Andrews, programming director of Nickelodeon Australia and one of the show's executive producers. "It's a lot of fun. Basically it gives the kids a chance to show off their environment and turn the tables on the teachers and have a day of fun."

But does she think kids who have just come home from school will want to watch more classroom antics?

"I do, because there's such a fun element to it," Andrews says. "And there's also that great opportunity to stickybeak into someone else's school and see what's happening there."

The "fun elements" include a "Test the Teacher" segment, in which pupils find out exactly how much their teachers know about youth culture; "Gags and Giggles" (kids telling hot playground jokes); "Sneak Peeks" into staff rooms and other out-of-bounds areas; and "Pop the Question", in which a boy and girl are teamed up for a schoolyard date. There are also tours of the school, highlighting special activities such as arts, musical and sports events.

More than 1,000 schools expressed interest in taking part after seeing the question "Do you think your school has what it takes?" on the Nickelodeon Online Treehouse website. Eventually the list was whittled down to 13 schools in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth. (The three Sydney schools are Murray Farm, Engadine West and Castle Cove Primary.)

Lizzie Trevan makes an energetic host, whether she is running around a softball diamond or cheering on a teacher who has found herself facing the ignominy of bobbing for apples in front of a smiling Year 6.

Trevan started her career as an executive assistant at Nickelodeon, but quickly became involved in some of Nickelodeon's activities outside broadcasting - especially Nick Takes Over Your Beach, in which she became a guest host organising summer activities for kids at the beach. When NTOYS was mooted, Trevan auditioned and "just shone", according to Andrews.

The kids, and even the teachers, taking part seem to be having a good time, and Andrews is confident the enjoyment will be infectious. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun for the kids out there," she says.

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