Column: Former Del Mar resident powers up kids with the streaming adventures of ‘The Paper Girls Show’
Kids can learn about art, science and mindfulness on ‘The Paper Girls Show,’ on YouTube and the new Sensical platform
Meet Caily Hopper and Reese Easley,two best friends who love to make things, learn things and share what they’ve made and learned with all of their friends. And thanks in part to their very good grown-up pal Olivia Levenson, Caily and Reese are sharing their DIY adventures with many, many friends on multiple platforms.
Caily and Reese are the animated stars of “The Paper Girls Show,” an award-winning streaming series that teaches kids how to use science, art and technology to solve everyday problems while also having tons of creative fun. Levenson is the creator of the show, and she traces its roots back to her days as a pre-kindergarten student at what was then known as the Santa Fe Montessori School in Solana Beach. (It is now the LePort Montessori School of Solana Beach.)
“A lot of what I learned there is the foundation for my thinking today. It’s about having a strong sense of self and learning from the world around me and the people around me, and hopefully thinking critically,” said Levenson, who went to elementary school at Del Mar Hills Academy.
Levenson was bitten by the showbiz bug at her Montessori school, where she played Dorothy in a production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Her family moved from Del Mar to Portland, Ore., when she was in middle school, and Levenson continued acting in school productions. Until she realized that some of the most exciting action was happening elsewhere.
“I started really questioning the autonomy I had being in front of people versus being behind the scenes,” Levenson said from her home in New York City. “That’s when I really got interested in coming up with cool stories that I could relate to and that other people could relate to.”
She made it back to California in 2010 to attend USC, where her passion for storytelling led to a bachelor’s degree in writing for screen and television.
For a while, Levenson did the expected Hollywood thing. She interned at MTV News and at a talent and literary agency, and she was an executive assistant at a multimedia entertainment company. Then, after a stint at the Children’s Media Association, Levenson got to do her thing.
In 2015, Levenson became a founding member of Global Tinker, a bicoastal children’s media company that specializes in creating S.T.E.A.M.-focused entertainment for kids. The idea is to use relatable characters and fast-paced storytelling to get young viewers excited about science, technology, engineering, art and math, the better to prepare them for whatever the 21st century has in store.
Enter “The Paper Girls Show,” in which the tech-obsessed Caily and ingenious fashionista Reese use a magical book to journey to Confetti, a secret paper world where imagination and creativity rule.
During each short episode, Caily and Reese tackle a real-world problem with the help of their quick-thinking friends, Kami and Dev. The episodes are supported by educational guides, projects from the DIY experts at Curious Jane and craft tutorials from Taro’s Origami Studio.
Whether Caily, Reese and the gang are using origami to solve a fashion emergency or constructing a high-frequency device to help their friend Jax with a rodent problem at his cool maker-space/bookstore, “The Paper Girls Show” wants to keep its viewers’ minds engaged while also touching their hearts, social consciences and funny bones.
“We hope that our characters are inspiring and complex enough for kids to want to explore the subjects after the show, and we also hope a level of authenticity comes through,” the 29-year-old Levenson said. “Every single problem that Caily and Reese solve on the show is connected to a real-world project that the kids can do at home. It was super-important for the content to be as tangible and engaging as possible.”
The show had a low-key launch on YouTube last year. It was recently added to the program lineup of Sensical, a free streaming service from Common Sense Networks that offers thousands of age-appropriate videos for kids, all of which have been screened by experts. This recent development puts the new kids of “The Paper Girls Show” in the company of the Wiggles, Kidz Bop and Sesame Studios, the creators of Sesame Street.
Which is right where they belong.
“It really is the perfect instance of (a show) having all of the things we’re going for,” said Eric Berger, CEO of Common Sense Networks, a for-profit affiliate of Common Sense Media. “Creativity is at the core, and the idea of the show is to inspire kids through the sciences and S.T.E.M., but also through the arts, which is really unique. It really inspires them think for themselves and go out and do things.”
With their unbreakable friendship, unstoppable ingenuity and endless curiosity, Caily and Reese make big dreams seem possible. Even if your dream is saving the world.
Olivia Levenson knows all about that dream. She’s living it right now.
“I had this feeling growing up that I wanted to make a positive impact in some form or another,” Levenson said. “To be able to impact kids with what we are doing is the best thing. I can walk away feeling like I have done something meaningful and rewarding.”
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