NPT’s Children’s Programming Includes Many Favorites

BobBuilderGot little viewers at home? NPT’s children’s programming includes Bob the Builder, Ready Jet Go!, Peg + Cat, Wild Kratts (celebrating its 100th episode this spring) and other favorites. Throughout the year we air shows that are educational and entertaining with PBS Kids theme weeks highlighting holidays, seasonal activities and rites of passage to help kids learn about their world.

There will be no changes to our children’s schedule this spring or summer, so your kids can stick to their viewing routines. And be sure to check the PBS Kids website for fun interactive features and downloadable activity pages to keep young minds occupied!

Here’s our weekday schedule:

6:00 Wild Kratts
6:30 Ready Jet Go!
7:00 Nature Cat
7:30 Curious George
8:00 Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
8:30 Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
9:00 Sesame Street
9:30 Bob the Builder
10:00 Dinosaur Train
10:30 Dinosaur Train
11:00 Super Why!
11:30 Thomas & Friends
12:00 noon Peg + Cat
12:30 pm The Cat in the Hat
1:00 Curious George
1:30 Curious George
2:00 Arthur
2:30 Nature Cat
3:00 Ready Jet Go!
3:30 Odd Squad
4:00 Wild Kratts
4:30 Wild Kratts
5:00 Martha Speaks
5:30 WordGirl

Click here to find your children’s favorite shows on our schedule.

‘Call the Midwife’ Recap: Season 5 Episode 4

Call the Midwife is back for a fifth season and so are the faculty of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing with a weekly guest blog. Watch the show 7 p.m. Sundays through May 22, then read the blog each Monday morning for historical and contemporary context about the previous night’s episode. SPOILER ALERT: Some posts may contain spoilers.

Sister Knowles (Teresa Banham), Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter), Dot (Samantha Baines). Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions 2015

Sister Knowles (Teresa Banham), Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter), Dot (Samantha Baines). Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions 2015

By Bethany Domzal Sanders
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Bethany SandersTrust. It’s the cornerstone of the relationship between midwife and mother. In this week’s episode of Call the Midwife, it’s trust in their skills that leads the midwives to transport Ruby to the hospital. It’s what Ruby depends on when she’s tells Sister Julianne she’d be screaming her head off were the sister not there. It’s what’s in her eyes when she asks Sister Julianne to care for her baby while she’s under general anesthesia.

Trust is what Sister Julianne quickly establishes with another mother by showing when she shows compassion by serving her tea during a long labor. And it’s trust in the birth process and trusting the strength of the mother that ultimately proves a midwife wrong when she says “I don’t see that baby being born without forceps.”

Trust is as paramount to labor and birth today as it was in 1961 when this series is set. Obstetric and midwifery care often had a paternalistic nature then, which meant that doctors and midwives made decisions about what was best for women and their babies. Today we seek to empower women to actively participate in their care by providing them with information. But while information is now available everywhere at the touch of our fingertips, quantity isn’t necessarily better and quality can be lacking depending on the source. After all, everyone on the Internet is an “expert,” and it’s sometimes hard to sift through all the opinions to find facts. Midwives today can struggle with establishing the kind of relationship with mothers that allows them to trust midwives’ experience and knowledge over these other voices when things don’t go as planned or desired.

Midwives want to be “with woman.” It’s at the very heart of what we do and it is also the meaning of the word “midwife.” We want to be there through unplanned pregnancies, miscarriage, happy births, surgical births, healthy babies and babies who are only here a short while. We want to earn the trust of the families we serve. In a time when nearly one-third of all babies born in the U.S. are delivered by Cesarean section, we seek to trust women’s bodies and trust birth.

Bethany Domzal Sanders, MSN, CNM, is a member of the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives, the clinical practice of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing located at West End Women’s Health Center.

Ken Burns’ National Park Series Returns to PBS This April

Dayton Duncan in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Al GOLUB/Golub Photography (2009).

Dayton Duncan in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Al GOLUB/Golub Photography (2009).

Dayton Duncan thinks he has the greatest job in America. The author of 12 books, Duncan is also Ken Burns’ longtime collaborator on numerous documentary series, including The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, a celebration of the 59 large natural spaces protected and preserved by the National Park Service.

Duncan discussed The National Parks and other projects during a visit to NPT for a screening and reception earlier this week. The event was part of a celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the nationwide PBS rebroadcast of the 12-hour 2009 series in two-hour blocks April 25 through 30, beginning at 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 p.m. Saturday on NPT.

Addressing an audience of NPT viewers, Duncan shared stories from the creation of The National Parks and answered questioned about it and other projects, including Burns’ upcoming country music series. He also showed three clips from The National Parks, among them the introduction segment with sweeping views of parks and narration by Peter Coyote and a clip of a Park Ranger reminiscing poetically about seeing a herd of bison in the snow.

Revisiting the series now is like watching home movies, Duncan said. He was on virtually every trip and every shoot, and related one particularly time-consuming and ultimately dramatic experience waiting for Denali, formerly Mount McKinley, to appear. When it did, the crew — Burns included — watched astonished with eyes and mouths open wide. In the end, they decided to use a time-lapse sequence to share that reveal with viewers. The idea for the series grew out of Duncan’s own experiences in the parks over the years researching his own books and other documentary projects with Burns. “It took me about 45 seconds to convince Ken,” he told the audience at the NPT reception.

Duncan compares his work with Burns and Florentine Films to pursuing “self-directed post-graduate degrees” on topics of his choice, followed by working on films with his best friend, “who happens to be the best documentary filmmaker in America.” Duncan spent 16 years working on The National Parks, including six years of production and editing time to allow for multiple visits to the parks, partly to counter inclement weather and bad shooting conditions, partly to allow for visits to parks in different seasons. Duncan said he hoped this national rebroadcast of the series would do essentially what the first run did seven years ago: encourage people to go to the parks. “They’re beautiful places, they belong to you, you’re a co-owner,” Duncan said. “Go check this property out, do a property inspection of the stuff that belongs to you.”

Duncan has been an avid parks-goer from a young age. “When I was 9 years old, the only real vacation my family took from my small town in Iowa was west to national parks. I can still remember almost the day-by-day itinerary of that,” Duncan said. “I didn’t come back from that trip thinking, I know what I’m going to do now, I’m going to end up being a writer and filmmaker whose focuses are mostly on our land and our landscape and how that intertwines with our history,” he continued. “Now that I look back and see what I became, I realize that seed was planted on that first trip and my affection for the parks and what role they can play in opening up your mind and your horizons was established back then.”

His 9-year-old self probably would be amazed at another development in his life and career: In appreciation of their work on The National Parks, Duncan and Burns were named honorary park rangers, something bestowed on only about 50 people, “most of them dead presidents,” Duncan quipped. And, yes, the filmmakers also received the distinctive flat-brimmed hats worn by rangers.

‘Accidental Courtesy’ Named 2016 NPT Human Spirit Award Winner at NaFF

Accidental Courtesy

NPT’s Human Spirit Award is presented each year to a Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) documentary selection and acknowledges a filmmaker’s work that best explores and captures the human spirit. The film must illuminate in a high artistic manner the important characteristics of what it means to be human: generosity, kindness, mercy, compassion, fortitude and honor. This year’s award went to Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America and was presented to Matt Ornstein, the film’s director and producer, Monday, April 18, during the 47th Nashville Film Festival at the Regal Green Hills 16 Cinema.

Accomplished musician Daryl Davis has played with legendary musicians around the world. But this film is about his hobby of meeting members of hate groups in an attempt to befriend them and change their minds. “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” he asks. The documentary includes interviews between Davis and civil rights activists, academics and with members of the KKK and neo-Nazi organizations.

Davis’ refusal to hate and his relentless pursuit of conversation and understanding where one would least expect to find it embodies the best of what it means to be human. He proves that we can talk and listen to each other and come to mutual understanding and respect without judgement. NPT is proud to honor the Accidental Courtesy filmmakers for introducing audiences to Davis and his life work.

The NPT Human Spirit Award jury consisted of Kevin Crane, vice president of programming and technology; Sheila Fischer, director of development; Justin Harvey, director of content; Jessica Turk, assistant program manager; and videographer/editor Matthew Emigh.

‘Call the Midwife’ Recap: Season 5 Episode 3

Call the Midwife is back for a fifth season and so are the faculty of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing with a weekly guest blog. Watch the show 7 p.m. Sundays through May 22, then read the blog each Monday morning for historical and contemporary context about the previous night’s episode. SPOILER ALERT: Some posts may contain spoilers.


Dorothy Whitmore(Hannah Morrish), Sister Winifred (Victoria Yeates). Credit: Courtesy of Red Productions Ltd 2015

Dorothy Whitmore(Hannah Morrish), Sister Winifred (Victoria Yeates). Credit: Courtesy of Red Productions Ltd 2015


By Michelle Collins
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Collins smSome weekly blog entries are definitely easier to pen than others ‒ this was not one of those. There was a sense of déjà vu watching this episode, as one of the main storylines dealt with elective termination of pregnancy in a time period where the options available for that often caused significant harm, or even death, to the woman.

The déjà vu related to Season 3, Episode 3 wherein a mother of eight (at what we today lovingly call “advanced maternal age”) finds herself pregnant again. Living in poverty, in a two-room, rat-infested public housing flat, this woman struggles with the palpable, agonizing realization of what yet another mouth to feed will mean for her family. From a place of sheer desperation, she attempts to abort the pregnancy using the various means available in a 1950s non-legalized abortion environment: herbal preparations given her by the local lay abortion provider; ingestion of Epsom salts and/or turpentine; or even attempting to manually abort the pregnancy using knitting needles.

In this recent episode of Call the Midwife, we find a young, single teacher facing an unplanned pregnancy, the result of an affair with a married man. She eventually loses her job, her partner and even her home as her landlady throws her out declaring, “I run a respectable establishment.” I looked back to my earlier post on this topic and, well, I feel like what I said then still applies here. In that spirit, here goes…

The issue of elective termination has been debated since the dawn of time. Ancient Chinese women used mercury as an abortifacient, while Greek women partook of the herb pennyroyal to induce abortion. Midwives have long stood on both sides of the issue, as well. In the Old Testament book of Exodus, we read about two midwives who had some real moxie for women of their time (considering that disagreeing with the reigning ruler usually bought you a one-way ticket to the executioner). When the reigning pharaoh began to get a bit nervous that the growing Hebrew population was producing too many future warriors who could potentially rise up against him, he called two Hebrew midwives, Shiprah and Puah, to court and commanded to kill male babies immediately when they attended births.

Well, that didn’t sit so well with this God-fearing dynamic midwife duo who blatantly disobeyed the pharaoh. When they were hauled back into his court and questioned about their disobedience, they told a slight white lie and reported that the Hebrew women were unlike the “delicate” Egyptian women; the Hebrew women were hearty and had always given birth by the time the midwives had arrived. Therefore, there was no way to kill the baby at that point and make it look like a stillbirth. Call it naiveté, or the hand of providence, but the pharaoh let them go their own way, and as Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story. Exodus records that it is because of their actions that the midwives found favor with God.

As was seen in both of these episodes, nurses, physicians and midwives are often caught in ethical situations in which personal morals and convictions are put to the test. It’s fairly easy, sometimes, to “armchair quarterback” someone else’s life and declare what is right and wrong. When placed smack in the middle of that person’s situation however ‒ amidst the pain, the angst and utter despair – black and white can look a bit grayer.

Michelle Collins Ph.D., CNM, FACNM is a professor of nursing and director of the Nurse-Midwifery Program, at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.


‘Call the Midwife’ Recap: Season 5 Episode 2

Call the Midwife is back for a fifth season and so are the faculty of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing with a weekly guest blog. Watch the show 7 p.m. Sundays through May 22, then read the blog each Monday morning for historical and contemporary context about the previous night’s episode. SPOILER ALERT: Some posts may contain spoilers.


Nurse Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie), Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris), Nurse Phyllis (Linda Bassett). Credit: Courtesy of Sophie Mutevelian


By Bethany Domzal Sanders
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Bethany SandersPerhaps one of the most gut-wrenching phrases to say to any mother is: You want what’s best for baby, right? It’s a rhetorical question, and a loaded one at that. Underlying the question is some kind of judgment or opinion about the mother’s parenting and an implication that she is doing it wrong. Those words can be especially powerful in the first few days after birth when parents are often exhausted and extra protective of their new baby.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “breast is best” and while there is a lot of truth to that, it can also open up a can of worms. Controversy over breast-feeding is nothing new. As early as 1865, formula was being marketed as “the perfect infant food.”* The 1940s and 1950s saw increasing acceptance of infant formula as manufacturers, while prohibited from advertising directly to consumers, had close relationships with physicians. Breast-feeding rates subsequently declined. While rates of breast-feeding have increased since that time, there is no lack of opinions about breast- versus bottle-feeding and a Fall 2015 New York Times op-ed entitled “Overselling Breast-Feeding” added more fuel to the debate.

In this week’s Call the Midwife episode, Sister Evangelina found herself navigating these dangerous waters while trying to help poor Connie. Her intentions were good, even if overzealous at times. This is a familiar situation for many midwives. How do you normalize breast-feeding, support and encourage women in nursing while also being sensitive to the fact that not all women want to or can successfully breast-feed? How do you switch gears from helping a mother in the early days of nursing to affirming her choice to stop? As midwives, we are called to listen to and advocate for women but it’s particularly hard when a mother’s choice doesn’t line up with our own expectations. We don’t always realize the effect our words have on our clients either, as Sister Evangelina learned.

Ultimately, the No. 1 rule of breast-feeding is FEED THE BABY. While babies are equipped with special fat stores and reserves to tide them over until a mother’s milk comes in, guidelines exist to help identify when there is too much weight loss and supplementation with either donor milk or formula is needed. Improvements in the manufacturing of infant formula have made it much safer and it continues to be an acceptable alternative for many families. Breast-feeding has always been, and always will be, the biological norm. We just need better ways to support all mothers, since after all we are all trying to do what’s best.

Bethany Domzal Sanders, MSN, CNM, is a member of the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives, the clinical practice of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing located at West End Women’s Health Center.

*Source: A History of Infant Feeding by Emily Stevens, Thelma Patrick and Rita Pickler. The Journal of Perinatal Education. Spring 2008, Volume 18, Number 2.

‘Call the Midwife’ Recap: Season 5 Episode 1

Good news, Midwife fans! Call the Midwife is back for a fifth season and so are the faculty of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing with a weekly guest blog. Watch the show Sundays at 7 p.m., March 27 through May 22, then read our blog each Monday morning for historical and contemporary context about the previous night’s episode. SPOILER ALERT: Some posts may contain spoilers.


CTM 5-1

Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie), Patsy (Emerald Fennell), Trixie (Helen George). Credit: Courtesy of Red Productions Ltd 2015


By Michelle Collins
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Collins smAnd here we go again! The long-awaited fifth season of Call the Midwife is off to a great start with the midwives of Nonnatus House looking especially spiffy in their newly updated uniforms. A bit of trivia about those elaborate silver buckles at their waists: parallel to the American tradition of awarding nursing graduates a pin, British midwives were awarded an ornate sterling silver belt buckle upon graduation and it was the only non-standardized thing they could wear on their uniform. Some midwifery schools and hospitals had their own buckle design, which was also an option for midwives on their staffs.

In this first episode, we saw Trixie (Helen George) passionately defending her attendance at exercise class after Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) suggested that time was detrimental to the order and flow of the Nonnatus House. Trixie explained that interacting with the women of the community gave her the opportunity to teach them about their bodies. Her assistance is evident in the scenario of the elderly woman who is found to have a prolapsed uterus (i.e. uterus that comes down and out of the vagina) but who never sought medical care for it because she assumed it was “just something to be tolerated”; it was just part of being a woman and bearing children. As Trixie explains, “owning a woman’s body ought to be a joy,” and she was going to teach that to the women she encountered whether in her role as a midwife or as an exercise instructor.

This week’s episode also centered on the birth of a baby with phocomelia, a disorder wherein the baby is born with flipper or stub-like projections in the place of arms and legs. Phocomelia is very rare and can be inherited from the baby’s parents, though historically the most common cause has been maternal ingestion of the drug thalidomide. After it became available in the mid-1950s, women were advised to take thalidomide to ease nausea in pregnancy. About half of all babies born with phocomelia did not survive; those that did had major disabilities.

Thousands of babies in Europe and the U.S. were born with thalidomide syndrome before the connection was made and the drug was removed from the market. The one positive outcome from the crisis was that drug testing became more rigorous in many countries (thankfully). Prior to the thalidomide tragedy, the introduction of any new drug was considered as “good” and rigorous pharmaceutical testing was not the norm; thalidomide had never even been tested in pregnant animals to ascertain whether it had negative effects on fetuses.

In this episode, the agony the baby’s mother felt as she finally looked upon her baby was palpable, and the angst and shame of the father equally so. Grateful for a mother’s love, which most assuredly sees the beauty in every one of her children, the narrator Jenny notes at the end of the episode “there was love because love grows where nothing else is certain, changing its shape to fill the space required.” An affirmative “amen” to that, as those of us who are mothers can attest!


Michelle Collins Ph.D., CNM, FACNM, is a professor of nursing and director of the Nurse-Midwifery Program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

New Seasons of Grantchester, Mr. Selfridge and Call the Midwife for Spring

Many of you have told us you feel a certain void in your Sunday nights now that Downton Abbey on Masterpiece has concluded. Don’t despair, with spring comes rebirth, renewal and the return of three of your favorite dramas: Grantchester and Mr. Selfridge (March 27) and Call the Midwife (April 3).

Grantchester is back for a second season on Masterpiece with James Norton as “red-hot ginger” vicar Sidney Chambers and Robson Green as Inspector Geordie Keating. These two came from different spheres (Sidney is a graduate of nearby Cambridge, while working-class Geordie grew up in rougher environs), but bonded over backgammon, ale and their military experiences during the Second World War.

As Season 2 begins, Geordie is determined to help Sidney find romance, but along with the amusing string of first dates, there are also dark themes as the unlikely team tackle a haunted stable, Cold War fears and an apparent suicide while solving this season’s homicides.

Grantchester airs Sundays at 8 p.m., March 27 through May 1.

The fourth season of Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece is also its final season and should provide as much spectacle and intrigue as we’ve come to expect. In these episodes, American-born Harry Gordon Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) continues to battle his demons, rivals and often his staff while trying to keep his trend-setting department store at the top of its game. If you’ve seen Secrets of Selfridges – which airs on NPT Sunday, March 27, at 7 p.m. – or are otherwise familiar with Selfridge’s life, you know how the real story ended; tune in to see how things work out in this fictionalized version.

Mr. Selfridge airs Sundays at 9 p.m., March 27 through May 22.

Finally, NPT viewer-favorite Call the Midwife returns Sunday, April 3, and once again we’ll have Michelle Collins and Bethany Domzal Sanders of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing writing a weekly guest blog about each episode.

It’s 1961 as the fifth season begins and the community of Poplar now has better housing, sanitation and access to healthcare. There also new challenges and ideas for the nuns and midwives of Nonnatus House: This season’s episodes explore thalidomide, a then-newly available drug prescribed to pregnant women; the advent of baby formula; and developments in women’s healthcare, including the pill.

Call the Midwife airs Sundays at 7 p.m., April 3 through May 22. Look for a new Call the Midwife blog post Mondays, April 4 through May 23.

NPT’s ‘First Black Statesmen’ documentary featured in online screening event

NPT is hosting a unique way to see First Black Statesmen: Tennessee’s Self-Made Men, our latest history documentary. On Friday, March 25, at noon, viewers can watch the documentary via an online platform that allows for real-time conversation with panelists and other viewers in an adjacent window. The First Black Statesmen event will feature NPT’s Ed Jones, the documentary’s writer and producer, along with historian Kathy Lauder. Click this link to RSVP or participate in the screening.

This special online screening event comes after the documentary’s February 2016 broadcast premiere and well-received screening events at Baker Donelson and Nissan North America.


First Black Statesmen is the first of a planned series of NPT original documentaries called the Citizenship Project. First Black Statesmen tells the story of 14 men, 11 of whom who had been born into slavery, who defied the odds and rampant racism of the time, to become elected representatives in the Tennessee State Legislature between 1873 and 1896.

Though one of the men, Samuel McElwee, was nominated for the position of Speaker of the House during his second term – and a historical marker to him stands on Fisk University’s campus – the group had been largely forgotten until the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators requested a traveling exhibit. That’s when archivist Lauder began research that led to the rediscovery of this chapter of Tennessee history; the results of her efforts can be found on the website This Honorable Body.

Lauder has since retired from the Tennessee State Library and Archives, but the project remains an ongoing labor of love. She is one of the featured historians in First Black Statesmen, as are Linda T. Wynn of Tennessee Historical Commission, and retired Tennessee State University dean and history professor Dr. Bobby L. Lovett.

In the documentary, Lauder, Wynn and Lovett provide context for the men’s elections and present a picture of what life in office was like for them. Following Keeble’s term, tough laws were passed that some experts consider to be Tennessee’s first Jim Crow laws, according to Jones; these new restrictions made things even more difficult for Keeble’s successors. “They were already fighting a losing battle when they walked in,” Jones said. While their legislative accomplishments may have been few, these trailblazers fought for laws that would benefit their newly enfranchised supporters and help ease their path to full citizenship.

First Black Statesmen is also available for viewing online at

Citizenship Project logoAbout the Citizenship Project
The Citizenship Project is a new series of NPT original documentaries that will look at how different groups have fought for, obtained and maintained the rights and access we commonly associate with American citizenship.

These include the right to vote, the right to receive a public education, the right to be considered equal before the law, and the right to worship the religion of one’s choice. Over the course of the project, the programs will cover Tennessee history from the end of the Civil War through the 1960s, exploring civil rights and women’s suffrage among other topics.


Major funding provided by

TnCivilWarNationalHeritage logo

Programming Marks Astronaut’s Return to Earth

On March 27, 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly began an unprecedented year-long mission aboard the International Space Station. In honor of Cdr. Kelly’s return to Earth, we’re airing a series of space programs over the next two days.

Here’s our mission plan:

Tonight at 8 p.m.: Space Men: American Experience reveals the Air Force program known as Project Excelsior that sought to launch pilots into space via high-altitude balloons. This early space-flight program led to important discoveries about human’s ability to withstand gravitational forces and many of the tests developed in Project Excelsior were used in the selection process for NASA’s famous Mercury 7 astronauts.


Wednesday, March 2 at 7 p.m.: Could you stand to spend a year away from Earth? Scott Kelly’s test of space endurance aboard the International Space Station is the subject of A Year in Space, a PBS/TIME film. Cdr. Kelly’s twin brother, Capt. Mark Kelly, has been the control part of NASA’s experiment to learn about the effects of prolonged time in a zero-gravity environment on humans ‒ necessary research for eventual voyages to Mars.

Wednesday, March 2 at 8p.m.: NOVA’s First Man on the Moon is a biography of Neil Armstrong, who in 1969 became the first human to step onto the moon.

Wednesday, March 2 at 9 p.m.: The BBC’s Cosmonauts: How Russia Won the Space Race chronicles the 1950s and ′60s Soviet space program and reveals previously classified details about the USSR’s achievements and failures during the Cold War space race. The footage of Earth from outer space is stunning.