by Jill Brownlee-Wolf
Ideas morph. Projects evolve. People change. It’s inevitable. When someone or something is in development it will undergo revision. Constantly. What can make a product better, a story more heartfelt, or a person’s character more compassionate? All things to consider in the stages of development.
My project started as a children’s book. Characters that helped a little girl do science. I saw the characters. I saw the little girl. I saw the science questions. And then I saw them move. My book turned into an animated episodic show. I shifted from writing books to scripts. This gave my characters more life, catch phrases, and idiosyncrasies. They became more lovable.
Both books and scripts require an exploration of each character’s backstory, but my episodic show required that I know more about their world, who they are, and how they are each unique. In future blogs I will explore how each character came to life. But suffice it to say, the process helped me explore how each would uniquely interact with my little girl.
I began to think about support material for the web. What would each character want to bring to children? How could I support parents who want to try these investigations with kids? Could this be used in an early elementary classroom? These questions begged me to think bigger.
With bigger, came the need for more minds at the table. I put together a creative team and we began to give this property life in a whole new way. The characters were more than images in my mind and personalities in a story. They now had form, color, voice, and a deeper grip on my heart.
I’ve never had a hard time making a vision humongous. I excel with synthesizing many ideas into an elaborate, well-connected world with purpose and clarity. We moved from a show with support content to purposefully designed science curriculum using entertainment products as tools for learning. It seems many shows were trying to write lessons connected to episodes of popular animated shows already in existence. But none of these had a cohesive sequential design with strong conceptual learning as the goal. It was a marketing afterthought instead of an intentionally designed learning program.
Our final morphing came when we looked at some of the needs of the classroom, the student, and the teacher. These were elaborate and not being addressed in traditional instructional materials. I know technology has progressed in a way as to innovatively tackle these needs. I began to explore how this could be incorporated into our project.
Finally, as we researched the curriculum demands, options into existence, and the needs outlined by the federal government in the areas of science and math, we decided this would be a stronger program if it was a STEM curriculum. Thus the problems addressed in each story would range through the STEM concepts while also showing the connections between the STEM concepts as they address real life problems.
Our little books have transformed into a comprehensive early elementary technology driven STEM curriculum. Two years worth of writing time in Starbucks and conversations with close friends and colleagues. I am pleased with its progression and anticipate that as development moves into full swing, there will be more. But interestingly, the characters, the little girl, and the stories driven by real life science questions has never wavered. It is the heart of our project.