Before you define the educational material you plan to develop, be sure that you have clarified your project's target audience, goals, and objectives. In fact, since your entire project should reflect the same educational goals, you should go through this process at the beginning of the series' development. The process described here applies to any media you may decide to produce.
Begin by doing some research about the educational needs of your audience, both the child viewers and the adults who support them. You'll need to determine what kind of content will help your audience better understand the subject of your program and truly be useful to them.
Here are some approaches you can take to this research:
- Check out national or state educational standards for the grade level you are targeting. Teachers generally are most concerned with their local or state standards, so, if you can identify localities that matter to your project, you might look at those. Otherwise, look at national standards. Even if you plan to focus on an informal educational audience, it's still important to align your content with what kids will be learning in school. Refer to the Research & Resources section to get you started.
- Do a quick search of what else is out there on your subject. You can do a Web search, look at some educational catalogues, or scan popular child development books.
- Hold a focus group of local educators who meet the profile of your target. Ask them what they commonly cover in your area, or what topics are difficult to teach or lacking in media support. Run some of your educational strategies by them and ask them to prioritize them. See if friends in other states can connect you with teachers in their area you can get in touch with via phone or e-mail to gain a wider perspective. But remember to balance your findings with what else you can determine about trends and reform efforts in that subject area, especially if you're hoping to initiate some change as to how your subject is handled.
- If you are targeting an informal education audience, hold a focus group of after-school providers, librarians, child care givers, museum educators, and others who work with your target audience. Find out about the basic structure of their programs and what particular issues pertain to the students they work with. For example, many after-school programs have drop-in populations, so it is more difficult for them to do long-term programs. Moreover, their staff may be paraprofessionals who have little formal educational training. Thus, they may require more explicit and structured materials, as well as greater support on your part.
- Talk to national educational organizations to get their feedback and recommendations for advisors. If you are targeting students in informal education settings, talk to the professional association or national office connected to your target audience (such as the Association of Science-Technology Centers, the Association of Youth Museums, the American Library Association, the national office of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, YMCA/YWCA, or Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts) to discuss your project and to get suggestions for advisors.
- Talk to an educational consultant in your area. You may want to begin by contacting the subject-area coordinator in your local school district to find the names of local people they trust.
By the end of this process, you should have a clearer idea of which content topics and educational strategies you'll want to cover in your educational materials. You'll be able to use these as a starting point as you work with curriculum developers, writers, advisors, reviewers, and editors to actually produce scripts and manuscripts for your materials.