Our individual proposals: Cathy | Cheryl | Francie | Kathryn

Contact information:
Cathy Tran - ctran27@gmail.com
Kathryn Hurley - kah243@mail.harvard.edu; 617-835-5021
Cheryl Forman- chf423@mail.harvard.edu; 857-544-3470
Francie Furlong- fcfurlong@aol.com 434-466-3099

Scheduled meetings: Wed 3/4 at 7:45p in Gutman lobby; all Tuesdays at 1-2:30p at Conroy

Group project proposal -- for March 13

Problem areas

1) Kids' lack of understanding and applications of renewable energy sources
2) Kids' lack of understanding about other environmental issues
3) Kids' lack of awareness of how they can make a difference and be "green"
2) Kids' lack of outdoor/nature experience and personal motivation for environmental stewardship

Target audience and their needs

Our target is 6-9 year olds. As they become more independent and develop their own ideas about their surroundings, they hear and see conflicting messages in relation to environmental awareness. Growing up in a media-saturated environment, they haven't developed an understanding and appreciation for nature, and natural wildlife, especially at a time in our world when it is most important to do so.

Medium and format

The multimedia program will incorporate a TV series and an interactive website, that allows for viewers to email in and post to discussion boards, receive email newsletters from our Uche, and follow playground projects in their local area.

TV series

Genre: The show's bookends are sitcom-like with real humans as characters. Sandwiched between the bookends is an animation segment.

Characters: The main characters are five real kids, who become cartoon characters in the animation segment, and a to-be-determined animal with to-be-determined superpowers in the animation segment.

Format summary: Five kids who are part of the XX club are living in different U.S. cities, and the start of each episode focuses on one kid's life. During this short sitcom, the kid faces an environment-related dilemma, and uses technology (e-mail, text message, Facebook, etc.) to notify his friends for a meeting. Each character has to drum up some way of transporting him/herself (same way each show). The kids then are transformed into cartoon characters and reunited on a playground with an animated animal pal who provides humor, encouragement, and superpowers. The kids try out many ideas to solve the dilemma in animation land in trial-and-error fashion and can do so quickly because the superpowers can speed things up. Once they nail down a solution, the kids transport back to their "real" lives to apply what they learned in animation land.

  • The way the characters reunite at the playground can be identical each time, and if the first "real life" segment is kept short, then this is where the characters can be introduced through a theme song.
    • possible theme songs:
      • Land Down Under by ?
      • Move Along by the All-American Rejects
      • Such Great Heights by Postal Service "they will see us waving from such great heights..."come down now", they'll say. But everything looks perfect from far away, "come down now", but we'll stay" -- I think it could work! -- crazy Kathryn
      • Wagon Wheel by ??


  • Promote the use and appreciation of renewable energy and resulting changes in actions
  • Promote awareness of the outside world
  • Promote changes in beliefs for children who think that there is nothing fun to do outside
  • Promote skills of communication, collaboration, problem solving, and creativity

Verbal sketch

Ideas for challenges and transfer lessons:

Renewable energy, food, and sustainability

What we liked about each others' proposals -- for March 4 meeting

Problem area:
CT: Love the idea of an educational focus on renewable energy and different characters representing each form of energy.

KH: I too would like to focus on promoting awareness and understanding of the importance of using renewable energy sources... in a way, rather than preach about what is wrong with our world, we can focus on what works right. I also think Cheryl's incorporation of an exploration/appreciation and immersion into the outside world would fit really nicely and would be an implicit message that fits nicely.

CF: I'm more interested in addressing the lack of outdoor/nature experience and modeling that while spending time with media is great, getting away from a screen and exploring the "wild" (even if that's in a park or backyard) can be really fun too. I can also see this tying in with a push for imaginative play (another interest/concern of mine) as well as with the renewable energy and recycle, reuse ideas. In this scenario we would lead into those things by first helping kids to understand motivation for saving the earth that isn't so dire..."I love nature, green spaces, swimming in clean water, etc, so I want to help protect those things," as opposed to, "Oh no, we are depending on things that won't be around for much longer, and we're all going to die, or at least not be able to drive to the mall!" =)

I also like that it's been done less (I think), that there's a more obvious connection with our audience, both in terms of natural interest and its ability to have a measurable, immediate, and significant impact on their lives (i.e. kids go out and play more often and start this afternoon).

All of this might make it seem like I'm more passionate about this idea than I actually am. I'm really not committed to it at all and would almost prefer going with someone else's baby that they really love. I'm just not convinced that we've come up with a better alternative yet.

I like the renewable energy characters in theory, and love the idea of giving kids environmentally-themed powers in the Electric Company style, but I'm having trouble understanding how much a 6-9 year old would relate to them, or feel they could take action based on what they're learning about the energy source, beyond passing on info to parents. Also with conceptualizing how we might make use of some of these powers in a storyline. Are you thinking of situations where a character uses his power to solve a conflict in not necessarily environmentally-themed situations? Like WindPower using his power to call on the wind to gently blow a kitten out of a tree and safely into his owner's arms, for example? Is that too Captain Planet? I can't exactly remember what kinds of problems the team solved in that show.

Target audience and their needs: 6-9 year olds

Medium and format:
CT: For medium, I'm flexible but would like a project that brings in at least two types of informal education environments (e.g., a TV show and an interactive traveling museum exhibit), with at least one being technology-related. For format, I like the idea of integrating humor.

KH: Although I do see the drawbacks of a movie, I think it is an interesting medium and one I think we've "overlooked" thus far this semester. Plus, at every turn there is a new kid's show idea... it'd be nice to explore something a little less saturated. Sorry Cheryl, one last plug for it! I think that Francie's knowledge and understanding of character's interaction and children's relationships to certain characters can help us develop likable, appealing, and "sustainable" characters... as Joe said today, when it is a series, as E.R. is, with multiple plotlines, there are many ways to get across the information - rather than relying on specific characters to get across specific messages. I like Cathy's idea of "projects", as we could embed storylines with dilemmas and missions for the characters to solve and carry out, then transfer what they've learned to their own lives (?). I also think that looking to portable technologies will really help us think about reaching children in different settings at various times (if they can't be home to view the show, they can get updates via their phone/sidekick/ etc).

CF: I like highlighting the intertwing of multiple media, whether it's TV and web, web and handhelds, TV and handhelds, all three with all sorts of other tie-ins as well. Partly because of this I'm still not into the movie idea. To me, doing a movie seems like exploring one thing very deeply (though of course I understand that in real movies, there are other ancillary products), and I'd rather sketch out the broad ideas for a few different things, and then pick one or two (one episode of a TV show, or a few activities that kids could do themselves) to develop more fully.

I liked that Kathryn mentioned books. This might be getting ahead of ourselves, but I could see creating mini story books as a cool prototype of plot and characters we could test with kids.

I really liked the challenges ideas brought up in a few of the proposals. I think we could take them out of the game show format and make them work in a narrative. They could be such a cool way to bring the audience into participating and contributing content.

I am very interesting in learning how to develop appealing, fleshed out characters from Francie and would love to use a combination of real kids and animated characters or puppets in a narrative format. Or even scratch the real kids at all. At any rate, I'm intrigued about creating some elements of a fictional/fantastical world, thought obviously with our themes we need to ground everything in reality. This could be the creative writing opportunity I always wanted and never had the balls to take! =)

CT: Again, love the objective on teaching children more about renewable energy and the tools and technologies behind it. I can see this tie into nature exploration as well -- if the characters are exploring nature as they discover these forms of energy. I'm torn among whether I prefer the objectives to be on awareness, changes in beliefs, and/or changes in actions. We could, however, also perhaps thinking about promoting awareness in one medium and changes in actions in another. "Promoting the 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, problem solving, creativity and media literacy" is an objective that I really like as well.

KH: I think that promoting the use and appreciation of renewable energy is my main objective, and I like Francie's emphasis on children's relationship with these sources might be a good bridge.

CF: I feel like I mostly covered this under problem, but to elaborate, I guess my objectives would mostly be affective, with a side order of the 21st century skills we outlined in our proposals. I think incorporating all three of the awareness, changes in beliefs, and changes in actions objectives that Cathy mentioned would be appropriate.

Verbal sketch:

CT: I like the idea of the educational parts being mostly implicit, which is partially why I really like those renewable energy characters. I also like the thought of guiding the show with strong characters and narrations, so that kids fall in love with the characters and then are more compelled to listen to them and be like them. I also think having strong character appeal is good for funding purposes as well for toys, theme parks, etc.

KH: same! Also, I love the idea of a "magic school bus" world, as Cheryl pointed to in her proposal, and it would be fun to incorporate that...maybe into the web component. so children can all have avatars to interact (panwapa style, only older?)

CF: very much in agreement in general, just not that this is represented by the renewable energy characters specifically. I feel like they might actually be too heavy handed, as opposed to implicit. But maybe if were were to actually develop them we could find a way to avoid that, like by having them be regular kids who also happen to have some super powers that relate to the energy sources we want kids to know about. I could see that working.

Francie--so what's the difference between cute and cutesy? :)

Hello Ladies:
I want to make sure that we tie in the environmental change aspect with nature. I am wrapping my brain around how to do this right now. I like the idea of reduce, reuse, and recyle. Is that the access point to combine our interests in renewable energy and nature? I also like the idea of a website with a link to a movie as a podcast and also our web with links to other things. I also like the idea of a travelling museum exhibit. In terms of the cute versus cutesey difference, I'll explain tonight. See you soon!


The sequence and due dates of assignments 3 and 4 are now as follows:
► formative evaluation plan (approximately two pages); due Monday, April 6
► draft proposal chapters on project objectives and rationale (approximately six pages); due Friday, April 17
The remaining assignments are unchanged from the information in the syllabus:
► draft proposal abstract (limited to one page); due Friday, April 24
► final project proposal (approximately twenty pages); due either Tuesday, May 12, or Friday, May 15, depending on the date of your oral presentation
► reflections on your research and design experience (individual submission; up to five pages); due Wednesday, May 20