When you think of Kids Discover Magazine, the last thing you probably think of is a textbook. Textbooks are filled with long text passages, contain few images per page spread, and are generally hundreds of pages long. They have lots of chapters, a big table of contents, and they’re pretty heavy to lug around. Just ask a 2nd grader. An issue of Kids Discover Magazine, on the other hand, is packed with visuals and short captions, is never more than 20 pages long, and dives deep into a single subject. Oh, and they’re pretty light. Side by side, there aren’t many physical similarities.
So last summer when we started talking with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the world’s leading textbook publishers, we weren’t sure what they had in mind. I had given them a virtual demonstration of Kids Discover Online, our new, all-access digital platform. The motion, interactivity, and overall platform design of Kids Discover Online got their gears turning. After a few phone calls and a visit to Kids Discover’s office here in New York City, the plan for a new, cutting-edge Social Studies Program for K-6 started to take shape.
The premise was pretty simple: Instead of delivering a single, 400-page grade-level textbook, deliver a stack of Kids Discover Magazines. The material in the magazines would closely follow the scope and sequence of a traditional core curriculum program, in order to meet state standards, but each issue would now serve as a unit of study, the close equivalent of a textbook chapter. All of the material would be offered up in both print and digital, and would be geared towards blended learning environments. What appeared in writing as a pretty progressive approach to a core curriculum program, actually made a lot of common sense.
See, we’ve known for over 25 years how much students and teachers love Kids Discover. Each issue is designed to pull readers into the text. The iconic photographs, original illustrations, and cartoons keep them engaged. The short, whimsical captions make even the heaviest content approachable. We are storytellers through and through, and we tell the stories of the subjects you need to teach your students.
It didn’t take Houghton Mifflin Harcourt very long to recognize all of this, so we quickly began to lay out a plan for how we would develop the program together. One thing was clear from the onset of the planning process: HMH wanted us to produce any and all new issues in the same style we would do ourselves, using Kids Discover authors, editors, image researchers, artists, and designers.
It didn’t hurt that we’ve been working really hard over the last 3 years to translate our print material into engaging and interactive digital formats. The program would lean on the user experience we designed, developed, and now offer through Kids Discover Online. HMH would take on the creation of each issue’s Teacher Edition, packed with lesson plans, assessment questions, and strategies for teaching the material contained in each issue.
After several weeks of initial conversations, it became clear that we had a serious mission on our hands. In order to meet state and curriculum standards across the country for grades K-6, we would need to create about 8 years’ worth of Kids Discover material in less than 10 months. On the surface, it was a seemingly impossible task. Not only would it mean we would need to dramatically scale up our production capacity, we would also need to cut down on the time it takes to create a brand new issue of Kids Discover from 12-14 weeks to 8-9 weeks.
The easy thing to do would’ve been to say no. Let’s be serious, how unrealistic would it be to scale up production by 800% and streamline our content workflow in a matter of months? But we love a challenge here at Kids Discover, and the opportunity meant that students and teachers would be using Kids Discover as their core curriculum program. So we put our brains together and got to work. We committed to each other that we would do this together, we would make it happen no matter how many nights and weekends it took.
It’s been a wild 6 months for everyone here Kids Discover. Amid the exhaustion and stress of the program’s production, we are all having a blast. Formally announced last week, the HMH Kids Discover K-6 Social Studies Program will be available for sale for the 2017-2018 school year. It also means we’re going to have a bunch of new Kids Discover issues, both print and digital, available for sale this summer.
We can’t wait to share the final program with all of you, and we’re so honored to be working with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on this truly progressive program. Stay tuned over the coming months for more announcements and updates on the project, and join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for some exclusive sneak peaks at upcoming Kids Discover Issues.
President and CEO