When we tell people about Big If True, we usually get one of two reactions: “Wow! What a fun bonding experience!” or “Wow! Why did you start doing that?”
So I figured I should try to answer that question.
Why do we make a podcast at all?
Big If True is our second podcast. Last year, before the pandemic, we started a podcast about words as a way to make learning new spelling words fun. Maybe we caught the bug then. After that, I started podcasting much more when my college classes went online in March 2020. So I started using podcasting for education. We sort of joked about restarting Spellcast, that first show, but we never did.
Fast forward to fall 2020. Online school was going on. Maggie was sitting in front of a computer from 9:00am to 4:00pm nearly every day. She was struggling to find the joy of learning. The isolation and frustrations of online school were starting to get to both of us. We started listening to kids’ podcasts, off and on, as a way to do something educational that wasn’t on a screen. But then we thought, Why don’t we make our own?
So we decided to do it.
Why do we make a show with this theme?
Honestly I don’t remember exactly how we hit on this theme. I think I used the phrase “Big if true” in a conversation, which led us down the rabbit hole of thinking about things that were big, and also true. So then I think I suggested that this would be a fun thing to talk to other people about.
It seemed like the possibilities were limitless, because if we wanted to explore the truth about big things, we could define “big” very expansively–big in size, big in impact, big in staying power….really, we could stretch the premise to fit almost anything we wanted to talk about. It could be about history, science, pop culture, literature, really anything.
Why do we make our show with this format?
Our first show had been just us talking, but this seemed like a great opportunity to talk to other people who knew a lot more than us. Neither of us has a ton of time to do exhaustive research about a lot of different things, but even our research wouldn’t be as good as talking to experts. Plus, we decided that we wanted this show to be for other people, not just for ourselves. We really want other people to get invested in the show, and we think experts are a lot more interesting to listen to than we are.
We listened to a lot of shows, for kids and adults, to decide how we wanted to do it. We determined that we wanted it to be for kids around Maggie’s age, or a little older. We don’t necessarily prefer shows for kids that have a lot of bells and whistles, special kooky voices, weird anthropomorphisms, and things like that. Plus that kind of stuff takes a TON of time and effort. So we decided we’d go with a more journalistic approach. Some music, some sound, but mostly just us and our experts. This approach would make our show more interesting for both kids and their parents.
We also decided that we wanted to give our listeners something specific to listen for, so each episode has a “quiz question” at the beginning. We try to make those questions pretty much impossible to know just off the top of your head, so you really do have to listen to the show to find out the answer.
We also decided that each episode would have a call to action at the end: something a kid could do to further their thinking about whatever topic we were discussing.
Finally, we (or I) knew that we couldn’t make a podcast without show notes. In our show notes, we always include a guest bio, because we want people to learn more about our amazing guests. We also include a full transcript, because we care a lot about accessibility and want our show to be enjoyed even by people who can’t listen to it for any number of reasons. And then we also include other fun stuff, like websites, videos, and other ways kids can get involved.
Why do we want people to listen to our show?
We’re not in this to make money or be famous or anything like that. But we talk to some PRETTY AMAZING PEOPLE, and we want as many people as possible to hear them. We think our show is perfect for upper elementary and middle-school students, but we know that there are some adults who really love it too.
We also try to make our show a good length to use in a classroom, as a center activity or guided practice activity. We just did an episode that’s purposely meant for that use, and we’d love to do more—teachers, if you have a topic you want us to cover, just let us know and we’ll see what we can do!