WTIU Re-launches the FridayZone

by Joy Loving, Station Products and Innovation

WTIU's Friday Zone site
In addition to winning one of the PBS KIDS GO! Grants  with the Weather Zone,  WTIU has re-launched their series the FridayZone. The WeatherZone project had been a spinoff from the FridayZone program. WTIU’s Station Manager, Phil Meyer talks to us about the re-launch of FridayZone, and what viewers can expect from the series, now entering its twelfth season.

The FridayZone is a weekly children’s series that has been on the air since 1999. While the show is popular now, it began as a series of workshops held by WTIU as part of their Ready to Learn initiative. “Our Outreach Coordinator developed a proposal to translate those workshops into a TV series," explains Meyer. In reference to the future of the FridayZone, Meyer is optimistic for the series’ main audience. “We want kids who watch the show on Fridays to have a bunch of ideas about fun, educational things to do over the weekend and inspire them to be curious, inquisitive, and smart kids.”

WTIU's The Weather Zone
Each show is geared towards education children, between the ages of six and nine, on their surrounding environment, including six disciplines: Math, Science, the Environment, Performing Arts, Visual Arts and Indiana History. WTIU decided to redesign their FridayZone site to match the WeatherZone’s overall graphics and appeal.  In addition to hosting the Weather Zone and other PBS KIDS games, the FridayZone site is a host to videos from show. Visitors to the site can watch clips on the science behind foods, parks, bikes, and other everyday items.

Says Phil Meyer, “Producing a weekly TV series is an expensive proposition. There's a reason why The FridayZone is one of the last — if not the last— local children's series.” The show was in need of a major revision, as Meyer explains, “The site had not been updated since 2007, when a cosmetic update was done with the new show logo. There was no structure for including photography (from FlickR), video (from YouTube), [or] any interaction.”

The design team behind the FridayZone included Indiana University Creative Services, with assistance from WTIU's Integrated Media Department, Director of Marketing and Producer of Children's Programming. Meyer describes a few of the challenges when working on the new FridayZone:

“When budgets are tight, some people look at what is spent on the show and wonder if that money could be spent elsewhere. But with the show in its 12th season, we're now seeing college students who work on the show who watched it when they were kids. The show has become a cornerstone of much of our fundraising and marketing, especially to foundations and legislators.”

Despite monetary concerns, Meyer says that the process of recreating the look of WTIU’s beloved children’s series was enjoyable. It brought together a talented team of creative people who worked to make the series more educational and fun for the audience. “The aesthetics of the site are taken from the show color palette, set design and animations. Getting complete shows from twelve seasons onto the site were a key deliverable as well.”

As for the future of the FridayZone, Meyer says that WTIU will be adding more online games and behind-the-scenes content. Resources for parents and teachers will also be added, such as activity sheets and an archive of all past FridayZone shows. “We are also trying to decide how (or if) social media will be included in the site,” says Meyer.

If you are living in the southern or central Indiana areas, you can catch the FridayZone every Friday at 4:30pm on WTIU and WFYI, and again on Saturdays at 10:00am on WTIU. For more information about the FridayZone and for links to other PBS Kids games, visit the FridayZone web page through Indiana Public Media.

Want to use WTIU’s Weather Zone on your station’s KIDS site? Visit Station Remote Control for module code and instructions.  

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