Our mission at Storitopia is to share audio stories with kids everywhere. One of the ways we work toward this mission is by connecting with the creators behind our favorite kids podcasts. We love learning about what they are working on, how they got started and why. What we have found in countless hours of meeting kids podcast creators is that they all have one thing in common: a passion to create meaningful content that is fun and educational for kids.
Meg Lewis is the creator and host of Storypillar, a social-emotional podcast for kids ages 5-8 and their grownups. I met Meg through the Kids Listen community and featured her podcast here shortly after it launched. She has been working hard over the past year, not only creating her delightful show but also working to connect with creators in every pocket of this space. Whether she's posting on EarBuds, lending her voice to friends' podcasts, or facilitating a community to help other newbies, Meg is a great connector of the pod people and I am so happy to have her as our first featured 'Behind the Scenes with Kids Podcast Creators'.
Meg, tell us about yourself
I am a former New York City public school teacher (middle school Spanish), who grew up in rural Michigan with no internet, roosters for neighbors, and lots and LOTS of books. I grew up loving stories and using stories as a way to explore the world and meet different people and have really fun and cool experiences, that maybe weren't possible for me. I couldn't hop on a dragon and fly away. I couldn't get on research boat to Antartica. These experiences just weren't going to happen when I was 11. I saw stories as window to the world. I also grew up in a time where social emotional learning wasn't really a thing. It was not on parents or teachers radars where I lived. If I was upset, nervous, scared, or bullied it was usually met with, "you'll be OK" which was one way of thinking and dealing with it. Looking back I needed a bit more support.
Is that how the podcast came to be?
Storypillar was a way for me to take these two things (access to stories, perspectives, different cultures, and worlds - whether real or imaginary and being a human with feelings who is trying to figure out how they feel about themselves and others) and make something that can be talked about and explored together. As a child and later in my career as a teacher, it became very clear that in order for kids to develop a healthy relationship with themselves and those around them, they need diverse stories and social-emotional support! Especially when the adults in their lives aren't quite sure how to tackle tough questions or guide them through the particularly big, loud, messy feelings. Storypillar makes learning about different perspectives and navigating ALL the big feelings (even the unpleasant ones) a little less scary and a LOT more fun for kids and their grownups.
Tell us about the hosts of your show
Well, there's me, Sneak, and Bean. Sneak is a very excited caterpillar who has probably had way too much sugar and loves sneakers. Bean is Sneak's older sister. She's a butterfly who is far more skeptical than her brother. She doesn't like to be looked at, touched, talked to, or breathed on. In each episode, they bring a sticky situation that they have had to deal with during the coarse of their day. Whether it's an argument with a friend or they are feeling nervous or really angry about something, we all hop into an imaginary rocket ship where we blast off to somewhere in the world where we hear a story that touches on that sticky situation. We hear a way of dealing with it or sometimes we hear what not to do. When we get back, we get to hear "unstick" tricks from kids who have also experienced these types of situations.
Was it hard to start a podcast?
Definitely hard. I am very grateful that podcasting is so accessible. This time last year I had just gotten my microphone and interface but I didn't know how to use them. I had written some episodes and was just gathering information so I could figure out how to make this work. I spent 8-9 months learning and researching and tinkering with my equipment to get things sounding the way I needed them to sound. Then I recorded my first episode and said, "wow that doesn't sound very good" and then I had a whole new set of learning to do. Yes, it was challenging and there was a lot to learn but it was also really fun. I got to stretch a lot of different muscles. I got to be more creative than I've ever gotten to be. I was stretching writing muscles, drawing muscles, music muscles, and doing lots of problem solving. I was just so happy to do this with podcasting.
How different is this from teaching?
I'm still doing the same thing. I'm still using silly voices and I get to explore languages. In the past year, I've learned how to say hello or what's up in like 15 different languages, which is so fun. I get to draw, I get to explore music, It's kind of taking what I was doing before but in a way that fits me and my life, my talents and what matters to me much better. With the podcast i can reach more students with one episode than I would have had in entire year year of teaching school.
Tell us a little bit about New Kids on the Pod What started as a Zoom meeting to ask questions and connect with other new podcast creators has blossomed into a monthly meeting where anyone is welcome and all ideas and questions are on the table to be discussed. So far we have hosted several guest speakers and covered some helpful topics, including:
How do you engage with your listeners if they are too young for social media?
How can you monetize when your numbers are still small?
What is it like to join a podcast network?
What are the rules for advertising in kids' podcasts?
If you are a kids' podcaster or an aspiring podcaster and want to join the monthly meeting, email Meg for a Zoom link. You can also join her mailing list to receive Storypillar episode updates and follow the Storypillar Instagram.