"It's not the years, honey...it's the mileage."
Part Three in a Three Part Retrospective Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
In May of 2008, students and teachers from Greenville County Schools collaborated to create a first-of-its-kind, hands-on, interdisciplinary exhibit hosted at Roper Mountain Science Center that highlighted the history, culture and science related to the life and adventures of Indiana Jones. The project, Walking through Time with Indiana Jones, was a runaway hit in the community, resulted in record-breaking attendance for a Roper Mountain event, and was the culmination of a year-long adventure of our own as Wes and I collaborated with Lucasfilm on promoting the DVD release of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (for more on that, check out our previous post). It had been an amazing ride and one that inspired us to continue to find ways to promote learning with everyone’s favorite archaeologist…and more.
After the release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and with the Young Indy DVD series promotion over, Lucasfilm understandably turned its attention to the release of the newest entry to the Star Wars franchise, The Clone Wars feature film. Meanwhile, Wes and I continued to create and expand educational offerings for our website, Adventures in Learning with Indiana Jones, a resource that became commonly known among a growing number of our followers on social media as Indy in the Classroom. As our online presence grew, we began to connect with fellow educators around the world who shared our interest in teaching with Indy and we were heartened to hear from so many that found our resources useful for their classrooms. We also enjoyed connecting with many educators who were unfamiliar with the Young Indy series prior to finding our website but were now not only fans, but were also using the films and documentaries in class.
One of the best aspects of collaborating with Lucasfilm was getting to know and work with some amazing people, particularly David Schneider and Sharon Wood from JAK Films. Besides being incredibly talented storytellers, they are both genuinely kind and gracious people who made us feel welcomed at the table. In fact, it was our relationship with them that led to one of our greatest adventures…a visit to Skywalker Ranch.
In October of 2008, Wes and I, accompanied by our families, journeyed to Nicasio, California for a day-long exploration of The Ranch, one of the most serene and creatively inspiring places that I’ve ever been blessed to visit. With Sharon Wood as our guide, we were given an in-depth tour of the facilities, from the stunningly beautiful Victorian Main House and its incredible library and screening theater to the recording stage of Skywalker Sound. The highlight of the day, however, was an unexpected encounter with George Lucas himself, in the kitchen of the Main House of all places, as he and a team of writers were taking a break from working on a later unproduced live-action TV series that I can only imagine was Star Wars: Underworld. It was a magical day, and one none of us will ever forget.
As the Star Wars franchise was gaining steam once more with the growing success of The Clone Wars animated television series, and with Crystal Skull having garnered mixed reviews from critics and fans (I thoroughly enjoyed it, but we can save that discussion for another time), for the next few years, it seemed that immediate interest in Indiana Jones may be waning. Nevertheless, Wes and I continued promoting the educational value of teaching with Indy as we marched toward 2011 and the 30th Anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a time when we would have yet another unexpected adventure with the good Dr. Jones.
In November of 2010, I came across a press release that made me very excited: the official announcement for Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology, an innovative museum exhibition presented by National Geographic. Three years after our student-created exhibit, there would now be an official Indiana Jones museum exhibition, curated by Nat Geo, no less. After reaching out to Lucasfilm and a making a few inquiries to some friends, Wes and I were fortunate to once more have the opportunity to jump into Indy’s world and explore some exciting possibilities related to teaching with The Adventure of Archaeology. Ultimately, this led to an invitation for my family and I to visit the exhibit in Montreal shortly after its opening in Spring of 2011, an opportunity that we turned into a two-week family road trip in July of that year. The exhibit was absolutely incredible and boasted some innovative guest experiences that added another layer of engagement and greatly supported the collection of archaeological artifacts, film props, and artwork. While the project that Wes and I worked on was never launched, as sometimes happens with these things, it was nevertheless another grand adventure and opportunity to collaborate with our talented friends at Lucasfilm.
Since 2011 was the 30th Anniversary of Raiders, Wes and I decided to connect with our community of followers around the world and host a Global Viewing Party of the film, held on June 12th, the day of its premiere. We provided a number of placards on our website and asked those who participated to download one of the signs, take a picture with it and send it to us so that we could share it with other Indy fans. The response exceeded our expectations and we received pictures from fans not only across the United States, but also from a number of other nations as well, including from friends in the UK, Austria and the Czech Republic. Yet this wasn’t the only time that year we asked our followers to share with us their love of Indy.
Earlier in 2011, we launched our “Learning Happens Here” initiative, based on work that we’d done with the National Trust's "This Place Matters" historic preservation campaign the year prior (a story that we’ll tell another time). Like our Global Viewing Party, the idea was to download and print the placard we provided, write the country where they resided on the line provided, then take a picture of themselves while holding it somewhere that's important to them or representative of where they lived. Once more, our followers came through and sent in pictures from locales as varied as Antarctica, COMICON, and Mayan ruins in Belize. It was great fun and an even greater way to engage with our fellow Indy fans.
With the arrival of 2012, we spent the better part of the year celebrating the 20th Anniversary of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles through our various platforms, but the highlight of it all was commissioning our friend and noted illustrator Paul Shipper to create a poster to celebrate the occasion. We first connected with Paul through our friend Mitch Hallock at TheRaider.net, as he had created some of the artwork for that site. Paul is a phenomenal artist and it was a real honor to collaborate with him on what would become the only artwork commissioned to commemorate the event.
Having spent five years promoting teaching and learning with Indiana Jones and growing our professional learning network of educators interested in teaching with stories like Indy’s, Wes and I decided to expand our educational offerings and cross over into that other franchise located in a galaxy far, far away. While Disney was purchasing Lucasfilm in a blockbuster deal, we made plans for our next educational endeavor, Star Wars in the Classroom, which launched on January 1st, 2013. With all the excitement around the Disney deal and the prospects of new Star Wars content looking brighter than ever, we turned most of our attention to building this new platform for teaching and learning with lessons inspired by all things Star Wars.
From the outset, we received tremendous interest and terrific feedback from educators around the world, and quickly developed a professional learning network comprised of more than 3000 teachers and administrators from over 30 nations. With interest this high, we laid down the whip, as it were, and picked up a lightsaber as we focused our attention on creating new content for Star Wars and much less so for Indiana Jones. It was an understandable transition and one that resulted in new opportunities and adventures…just not so much with Indy. The torch had been passed and with it, we began to reach an even wider audience of educators and students than ever before. But that, too, is a story for another time.
While the Star Wars franchise flourished with multiple new projects following Disney’s acquisition, many of us wondered if there was hope for a return of our favorite archaeologist. Then, in 2016, Disney and Lucasfilm announced that Harrison Ford would be donning the fedora one last time for another adventure as Indiana Jones. Inspired by this news, Wes and I began to reimagine what our educational endeavors could look like moving forward if we created new and expanded content for both Indy and Star Wars, while also meeting the demands of our full time jobs and, more importantly, spending quality time with our families. As many of you may know, writing, researching, curating and creating content it quite time-consuming and, having devoted the past fifteen years to these ongoing projects, we’re much more selective and intentional on our plans for moving forward from here…because there is a plan, and to us, it’s an exciting one; and one that we hope will excite you, too. But, once more, that is a story for another time, too.
Until then, if you are reading this and you’ve been part of our adventurous journey thus far, we truly thank you for your encouragement and support through all these years. And if all of this is somewhat new to you, we still hope you’ll stick around and take part in our further adventures with Indiana Jones.