As our work on the AIM Buddy Project wraps up, the Digital Production Group at WGBH pauses a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned during our development of the five interactive comics and games . . .
We created the five AIM interactive comics and games because we EMPATHIZE with kids, parents, and teachers. Everyone has challenges living in today’s world. Our goal is that the AIM interactive comics and games will help kids navigate the rough patches and challenges they encounter in everyday life.
We want to be HONEST—we had to work through some unexpected, interesting challenges that came up while developing the interactive comics and games, such as:
- Devising a game that would help kids learn the nuances of generosity;
- Creating a “Grudge” that was memorable and effective, but not too scary for little kids;
- Helping kids understand why it’s not always easy to be honest even when they know “honesty is the best policy”.
Learning From Others
When we began this project, we knew that a large part of our process would be testing with kids. We have learned over time that there’s nothing like kid-testing a product to teach us that things don’t always work the way we think they will––nothing says “change your approach to this game” faster than a handful of kids quickly losing interest. So, we have LEARNED FROM OTHERS, and humbly thank all of our kid-testers for helping make the interactive comics and games all they could be!
Developing a new product involves a team of people who share their time, expertise, and energy––and the AIM program was no exception. To everyone who contributed, from school districts willing to test the program in the classroom to teachers who integrated the AIM interactive comics and games into their already-stretched schedules to students who took time from their regular school days to play and learn with us, and to partners who worked diligently to gather information, guide, and advise us––your GENEROSITY in sharing your time and expertise is greatly appreciated!
Since we’re not currently holding any grudges, this topic’s a little harder to write about––but the entire Digital Production group at WGBH wants to thank YOU for your continued interest, encouragement, and persistence in sticking with us through the entire development process . . . and we ask your FORGIVENESS if we ran astray once or twice!
from the Digital Production Group at WGBH
The AIM research study conducted throughout the 2015-2016 school year explored the impact of interactive media and cross-age mentoring on the promotion of prosocial skills and attitudes among elementary school students. Data was collected over the 2015-2016 school year in two diverse Massachusetts school districts and involved 90 teachers and 1,155 students. Highlights from the promising results include:
- Little Buddies in high fidelity programs had statistically significant increases in their empathy, future-mindedness, and positive perceptions of their classroom climate.
- Both Little and Big Buddies in high fidelity classrooms had statistically significant increases in their levels empathy and tolerance.
- Both Little and Big Buddies participants were four times more likely to show a better understanding of honesty and two and a half times more likely to show a better understanding of forgiveness and learning from others.
But don’t stop there . . . read the full report here:
AIM Summary of Research Findings June 2017
This fall, Arthur’s 21st season premieres on PBS KIDS! In the new season’s exciting adventures and heartfelt stories, Arthur continues to model prosocial behaviors as he navigates through the challenges of childhood with empathy, kindness, and respect for others. As always, Arthur and his friends showcase the importance of being able to communicate effectively when dealing with conflicts, relationships, and everyday issues in the new season’s episodes—whether it’s banding together to save the library from closing or starting a pet toy business. The kids in Elwood City will learn about ways they can work together, help one another, and contribute to their communities.
New episodes will also stay true to the tradition of tackling tough issues that kids face every day.
- In one upcoming story, “Binky’s “A” Game,” Binky comes face to face with the topic of honesty—one of the key character attributes of the AIM Buddy Project. When Binky gets an “A” on a test, all of his friends think he cheated! Is it possible that Binky actually studied?
- In another story, “Brain and the Time Capsule,” Brain tackles another one of the AIM program’s key topics—generosity—as he learns that sharing with his friends is not always easy. When choosing what things to bury his time capsule, Brain has to decide how much space in the capsule he would like to share with his friends.
And what would October be without the premiere of an all-new spooktacular Halloween special, “Arthur and the Haunted Tree House”!
In this one-hour special episode Arthur and his friends work together and help one another get through these spooky adventures: Francine meets an elderly woman with a mysterious past; Binky finds himself at Mr. Ratburn’s amazing haunted house; Muffy and Bailey decide to cut through a rainy cemetery; Arthur, Buster, and Ladonna try to solve the mystery of who—or what—is haunting the tree house!
Join Arthur and his friends for another season of adventure, friendship, and fun!
One of the main goals of the Arthur Interactive Media (AIM) Buddy Project is to help students gain an understanding of the topics empathy, honesty, generosity, forgiveness, and learning from others.
Findings from the AIM Research Study show that students who participated in the AIM program exhibited a deeper understanding of the concepts behind these topics than students who did not participate in the program.
To show this, the Tufts research team went back to question the student participants from the AIM Research Study about 6 months after they worked on the program in the classrooms. This way, researchers could gauge how deeply the five concepts resonated with the children over a span of time.
AIM discussion prompt:
In the interactive story Buster’s Growing Grudge, Buster has a difficult time forgiving his friend for telling his joke. Throughout the comic, buddies were encouraged to talk about how forgiving others is hard, and that by forgiving other people and letting go of bad feelings, the person holding the grudge can begin to feel better, too.
Student survey question:
Here are two sample findings from the survey that was given to participants about 6 months after they used the AIM program:
- Students who participated in the AIM program were significantly more likely than other students to choose the best/complex option (e.g., “that it feels better to let go of bad feelings, like being upset with someone” or “that sometimes telling the truth can be hard”).
- Students in the AIM program also scored higher when asked about how important it was for them to show empathy and not make assumptions about other people.
Children receive messages about these issues, and it is important for them to learn that it’s not always easy to know what to do. These exciting findings show that the AIM program not only introduced new concepts to children, but also provided a deeper understanding of the complexity of showing empathy, being honest, generous, and forgiving, and learning from people who are different from you . . . even months after they used the resources in the AIM program.
We hope the lessons and strategies they gain from the AIM program will also give them new tools to use as they navigate through their world!
A lot is going on in the world these days, so it’s a good time to help kids learn about civics, or the rights and duties of being a good citizen. After all, being an active participant in the school or neighborhood is as important as being an active citizen in the world. And as it turns out, the dispositions that are foundational to civic engagement are directly aligned to the goals of the AIM Buddy Project, such as:
- being able to express yourself and communicate with others
- being able to negotiate and solve problems
- being able to empathize and take another person’s point of view
The five AIM interactive comics and games give kids opportunities to learn alongside Arthur and his friends as they navigate through some tricky everyday situations.
In “So Funny I Forgot to Laugh,” kids learn that having empathy—being willing to understand how someone else feels—is key to getting along with others, and treating everyone with respect and dignity.
In “Buster’s Growing Grudge” kids learn that it’s not always easy to forgive someone, but forgiveness is the best way try to work things out so you can let go of your angry or hurt feelings and move on.
Learning from Others
In “Dear Adil,” kids learn the importance of being open to learning from others, as Arthur insults a new penpal by making wrong assumptions about him. Being open to asking questions and learning about others is key to opening up a whole new world.
All of the AIM topics—empathy, forgiveness, learning from others, honesty, and generosity—are integral to living in today’s ever-shrinking world, where people from different countries and cultures are increasingly interacting with each other. And the classroom discussions sparked by these interactive comics and games is a great start for kids to learn how to live as responsible and caring citizens who can make a positive impact on the world they live in.
The AIM Buddy Project was well represented in two presentations at the 2017 Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Conference in Austin, TX. In attendance were close to 6500 professionals and graduate students in psychology, human development, family studies, education, public policy, sociology, social work, psychiatry, pediatrics, and public health.
“What Matters to Bullies?” was a symposium led by AIM Buddy Project Co-Investigator, Milena Batanova to explore whether the AIM interactive comic “So Funny I Forgot to Laugh” (which focuses on empathy and bullying) made a difference in how students defined “bullying” and to see if student’s definitions related to their reported bullying behavior. The findings showed a significant increase in the complexity of students’ definitions of bullying:
- Before watching the comic with their buddy, many students gave a wrong or simple definition, such as “to make fun of or tease.”
- After students watched the comic, they gave a more complex definition, such as “when someone repeatedly hurt someone by words or hitting.”
- This increase in complexity was not seen in students who reported bullying behaviors both before and after the program. The majority of these students gave a very poor definition of bullying.
This data suggests that, overall, “So Funny I Forgot to Laugh” helped students understand the topic of bullying more deeply.
Tufts Senior Research Coordinator Akira Gutierrez presented, “Partners in Learning: How Researchers can Support the Needs of Teacher Participant-Partners,” a poster that
encouraged attendee interaction and discussion on how researchers can help support schools in implementing programs, conducting research, and applying research findings within their school.
Based on feedback from teachers and researcher observations, some ideas identified that researchers can provide schools with to help them smooth out the implementation of a successful program include:
- Distribute a program roadmap with quick references to different sections of the program
- Strategies to help educators access and organize materials quickly
- Recommendations on selecting times of day for implementing the program
- Planning for logistical challenges (e.g., technology, absences in buddy pairs)
- Appoint a project liaison at the school for real-time troubleshooting and support
Stay tuned for more on the AIM Buddy Project Research Study!
Millions of fans tune in to follow the adventures of their favorite eight-year-old aardvark, Arthur, on television or interact with the characters on the ARTHUR website or stream episodes of ARTHUR on their mobile devices. But ARTHUR has a lot of fans on social media, too–over a million fans from around the world follow ARTHUR on Facebook and other social media platforms.
So, what better way to raise awareness to the Arthur Interactive Media (AIM) Buddy Project among our social media audiences than to bring the program directly to social engagement platforms.
Look for the AIM Buddy Project on your favorite social engagement platform–and be sure to ‘like’ us!
Recently, the Arthur team reached out to followers on social media, asking fans to share stories about their relationship with the show and how it has positively impacted their lives. We received hundreds of heartwarming messages from our wide audience.
Millennials who grew up watching the show described how they continue to use the messages they learned from ARTHUR every day:
- “Arthur teaches, in my opinion, the more important lessons rather than math and spelling, and that’s tolerance and how different people are. Like the opening song goes ‘Everybody on the street has an original point of view.’” –Amber (Age 20)
Some shared stories about the excitement they felt when they saw themselves represented in the ARTHUR characters on television:
I was raised to believe that exposure creates tolerance and understanding (for most things), so I was always thrilled when Arthur would introduce new characters with different backgrounds. “Dear Adil” especially excited me because my dad’s name is Adil, and growing up I had never really seen many characters in American media that even remotely resembled my family and heritage.” –Naz (Age 20)
Parents shared how Arthur has influenced the way they speak to their children about topics and issues that are sometimes difficult to discuss:
- “Because of the range of topics that Arthur covers, it has helped me cover several topics with my kiddos. “When Carl Met George” [is the story that] allowed me to explain his Autism to my son. It was so much easier for both he and my daughter to understand and not to mention so much easier to explain.” –Danielle (Parent)
Teachers reached out to express the importance of Arthur in their classrooms:
- “The Arthur show was one of my favorites because I felt like I could easily relate to many of the characters…Best of all, I LOVE that the Arthur cast is fond of reading and going to the library! It helped validate my interest in reading and made it cool to love books. Currently I am a 3rd grade teacher, and my students know how much I love Arthur.” –Natalie (Teacher)
The Arthur team was thrilled and gratified to receive such positive feedback. If you have an impact story to share, please email us at email@example.com.
We hope Arthur has helped you have a wonderful kind of day!
The SXSWedu Conference and Festival is an annual conference focusing on innovations in learning. SxSWedu hosted a diverse global community passionate about the future of teaching and impacting learning in the classroom and beyond. Attendees at the 2017 conference included practitioners and administrators, students, business and industry representatives, and government and nonprofit representatives.
The Arthur Interactive Media (AIM) Buddy Project was featured in a panel discussion that focused on how to help kids move forward in our turbulent world. The presentation topic, “Talking the Talk: Anti-bias and Other Hard Topics,” was selected from a wide variety submissions through a popular community vote.
Mary Haggerty and Lacey Hilliard represented AIM Buddy Project in the 4-person panel discussion, which included:
- Maureen Costello, Executive Director, Teaching Tolerance
- Thabiti Brown, Head of School, Codman Academy Charter Public School, MA.
- Mary Haggerty, Director of First 8 Labs and Community Engagement at WGBH
- Lacey Hilliard, Research Professor at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University
Panelists discussed their respective perspectives on how to approach conversations with children about difficult topics:
- Maureen Costello introduced Teaching Tolerance’s anti-bias framework and spoke about the need for rapid response from industry and research.
- Thabiti Brown discussed challenges his school faces regarding social issues and stress. He presented strategies to help schools process challenging situations and take action in fair and compassionate ways.
- Mary Haggerty discussed how using children’s media can be a powerful, effective tool in connecting with children and helping them unpack difficult issues. AIM Buddy Project was highlighted in this discussion.
- Lacey Hilliard described her role as a researcher of positive development and social justice and presented initial findings and feedback from the AIM Buddy Project study.
The themes of collaboration, equity and justice, learning through innovative technology, and social development were well represented at SxSWedu.
Or visit the website to learn more about SxSWedu.
What is AIM?
AIM is a media-rich, cross-age buddy program designed to promote social, emotional, and character development in elementary school students.
What is in this new collection?
The AIM Buddy Project supplemental curriculum includes teacher training videos and interactive stories and games based on PBS’s award-winning ARTHUR series that allow students to interact with characters, explore multiple perspectives, and consider the impact of actions.
Also included is the comprehensive AIM Educator’s Guide, embedded with planning videos and step-by-step instruction and support to guide educators through planning and implementing each of the 20 classroom sessions in the AIM program.
to view the full AIM Buddy Project collection on PBS LearningMedia.