Changing children’s lives isn’t easy work. The most powerful and commanding of personalities can only reach so far into a child’s world; any great educator will tell you that. At MAP we believe one of the best things you can give a kid is the idea that they are powerful beyond measure and that only they dictate where the story ends. Childhood can be a lonely time, especially when you are choosing to walk a road less traveled. Producing short films and documentary style pieces is an incredibly powerful force for good in a child’s life. It calls on them to be a researcher, a critical thinker, a visual storyteller, a problem solver. It requires they work in a group, as a part of a team, and recognize the value of the people they’re depending on. In short, it’s a training ground for a future of success. Social and emotional learning (SEL) has been identified by many distinguished scholars as a way of teaching youngsters to work well with others, regulate their emotions and constructively solve problems. But it’s a lot to ask of already overburdened teachers and many of them, though they would like to implement the concepts, wonder how exactly it can be done. It feels fuzzy to connect social awareness and responsibility to learning.
But it’s not fuzzy.
The reality is, most children adapt quite quickly to an expectation that the priority of a greater good must guide them. Interactive student-directed learning experiences (for example, where a group of students brainstorm on a social issue they want to bring awareness to and then create a short video piece illustrating it) are rich with possibilities for shaping a young mind, both intellectually (a study by the University of Illinois, Chicago, found that kids who participated in SEL learning raised scores on achievement test by 11 points) and emotionally. It’s win-win.
In the Seattle Social Development Project (a longitudinal study of 808 elementary school children who received a comprehensive SEL intervention in the first through sixth grade starting in 1981) participants reported significantly lower lifetime rates of violence and heavy alcohol use at age 18 than their non-intervention peers. Intervention-group students were more likely to complete high school…and to have lower rates of major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and social phobia at ages 24 and 27. (Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 153, No. 3; Vol. 156, No. 5; and Vol. 159, No. 1)
So quite simply, it works, and we know it works, and it works for every kind of kid no matter where they’re coming from, because every kid, regardless of their circumstances, is navigating an incredibly complex world filled with diverse messages. So we think (humbly speaking) that media awareness can change children’s lives.