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Saturday, April 13, 2013

WGBH and PBS KIDS Series Arthur Embarks on Unique, Interactive Research Study

WGBH Boston, a longtime leader in educational children's media and the producer of PBS Kid's popular ARTHUR series (on air and online), has received a one-year research grant from the John Templeton Foundation. WGBH's award-winning kids interactive group will use ARTHUR characters and stories to design and pilot a groundbreaking interactive comic book that promotes character development, positive decision-making, and pro-social behavior in children.

The project launches a brand-new collaboration with the Institute of Applied Research in Youth Development (IARYD) at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences and its Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development. Under the direction of IARYD's Richard M. Lerner, one of the nation's foremost experts on positive youth development, Tufts will lead a research study to assess the impact of interactive technology and collaborative learning on character development in young children.

According to Lerner, who is the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Development Science at Tufts, "this method of engaging with content and concepts has the potential to strengthen positive behaviors, but has not yet been studied within character education programs for young children."

In fall 2013, the interactive comic book will be implemented in a pilot program as part of a cross-age buddy program, matching first and second graders with older students in elementary schools in Massachusetts. Together, the students will use the interactive comic book as the focal point of their shared experience and participate in activities designed to encourage discussion and growth around such character attributes as empathy, forgiveness, and generosity.

"This is a creative and well-designed initiative, combining high-quality popular children's media, interactive technology, and peer mentoring ­- not to mention rigorous evaluation research," says Craig Joesph, Director of Character Development at the John Templeton Foundation. "We anticipate that this project will make significant contributions to promoting children's character development and well-being."

Now in its 16th season on PBS, the WGBH produced, animated series ARTHUR follows the world's most popular eight-year-old aardvark and his friends as they experience the challenges that real kids face in learning to navigate a complex and sometimes confusing world. Maintaining friendships, working things out with siblings, dealing with fears and anxieties, and doing the right thing are common series' themes, and provide an ideal springboard for promoting conversations at school and home. "We hear all the time from kids and families that watching ARTHUR has been meaningful to them as they face challenges in their lives," says WGBH's Carol Greenwald, Senior Executive Producer. "We're very excited about the opportunity to work with such great partners to learn how those experiences might translate into substantive, positive growth for kids."

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