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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Schools and organizations around the world are hosting screenings of a short film called The Science of Character, which explores the research behind character development and encourages us to focus on our character strengths for greater personal and community well-being. I've featured the film below, and then chosen one video for each of the seven highly predictive character strengths distilled by KIPP schools, in partnership with grit researcher Angela Duckworth, and psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson (authors of the groundbreaking book Character Strengths and Virtues). I hope these videos will inspire you to celebrate #CharacterDay on September 18th, and to think about the importance of character every day!

Video Playlist: Eight Powerful Videos for #CharacterDay

Watch the player below to see the whole playlist, or view it on YouTube.


  1. "The Science of Character" (08:04)

    A compelling film and a lovely example of "cloud filmmaking." Over 4,800 schools and organizations world-wide are screening this eight-minute film on September 18th -- fill out this form to register to host your own premiere!

  2. OPTIMISM: Sue Austin: Deep Sea Diving ... in a Wheelchair (09:39)

    There are so many wonderful character traits explored in this TED Talk: curiosity, perseverance, bravery -- but it's Sue Austin's optimism, and how she sees her wheelchair as an instrument of freedom and adventure, that really moves me. Learn more about Sue Austin's work here.

  3. GRATITUDE: Science of Happiness - An Experiment in Gratitude (07:14)

    SoulPancake is particularly adept at capturing powerful moments of human emotion and transformation -- in this video, the act of expressing gratitude ups the happiness quotient of a group of volunteers. Caution, some language not appropriate for kids in this one.

  4. SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE: Social Intelligence Video Project (02:34 excerpt)

    A college student made this video to explain what social intelligence is and why it matters, presumably for a class. While it's not the most compelling video you'll see, it does provide a nice friendly overview.

  5. CURIOSITY: Building Curiosity (02:23)

    Curiosity is at the heart of all successful learning experiences. This video is a stop-motion ode to curiosity by science vlogger Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart, featuring quotes from some of science's greatest minds and LEGO's special edition Mars rover set.

  6. SELF-CONTROL: The Marshmallow Test (03:45)

    Perhaps the best-known experiment on self-control and delayed gratification, Walter Mischel's marshmallow test has been studied and challenged; Angela Duckworth did a critical analysis and found the test to be valid. Regardless, recreations like this one are adorable to watch.

  7. ZEST or ENTHUSIASM: Jessica's "Daily Affirmation" (00:50)

    This video went viral (14 million views!) in 2010, and it's easy to see why -- the four-year-old Jessica's exuberant declarations to the mirror about her abilities and passions makes us laugh, but also helps us see the power of a little positive thinking. Find out where Jessica is now here.

  8. GRIT or PERSEVERANCE: You Don't Know Jack - Morgan Spurlock (03:44)

    I've never seen a better illustration of grit than the story of Jack Andraka, a high school sophomore who was determined to explore his idea for a solution to fight pancreatic cancer. Learn more about Jack Andraka here.

More Resources on Cultivating Character Strengths

There are bountiful resources out there for teaching character; it's often hard to tell the canned curriculum from the kind that will really have value for your own school or classroom. But by digging a little deeper into some of the work that's been done around character, you may start to have a good sense of which virtues you want to focus on with your own students (or in yourself!). The list below provides some good starting points for learning more about character strengths and fostering them in educational settings. As ever, feel free to share your favorite resources in the comments below!

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Comments (3) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Hifi's picture
Character Education Researcher and Critic

I couldn't find any science in any of this. Everything being claimed amounts to no more than speculation, and the "evidence" cited is just anecdotal.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

Amy, I love SoulPancake's gratitude video. I was so moved when I first saw it, and I'm so happy you shared it here. :-)

Kandace Cleland's picture
Kandace Cleland
7th & 8th grade Theatre Arts teacher from Canfield, Ohio

A wealth of resources for teaching character- and for developing my own. It's a lifelong journey. As for the science, these observation narratives and collaborative studies provide fascinating evidence that we can develop our characters to better ourselves and our world. I look forward to digging into this material more to find class resources.

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