George Lucas Educational Foundation
5-Minute Film Festival

5-Minute Film Festival: Resources for Teaching About Character

Five short films and a set of resources for celebrating Character Day on September 13.
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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. See the film below, and check out videos that illustrate four of the seven 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 #CharacterDay2017 on September 13.

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The Science of Character (8:04)

A lovely example of cloud filmmaking. Over 70,000 schools and organizations in more than 70 countries are screening this compelling eight-minute film on September 13. Fill out this form to register to host your own screening; free discussion kits are available. (Best for: anyone curious about how to develop character strengths.)

PERSEVERANCE: You Don’t Know Jack (3:44)

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 Andraka. (Best for: disenchanted high school students who wonder if they can make a difference.)

GRATITUDE: Science of Happiness—An Experiment in Gratitude (7:14)

SoulPancake is particularly adept at capturing powerful moments of human emotion and transformation. In this video, the act of expressing gratitude increases the happiness of a group of volunteers. Caution: Some language here is not appropriate for kids. (Best for: skeptics who don’t believe gratitude exercises are effective.)

SELF-CONTROL: The Marshmallow Test (3:45)

Perhaps the best-known experiment on self-control and delayed gratification, Walter Mischel’s marshmallow test has been studied and challenged. Angela Duckworth analyzed the test and found it to be valid. Regardless, re-creations like this one are adorable to watch. (Best for: elementary teachers trying to wrangle impatient little ones.)

OPTIMISM: Deep Sea Diving—In a Wheelchair (9:39)

There are many wonderful character traits explored in this TED Talk, like curiosity, perseverance, and bravery, but it’s Sue Austin’s optimism—and how she sees her wheelchair as an instrument of freedom and adventure—that really moved me. Learn more about Austin. (Best for: anyone who needs a dose of glass-half-full sentiment.)

There are bountiful resources out there for teaching character, though it’s often hard to tell a canned curriculum from the kind that will really have value for your school or classroom. Here are some good starting points for learning more about character strengths and fostering them in educational settings:

  • Let It Ripple, the folks who organize Character Day, serve up resources for every character trait imaginable at the Character Day Resource Hub.
  • Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab offers a library of tools for families and educators, categorized as strengths of heart, strengths of mind, and strengths of will.
  • The Character Education Partnership has lesson plans, videos, and articles about teaching and nurturing character strengths.