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 I also chose 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 #CharacterDay2016 on September 22 and to think about the importance of character every day!
Video Playlist: 8 Powerful Videos for #CharacterDay
Watch the player below to see the whole playlist, or view it on YouTube.
- "The Science of Character" (08:04)
A compelling film and a lovely example of "cloud filmmaking." Over 46,000 schools and organizations in 70 countries are screening this eight-minute film on September 22. Fill out this form to register to host your own premiere! Free discussion kits are also available.
- OPTIMISM: Sue Austin: Deep Sea Diving ... in a Wheelchair (09:39)
There are so 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 moves me. Learn more about Sue Austin's work.
- 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 is not appropriate for kids in this one.
- 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 overview.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Four-year-old Jessica's exuberant declarations to the mirror about her abilities and passions make us laugh, but they also help us to see the power of a little positive thinking. Find out where Jessica is now.
- 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.
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 has 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!
- Character Day Resource Hub from Let It Ripple
- An Overview of Character Strengths from Dave Stuart Jr.
- The VIA Classification of Character Strengths from VIA Institute on Character
- Character Growth Card (PDF) from Character Lab
- Character and Academics from KIPP Schools
- Character Learning Resources from Character Education Partnership
- Articles and Resources for Educators from Greater Good Science Center