dizzywood2 From Virtual Worlds to Classrooms

Shaping Youth has piloted numerous wellness projects online and off, testing tactics to see what adapts well digitally (and what adopts well from a kids’ use and retention fun factor). 

dizzywood_tree_001We teamed in the virtual world of Dizzywood in spring 2008 to test embedding positive cues of environmental stewardship (tree planting with the Arbor Day Foundation) Kids Plant Virtually Trees to Benefit Real Trees in Dizzywood

Seeding Virtual Worlds: Kids Going Green in Dizzywood

Dizzywood was a fabulous fit for blending pro-social messages with creative narratives, and we partnered again in the fall to see what we’d learn about kids’ community building and friendships during an election year simulation.Dw-voters

We piloted some digital citizenship models with electoral literacy and got a kick out of the lobbying and voting process storyline complete with straw hat campaigning and props, using entertainment as an informal learning tool for election education…

 We’ve used media methods “in-world” to monitor pro-social behaviors like anti-bullying and upstanding, gone “undercover” as media moles with youth teams to learn about peer to peer “workarounds” and even tried to translate our own hands-on critical thinking games into virtual worlds to see if they’d be able to scale en masse.

elf island opening good quest gnome Here’s more about our “in-world” virtual nutrition pilot project from  2009 when we partnered with tween site Elf Island on their fabulous GoodQuests…instilling positive values teaming with nonprofits for cause-marketing, in our case, Fresh Producers in Sacramento, CA.

As much as I’d envisioned the avatars being able to gain amazing “powers” to unlock secrets of key nutrients with easy formulas for kids to understand benefits, like sunshine (Vit D) plus milk (calcium) rewarding the gnome with an altered state of being (visually and with game points, etc) it ultimately didn’t translate into the digital format well sans funding factors, so our real world edu-game nutrition/health literacy experiences trumped our digital engagement in retention and logistics in our tests…

In short? Back to the classrooms and hands-on rotation stations to continue creating ‘train the trainer’ media messages with entertainment themes to produce media literacy inquiry.

A Virtual World to Be Wild About: Elf Island Tweens Help WildAid

Elf Island Good Quest: Stimulus Package That Helps Polar Bears

Consider This: Virtual Worlds in Institutional Settings

In Bed with Branding: Virtual Worlds Pair With Children’s Hospitals

Kids @ Play: Elf Island Unlocks the Secret of Parent Approval

Congratulations to the 2009 Digital Media and Learning Winners

Sidenote: Both of these high quality, indie virtual worlds were eclipsed by large corporate entities…ahead of their time in terms of pro-social purpose vs vapid coinage and consumption pursuits. Also noteworthy, new research on therapeutic uses of media in children’s hospital settings, as tested above with Elf Island, and updates on uses of games for

Wellness in the Classroom, Hands-On M-Power Edu Games

P1020162Rather than “binders full of data” to teach media literacy, we’re working on simple digital downloads for educators which we call M-power “short sheets” for our edu-games.

Rainy day, no recess?

No problem, play beverage bingo from our Dare to Compare: Gross Out Game for Good Nutrition…

Learn about how energy drinks impact your body or how marketers try to sell you on sports drinks even though water is better for hydration in all but the most extreme exertion conditions. We’re exploring monetization methods to deploy the m-power games using mobile apps for easy updates, kindle-style e-books and web platforms customizable by specific topic, or health sciences/life skill need.

Some easy hands-on health literacy simulations to reproduce in after school projects or at home?

playdough extruderPlaydough extruder: Squish soft clay through with ease vs hard clay left out overnight to simulate hardened arteries

Drop of blue dye in water, cup switching demo: Glass cleaner/blue liquid sports drink; observational analogy: Always need to know what you’re putting in your body

Hard-boiled egg in vinegar or baby tooth in a glass: Simulating soda’s enamel erosion of teeth (tons of online videos making corrosive as battery acid dramatizations, from parking lot stain removal to meth mouth shock visuals)

Show me the sugar: Deconstructing actual amount of sugar in drinks (easy demos and visual aids fromReThink Your Drink +

Two Angry Moms slideUsing Media Screenings to Activate Change

We’ve hosted several documentary nights with guest panel Q&A on topics ranging from school food to body image and redefining “healthy masculinity” while offering a parallel track for kids themed to the same subject matter using hands-on arts, crafts activities for inquiry and even , pop culture media creation fun.

We’ve tested workshops at special events (from Squashing Stereotypes to Body Image) and have found the hands-on games continue to put kids directly “in the shoes and on the ground” of any given topic for best retention, focus and participation.

Alliances and Partnerships to Raise Awareness For Media Mindshifting 

shopgirls holiday cardProject Raceway: STEM Eco-Marathon

For several years Shaping Youth has been an avid sponsor of the first ever all-girl teen team of eco-racecar builders/designers and drivers called “ShopGirls” from Granite Hills High in Washington to showcase STEM studies in hands-on practical ways.

The girls have participated repeatedly in the annual Shell Oil Eco Marathon for fuel efficiency tweaking their creation for performance and building new ideas to utilize math, science and engineering from scratch.

Taking our media and marketing “Reality Show” format to flip positive messages into the mix, we riffed on “Project Raceway” as a suggestion to Hollywood to channel the pop culture zeitgeist into a media show of STEM challenges using student ideation and innovation! I’d also like to see a STEM female version of MacGyver in a television series to exhibit the resourceful, hands-on, “MAKER” movement stronghold taking shape in experiential education.

Project Raceway? “ShopGirls” Create Their Own Eco-Marathon Reality

How to Drive STEM Careers By Making Math Relevant and Fun!

New Moon Girls Gallery: Sticking It to Sexualization in Advertising

girlcaught red and green Kids calling out ads that are offensive and need changed warms my heart with hope and promise.

This “virtual sticker project” where our affiliated partners at New Moon Girls created a Girl Caught gallery of the best examples of media portrayal of girls and worst offenders, using a simple “red light, green light” iconic approach is a fun, fabulous way to engage and inspire kids with a hands-on media literacy lens coming from THEIR point of view.

Girl Caught: New Moon Girls Slams Sexualization of Kids

Storytelling Via Stickers: Girl Caught Aims to Dial Down Disrespect 

Redefining Beauty, Reclaiming Yourself: Backtalking Billboards!

Similarly, our Brave Girls Alliance allies at Beauty Redefined are using body positive sticky notes and billboards to ‘talk back’to media too. You can adapt this activity to participate in a wide arrange of critical thinking topics, from healthier food, better sports imagery, media depiction of boys and men, you name it.

Brave Girls Want Change! Kickstarting A Movement

bga billboard SY tweetMost recently, Shaping Youth has proudly partnered with the Brave Girls Alliance, a powerhouse group of organizations dedicated to expanding media depictions of girlhood, with a crowd-sourced billboard project launched on International Day of the Girl in Times Square.

Brave Girls is going global to “take back media messages” and reframe what it means to be a girl in today’s narrowcast,  hypersexualized, gender-coded media environments.

The recent Guardian article, Little Girls Demand Better Than to Be Told To Make Themselves Sexy sums the dilemma well. Using outdoor media as ambient pushback power is a dynamic way to raise visibility and active change agents worldwide. Stay tuned for more memes, themes and social media campaigns supporting the work on a large scale. 

Brave Girls Want A Movement, Not a Moment

Brave Girls Want: Melissa Mayer To Lead, Not Follow

Brave Girls Want: Change. That’s Not Merida, Disney. Be Brave and Fix It.

Beyond Merida: Toy Industry Complicity in Marketing Vapid Values

Free Media Literacy Tools Via E-Books, Video: Customized by Topic

body blitz cover art for pdfWe’ll continue to pump out free information on flipping media messages and ways to engage kids with creating their own media literacy lens to voice their views.

Here’s a sample 23pp pdf packed with resources, activities, advertising deconstruction and body image health literacy to counter-market messages pummeling kids with unattainable ideals which I create for one of our advisory board members, Dr. Robyn Silverman to support her body image book.

 Flipping the Media Message contents

In 2014 we’ll be sharing a considerable amount of body image health literacy, as it’s emerged as a huge public health problem for adolescents of both genders.

Watch for our partners at The as their brand new documentary enters the media mix and we support their work through screenings and guest panel Q&A, hands-on workshops, and social media. Boys body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders are escalating as well, so we’ll be taking a micro lens to further that conversation as “one to watch” in 2014 too.