The Science of Character: Hosted by Shaping Youth and Reach and Teach

The Science of CharacterMar. 20, 2014 Premiering worldwide!

Attention students of life…

“There are 7.1 billion people on the planet, and each one of us has a unique character,” opens The Science of Character filmmaker and digital innovation advocate Tiffany Shlain, renowned for her work unraveling the giant hairball of media messaging and technological shifts impacting humanity on a global scale. Seems like Tiffany Shlain is always on the cusp of fresh thinking, hopscotching over the trends of CROWDsourcing to focus on CLOUDsourcing in film drawing on people’s experiences from being Connected worldwide.

What exactly IS cloud filmmaking?  For Tiffany Shlain it started with the experimental question:


“What if we could make a film collaboratively with people from all over the world?”


On March 20, #CharacterDay, you can see the outcome for yourself, joining about 1000 schools, organizations and community groups like Shaping Youth and Reach and Teach screening an 8-minute film of collaborative, experiential global storytelling available to be shown at “any time of day, with any number of people, all free and online.”

doug signing muralThe late great humanist and friend Doug Engelbart might call it an opportunity to “build our collective knowledge” on the planet… forming a sort of digital collaboratory to share our wisdom and insights for a more meaningful use of technology… to raise the collective IQ in our human eco system.

What kind of world do we want? How do we get there?

How can we unlock the brainpower in academic silos and build on a “growth mindset” rather than a fixed one and apply our participatory learning to explore happiness, wellness and develop the muscles to flex our strength of character?

So far Tiffany Shlain has covered a rainbow of topics about important aspects of life that connect us, united under the umbrella “Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change.”

These kinds of ‘big think’ style questions that get tossed around a bit in her cloud-making series of short films (she’s on number four of ten slated already) inspire, intrigue and enlighten. 

It’s easy to see why I immediately glommed onto the brainpower at work, as it clearly uses “the power of media for positive change” representing a robust antithesis to the often vapid, dumbed down pop culture cues being served up to kids in coinage and consumption commodification of childhood.

It’s like the Max Lerner quote, “I am neither an optimist nor pessimist, but a possibilist.” And this kind of positive use of media kicks that door open wide for kids to ponder.

What are your strengths and which do you want to develop?


science of charc posterThe Science of Character dips into both the “neuroscience and social science behind character development and our ability to shape who we are.”

She mind maps a fun little interactive graphic to help students and educators sort out ‘how to get there’ in terms of building upon those character strengths creating emotional equations.

A quick click or two deeper and students can splash in the ripples of opportunity spinning off the character trait and word association to a cool pool of media resources that support that exploration, from film/TV and books, to apps, games and site suggestions. Fun!

Hopefully, students will start thinking about how they walk through the world with intention, guided by their ability to navigate their own internal compass with a refreshingly plausible ‘if/then’ approach to self-directed learning and discovery. Love it. The Future Starts Here indeed!

Edutopia shared this great post on “Five-Minute Film Festivals: Resources for Teaching About Character,” elaborating with even more media moments that embrace social emotional learning and systemic evolution.

reachandteachVeering from global to grassroots, we’ll be celebrating Character Day with our award-winning green team colleagues Reach and Teach on 25th Ave  in San Mateo who we’re proud to crow have just won a Sustainable Business Award for outstanding commitment to improving sustainable practices within San Mateo County! (in addition to being amazing human beings championing change for diversity, gender equity, human rights, and peace and social change; congrats Derrick Kikuchi and Craig Wiesner!)

On March 20, 2014 #Character Day, Shaping Youth and Reach and Teach will be co-hosting after school screenings of The Science of Character, sharing favorite character picks in children’s literature, and holding informal Q&A chats about what we can all DO to mobilize locally and pay it forward globally using social media participation in real time to get kids excited about charting their own character course using their own internal compass. (I’ll be live-tweeting our event with kidlit and book picks using the hashtag #CharacterDay. If you’re local come join us at Reach and Teach: 144 W. 25th Ave in San Mateo, see comments below!)

science of character sponsorsIt’s refreshing to have scientific data points that upend the droll notion that ‘it is what it is’ when it comes to character, personality and mindset. Misinformation, Bah! Here’s to brain plasticity and lifelong learning for the win!

With all this inter-connected optimism and opportunities for synapses firing fully, it’s no surprise that The Science of Character is being supported by The State Department, The Aspen Institute, Character Lab, and our allies at Harvard’s Center on Media and Child Health, among countless others, with multilingual translation.

Continuing in the tradition of her first cloud film A Declaration of Interdependence which was translated by VOLUNTEERS into 66 languages in a “can do” feat of cultural convergence, The Science of Character is already available in English, Spanish (Latin America), Swahili, Hindi, German, Chinese (simplified), Russian, French, and Arabic…and that’s all BEFORE March 20 launch. (Just think of what could transpire thereafter!)


What can we do when we build upon collective knowledge? The options are endless.


“As a parent and a student of life, I found it very empowering to learn about all the scientific research that confirms that if we focus on the strengths we have, as well as on developing particular strengths we may not have, it has a lasting effect on our happiness and well-being and can ultimately lead to a more a just and caring world,” said Shlain.

“By using humor, history, and research, we hope to inspire viewers everywhere to shape who they want to be and play a role in helping other people achieve their maximum potential.”

                                                         —Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker, The Science of Character

Join us, sign up in a group, or school classroom here, or on March 20, 2014, just show up at Let It to participate online and “attend a screening” on your own! Here’s more about the project, including the press release, trailers from the film, and the list of 1000+ schools, organizations and partners like NAMLE, the National Association of Media Literacy Education sponsoring Character Day in the educational sphere…

See you Thursday, the spring solstice, a perfect time to “March forth” with new sprigs of possibility and seedlings of growth to nourish within children.

Character, not circumstance, makes the person.- Booker T. Washington 



  1. Looking forward to having folks see the film at our shop at 144 West 25th Avenue in San Mateo. Plenty of free street parking on 25th Avenue and around the corner at the church parking lot (nice folks at that church allow folks to park any time except Sundays and Farmers Market days).

  2. Craig, I’m going to add the exact address in the body copy, as you’re right, that should be there for ease of attendance!

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