The fixies: educational Curriculum
Curriculum Summary prepared by:
Natascha N. Crandall, Ph.D.
entertaining and educating the Tween audience
While much work has been done on creating educational programming for preschool aged children, there is less emphasis on educational media for the middle childhood, or “tween,” age group. The middle childhood period encompasses the first few years of elementary school (approximately ages 6-10). While children of this age are subjected to the to the academic rigors of learning how to read, write, and learn arithmetic, they are also going through significant biological, cognitive, and social changes in their lives. It is during these years that both success and failure will have an impact on children’s personal identity, self-concept, and an orientation towards achievement that will play a significant role in shaping their success in school, work, and life (Eccles, 1999).
The Fixies is a show that is perfectly aligned for children in middle childhood. Tom Thomas is a 10-year-old boy who is learning and experiencing things just as they are. With Tom as their guide, viewers will see how he relates to others, reasons through problems, and learns fascinating new things. Not only will children be learning but they will be entertained as well! This show has great characters and has you on the edge of your seat with important takeaways all wrapped up in a 6-minute package.
problem solving sets the stage for Independent and abstract Thinking
While school aged children need to develop strong academic skills, they also need higher level skills, such as logical and creative thinking. This sets the stage for independent and abstract thinking that are required to advance academically (Chapman, 2004). One way to develop those advanced cognitive skills is by giving children the tools and strategiesto solve their own everyday problems.
Everyone has difficult moments or difficult days, and problems are at the center of that. How children think about and respond to their problems has an impact on how they see themselves being able to handle the next problem that comes their way (Hall & Pearson, 2003). A major goal of education is to help students learn in ways that enable them to use what they have to solve problems in new situations. The problems one faces can be large or small, simple or complex, and easy or difficult, but the one thing for certain is that they must be solved because most problems do not just go away. This makes being a confident problem solver an important skill which will lead to success. Much of that confidence comes from having a good process to use when approaching a problem. With one, you can solve problems quickly and effectively. Without one, your solutions may be ineffective, or you'll get stuck and do nothing, with sometimes painful consequences. There are four basic steps in solving a problem: 1) Defining the problem; 2) Brainstorming solutions; 3) Evaluating and selecting solutions; 4) Implementing solutions. The Fixies take this basic problem solving approach and break it down to three simpler steps:
1) Diagnose – Find it– Find out what the problem is.
2) Decide – Understand it–Understand how the problem arose and come up with some solutions.
3) Act – Fix it – Decide on the best approach and implement the solution.
When explaining the three step process in the show, the Fixies use the process and put it into even simpler terms that even their youngest viewers can understand. They tell the audience that when they have a problem, they should Find it, Understand it, and then Fix it. In addition to this, the Fixies use a symbol (thumb and first two fingers) and exclaim “Tideesh!” when a job has been completed. This physical symbol works to remind viewers of the problem solving process used, and the exclamation works as verbal cue and celebration for a job well done.
sTEam education is Crucial to the future of our Country and world
Educational leaders, policy makers and politicians are all in agreement that STEAM, the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math education, is crucial to the future of our country and world. Innovation is what keeps us competitive globally and it provides new discoveries which are necessary to create a more sustainable way of life in our fast paced society. Yet, it seems as though fewer and fewer students, especially in the US, are pursuing these fields (NCES, 2009). In response, many government funded programs have emerged which target our youngest students in hopes of teaching necessary critical thinking skills while also sparking an interest in STEAM related activities, which could lead children to a future in science and technology fields. STEAM has become the new buzz-word in schools across the US and worldwide. Research has found that there is a direct link between the use of a STEAM curriculum and an increase in collaboration skills, vocabulary, focus, and the ability to create and discuss scientific relationships (Moomaw & Davis, 2010). In fact, young children who are enrolled in STEAM programs have increased achievement in many areas when technology is integrated into the classroom (Pentimonti, Zucker, Justice, & Kaderavek, 2010). Thus, early education with STEAM related activities may act as building blocks for a child’s future success in school.
The Fixies brings a STEAM education to children in a very engaging way. The traditional method of learning how something works by taking it apart is still a great teaching tool, but this method is limiting since not everyone has extra radios, alarm clocks, or telephones sitting around ready to be operated upon. Throughout this series, children are shown a multitude of things that they use every day and are forced to see them in a whole new light. They explore the inside of things and see how things work and why they work. They are given opportunities to come up with ways to work around a problem, like a burnt out wire or a broken compass, to figure out a new solution. This type of learning inspires a child to think, consider, and wonder about how to make new inventions or how to create something to solve problems in innovative ways.
Young children are fascinated by the world around them. They want to know why things happen and how things work and they are naturally inclined to ask questions. These questions can be in the areas of earth and space, physical sciences, or life sciences. By asking questions, exploring, and discovering, they make science an everyday part of their lives.
While many STEAM programs use technology as a means for learning about things, children are also able to learn about how objects function through the use of technology. This includes things like how a remote control works, how cellular telephones connect with each other, or how computers can be programmed to do things at certain times of the day. In fact, technology has become such a part of our lives, that many of today’s toys have technology as one of its components. By teaching children about the uses of technology and the basis of how things work, we will open their minds and allow them to dream and visualize new ways that technology can work for them today and in the future.
Engineers are inventors. They are creative and think outside of the box in order to produce things that do not currently exist. This is exactly where “tween” children are. Young children are curious, hands-on explorers. They love to create, build, and design and have incredible imaginations. After all, to a child anything is possible and therefore, it is a ripe age to start encouraging and molding these thought processes in order to help them discover and create something amazing.
Art is an integral part of learning. While it is often underutilized in classroom learning, it has been found to encourage young children to think creatively and look at the world in different ways (Koester, 2013). In fact, art interfaces all STEM professions in some way, which is why it was integrated into the older STEM curriculum and renamed STEAM.
During Middle Childhood, math instruction moves away from counting and sorting to higher level tasks such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Along with this comes the need to demonstrate a deeper understanding of math concepts and how math is used in real world settings in order to answer a multitude of questions and solve problems.
The Fixies clearly supports a STEAM curriculum. In almost all of the episodes, the Fixies are repairing something that was broken and these moments hit on one or more STEAM subject matters. In fact, each episode features one or two 30-45 second segments which explain how something works, how it is used in everyday life, or about the history of the device and how it was first developed. The core of every episode has a STEAM related subject matter, but is wrapped in a story that features an emotional issue or social element that are relatable to young children.
social and Emotional skills are Essential for school and life
Every parent wants their children to be happy and thrive in school and succeed in life. When their children enter school, they expect them to learn the academic fundamentals so that they can eventually continue on to become adults with a solid knowledge base. But they also want their children to be well liked and have many opportunities to develop deep, meaningful relationships with others. This does not happen just by giving children the opportunities to interact with others. It also involves developing a certain skill set as well. Children need to learn how to deal with difficult situations, like asking to be part of a group, or understanding how their words or behaviors affect others, or reacting in a responsible way when they hurt other children. They need to learn how to become social members of a group that will not only enhance their life, but support them through the ups and downs that they will inevitably experience.
Their Social Skills training began in preschool when they learned how to take turns, share, and tell others how they are feeling, but it needs to continue if we expect them to grow up with these values. It is true that “everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten,” but if we expect children to carry on with these values, they need to be part of their lives throughout schooling as well. In fact, research has found that when schools implement Social-Emotional skills programs, academic achievement of children increases, incidence of problem behaviors decreases, the relationships that surround each child improves, and the claimate in classrooms change for the better (Elias & Arnold, 2006; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2001).
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL; www.CASEL.org), has drawn from research to identify a set of Social-Emotional skills that underlie effective performance in a range of school and life-related tasks. These five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies (outlined below) are designed to promote students'self-awareness, social awareness, relationships, decision-making skills, andimprove student attitudes and beliefs about themselves, others, and school.
The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.
2) Self-Management or Self-Regulation
The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.
3) Social Awareness
The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family school and community resources and supports
4) Relationship Skills
The ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships with diverse groups of people. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflicts, and seeking and offering help when needed.
5) Responsible Decision Making
The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions and the well-being of self and others.
The Fixies is a 6-minute show that features a human child character, Tom Thomas, depending upon the help of his Fixie friends to save the day. Often, Tom Thomas acts as a child would and does not always consider the feelings of his Fixie friends. However, he soon comes to learn how being kind and considerate of others is paramount to eliciting their help when he is in trouble and how cooperation only works when both sides work together. It is moments like these that viewers will see the error in poor social skills and the social and emotional benefits of working well with others.
social learning Theory
Observational learning and modeling are the essence of the Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977). This theory asserts that children’s skills and choices are shaped through modeling, reinforcement, and rewards. Children are aware of people around them and notice them behaving in various ways and will take into account what happens to other people (for better or for worse) when deciding whether or not to copy someone’s behavior. The people children model may be in their immediate world, such as parents or siblings, but could also be fantasy characters in the media as well (McLeod, 2011; Sprafkin, Liebert, & Poulos, 1975).
There is something to learn in every moment of The Fixies, whether it be the benefits of working together, how a ballpoint pen works, or how to figure out the best way to elude Chewsocka, the family dog. It is through Tom Thomas and the Fixies reactions to these moments that the characters model skills that will benefit viewers for a lifetime.
learning goals of The fixies
In this series, we hope to enhance young children’s Problem Solving Skills, expose them to STEAM related topics, and foster their Social-Emotional development. To support this purpose, The Fixies has a number of learning goals:
1. Model Problem Solving Skills that help children solve complex problems.
To enable viewers to learn some of the nuts and bolts of problem solving, the Fixies show their thought processes as they try to make sense of a sticky situations. Viewers have the opportunity to see and hear the Fixies diagnose the
problem, understand it, and then determine what to do to fix it. With the celebration cry “Tideesh!” viewers rejoice with the Fixies for a job well done.
2. Showcase examples of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics that children encounter on a daily basis.
It is through the Fixies investigations and discoveries of the many broken household items that we expose children to STEAM related topics. The 30-45 second segments will take learning to a deeper level by going into detail about exactly how something works. These work as stand-alone learning moments but are also imbedded into each episode as well.
3. Foster the development of Social-Emotional Skills.
In each episode, Tom Thomas and the Fixies acquire a new skill which supports their Social-Emotional Intelligence. They model the importance of being flexible and listening to others during difficult situations. Children learn that by working together they learn more about themselves and others and that they are a lot more capable of doing things than they thought they were.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Chapman, S. (2004). Enhancing problem solving in children. Retrieved from: http://www.abilitypath.org/areas-of-development/learning--schools/problem-solving-skills/articles/enhancing-problem-solving.html
Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82, 405-432.
Eccles, J. (1999). The development of children ages 6-14. The Future of Children, 9(2), 30-44.
Elias, M. & Arnold, H. (2006). The educator’s guide to emotional intelligence and academic achievement: Social-emotional learning in the classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Hall, D. K. & Pearson, J. (2003). Resilience: Giving children the skills to bounce back. Voices for children. Retrieved from http://knowledge.offordcentre.com/component/content/article/73/281-resilience-giving-children-the-skills-to-bounce-back-vfc
Koester, A. (2013). Full STEAM ahead: Injecting art and creativity into STEM. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2013/10/programs/full-steam-ahead-injecting-art-and-creativity-into-stem/
McLeod, S. A. (2011). Albert Bandura | Social Learning Theory. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html
Moonmaw, S. & Davis, J. A. (2010). STEM comes to preschool. Young Children, 65(5), 12-18.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2009). Highlights from the “Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Pentimonti, J. M., Zucker, T. A., Justice, L. M., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2010). Informational test use in preschool classroom read-alouds. The Reading Teacher, 63(8), 656-665.
Sprafkin, J.N., Liebert, R.M., & Poulos, R.W. (1975). Effects of a prosocial televised example on children’s helping. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 20, 119-126.