Friday, July 17, 2015

"Inside Out" is On Point

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Pixar is famous for feature-length, animated films that are appealing to both children and adults. Their films have included “Finding Nemo”, “Toy Story”, “Wall-E”, and “Up”. They have created some of the most enduring characters in film and have spoken to the archetypal issues of loss and resilience, of being lost and finding the way home, and the importance of friendship. 

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Their latest film, “Inside Out", is a special gift for those who work in expanded learning programs. It echoes much of the research and work done on social emotional learning, character building, non-cognitive skills, growth mindsets, and our most recent knowledge of how the brain works. 

"Inside Out" focuses on the emotions within an 11-year old girl - emotions that battle for control and ways to influence her behavior. The film is an important tool in helping young people understand where their emotions come from, how to identify them, and empowering young people to manage their own feelings and behavior. I highly recommend you see the film. Better yet, take along a young friend who is 6 years or older. 

Below, we cite some of the important takeaways from the film: 

- I HAVE FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS: It is important that young people appreciate that everyone has feelings and emotions deep inside. Sometimes these are the result of past experiences we have had but may not even remember. Sometimes we don’t know where they come from. It is especially important that young people develop the language and ability to describe their feelings and emotions. 

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- FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS CAN BE CONTRADICTORY AND MIXED: The film beautifully illustrates how different emotions can coexist. We can be both happy and sad. We can also experience anger that is rooted in hurt and sadness.

- FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS CAN EFFECT MY BEHAVIOR: If we want to help young people manage their feelings and behavior, it is essential that they understand what they are feeling and where it came from. Further, that these feelings and emotions can drive behavior.  

- IF I CAN UNDERSTAND MY OWN FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS, I CAN BETTER MANAGE MY OWN BEHAVIOR: Understanding feelings and managing one’s behavior is a skill that needs to be practiced. We want young people to experience the art of not immediately acting out their feelings through meanness or violence. 

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- IF I CAN UNDERSTAND MY OWN FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS, I CAN BETTER UNDERSTAND AND FEEL EMPATHY FOR OTHERS: When young people better understand themselves, they can put themselves in the shoes of others, thereby responding with understanding and empathy. 

In a future blog post, we will share some specific strategies to teach these lessons within expanded learning programs. 

For a recent article from the NY Times on the brain science behind the film, click here. For a recent interview by Terry Gross/NPR with film creator, Pete Doctor, click hereFor a trailer of the film, click here.

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