Dr. Rebecca Hines, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida, Rebecca.Hines@ucf.edu
Anna O’Connor-Morin, Principal, UCP Bailes Charter School, firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine K Duff, Ph D Candidate, University of Central Florida, Christine_Duff@knights.ucf.edu
Finding the best software programs to meet the needs of students is a daunting task for many schools. This story from the field, outlines the process of collaborative inquiry of a PDS team as it examined the effectiveness of a computer-animated program (designed by Rugrats CEO Terry Thoren and software producer Rudy Verbeek) to improve social skills, problem-solving, compassion, and more among elementary learners. The inquiry was in direct response to the school’s expressed need for more positive behavioral approaches.
The program featured, WonderGrove Kids, is an education website for preK- second grade that features engaging animated characters in 100 instructional animations in English and Spanish. The site also includes 2000 extension lesson plans that are aligned to 99% of the Common Core State Standards and cover eight critical areas of learning: Social Skills, Life Skills, Health & Science, Safety, Nutrition, Fitness, Creative Play, and Academics.
University faculty introduced its elementary school partners to the Wondergrove Kids program, and both agencies attended a webinar held by its developer. The PDS team planned for and implemented its use through a pilot study and formal investigation. The implementation process, protocol used, data tracking and evaluation of student increases in pro-social behavior as well as the animated software program and corresponding student activities. WonderGrove Kids, indicated social skills increases as reported by teachers and paraprofessionals. Students were highly engaged as animated characters modeled positive social skills such as playground safety, sharing, cleaning up after yourself, being a friend, paying attention to the teacher, waiting your turn, and making healthy food choices.
The program was unique in that teachers and paraprofessionals worked very closely toward guiding students through the modules and activities. WonderGrove Kids gave paraprofessionals, often responsible for assisting teachers with classroom behavior support, another tool toward empowering and reinforcing students’ positive behavior choices through referencing the kids in WonderGrove.
The collaborative efforts of the partnership between University faculty and the local charter school have directly impacted the professional development process for all contributing participants – teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, and University faculty/doctoral student(s).