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AIM Buddy Project
Pros: Familiar characters; excellent, easy-to-follow Educator's Guide; valuable and effective content.
Cons: Requires cooperation across grades and plenty of prep time.
Bottom Line: The AIM Buddy Project is an enjoyable, effective program for teaching SEL concepts and making elementary students feel more connected with each other.
Use the Educator's Guide as a reference throughout your experience with the AIM Buddy Program, as it provides step-by-step help for both the older and younger kids. It also includes a teacher checklist and plenty of extra information to make the curriculum go smoothly, including discussion and activity suggestions and what to do with early finishers. The guide is over 100 pages long and includes plenty of guidance and support for preparing for this program as well as ideas on how to best pair up buddies, how to implement the program, and how to wrap it all up at the end.
If your students aren't already familiar with the Arthur show, consider reading an Arthur book or watching an episode ahead of time, so that your students can become familiar with the characters. You may also choose to show the corresponding Arthur episode before each relevant unit. As part of each unit, you might want to read some of the recommended books in the Guide's appendix, which carry on the themes from the lessons.
Make it clear to your students that the classroom needs to be treated as a safe environment so that all students, Little and Big Buddies alike, feel free to safely share their personal experiences with each other, if desired, as they go through the lessons. Then continue this practice throughout the school year, watching for opportunities to refer back to these lessons. Continue to weave in examples from the lessons whenever applicable to reinforce learning, and try to continue the relationships between the older and younger students in some form.
The AIM Buddy Project (Arthur Interactive Media Buddy Project) is a research-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program that pairs up students in elementary school from different grades to work through the program together. They use the familiar Arthur television show as the context for learning lessons in five units: empathy, honesty, forgiveness, generosity, and learning from others. Each of these units includes an interactive story or game based on an actual Arthur episode.
Throughout each story or game, there are checkpoints for Big and Little Buddies to pause and discuss what's happening, what the characters might be feeling or thinking, how the characters might want to change their behaviors, and how to resolve conflicts and maintain good relationships. Students get a glimpse into characters' thoughts and are challenged to come up with good solutions. They're encouraged not only to consider how the characters feel at certain points, but also to figure out how they know what they know, such as what clues or words give a character's feelings or intentions away. Students also get to try out several different story endings, including some "wrong" choices, and to finish the stories from different characters' perspectives.
The program stretches over 20 classroom sessions that include buddy-prep sessions, topic sessions (with the five units), and wrap-up sessions. For some of the sessions, students will be in their own classroom, and for some, they'll be paired up with their Buddy. The program includes an extremely detailed Educator's Guide to help teachers and schools through the process, and teachers can assign using Google Classroom.
The AIM Buddy Project focuses on students' social, emotional, and character development. It breaks down situations revolving around the five main topics (empathy, honesty, forgiveness, generosity, and learning from others) into their component parts, making it easy for students to get to the root of the issues and see where the characters went wrong. Students learn both self- and social awareness; by pairing up with a buddy of a different age, each student has a new opportunity to both learn from the other buddy and teach them in return. Students practice their communication skills by talking with their buddy as the story or game progresses, and they can choose the direction of the story and the ending together. Little Buddies gain confidence expressing themselves, and Big Buddies act as mentors and learn to support their Little Buddy. Big Buddies learn to break down concepts into simpler pieces, and Little Buddies practice verbalizing their thoughts and feelings. The program puts the Buddies in the driver's seat to take control of the lesson and participate as a pair. Some sessions at the beginning of the program help the Buddies get to know each other before beginning the main lessons.
Because of the nature of the program and its ability to step through situations scene by scene, it's easy for students to talk with each other and analyze what's going on. This allows for discussions on familiar topics, questions to be asked back and forth, and sharing reflections on characters' feelings, behaviors, perspectives, and motivations. Students learn to see situations from different perspectives both by seeing characters' inner thoughts and by discussing the story with their Buddy. This can help students to recognize these situations when they come up in real life, where they'll now have the tools to make good choices and encourage others to do the same, all while mending and maintaining relationships.