"Young American Heroes" goes public on CPTV Fairfield University professors poised with companion tech curriculum

Two Fairfield University professors have made a major contribution to "Young American Heroes" (YAH), a project conceived as a series, that airs on CPTV Sunday, Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. Jamie Hector, best known for playing Marlo Stanfield on the HBO series, "The Wire," stars in "Frederick Douglass: Pathway From Slavery to Freedom," the half-hour pilot that sets in motion a break-through multi-platform educational project designed to teach middle school students, using an innovative peer approach about choices the young Douglass made that propelled him into history. A re-broadcast airs Monday, Feb. 9 at 10:30 p.m.

Drs. Marsha Alibrandi and Elizabeth Langran, assistant professors at the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions were tapped to develop the curriculum and integrate technology for the series by the film's director, Fairfield University alumnus Chris Campbell who is owner/creative director of Palace Production Center in South Norwalk and Tim Smith, a Rowayton resident, who also wrote the Frederick Douglass film and is managing partner with Campbell for the series. The multi-platform content project is the brainchild of Campbell and Smith who are Executive Producers.

The educational elements of the series evolved over months in which Langran and Alibrandi joined the YAH creative team and worked with local teachers and students during focus groups. They ultimately field-tested the program at three different schools, each for one week. Langran described the enthusiasm they observed during the field-test phase, "Students were so excited to be part of the process, finally someone was asking them about how they like to learn best. We saw the students completely engaged in creating their own online graphic novels about Frederick Douglass using digital primary sources and they enjoyed critiquing each others' stories on the website too. It was very natural for these digital-age learners. Clearly, students respond to innovative teaching methods that depend on their participation and leverage the power of technology." Campbell confirmed Langran's observation, "It's been scientifically demonstrated that tweens respond well to programming and content that make them feel competent and important - programming in which young people make decisions and are in control of their own lives."

Palace Production Center and Docere Palace Studios, both award-winning Connecticut media companies, have teamed with leading Web developer eduweb.com, Connecticut Public Television, Fairfield University Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and an advisory board of leading historians from Yale, Princeton and other universities and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to create this breakthrough multi-platform educational project. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has partially funded the project.

"Young American Heroes" is one of only seven projects to win a prestigious grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's "American History & Civics Initiative" specifically to develop break-through ways of teaching history and civics to middle school students. The winning formula this impressive creative team has used, is to tell compelling stories by taking an innovative peer approach - using primary documents and diaries about ordinary kids - real kids - doing extraordinary things during seminal moments in American history. The producers plan four more programs on other "young heroes" and eventually up to 52 programs for the series.

The program will be available nationally on PBS stations during February's Black History Month.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 29, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 195

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