Generation Cures: Educational Tween Websites and the Library Connection
You just never can guess where your college buddies will end up in this world, can you? Well, when I found that my pal Chris Maddocks was the Director of Information Management and Technology at Children’s Hospital Boston, I thought that was pretty neat. Little did I know, however, that Children’s Hospital Boston has been creating a web presence with an intent to educate our youngsters. Check out this description of what they’re doing:
"Generation Cures is a groundbreaking online movement for tweens (ages 8-12) and their parents. The Generation Cures website helps kids learn about the power of compassion and giving through original online games, animated webisodes and kid-directed videos.
While many other sites for children charge families a monthly subscription fee, all of the rich content created by award-winning researchers, educators, and designers on Generation Cures is free!
As kids have fun watching stories and playing games at Generation Cures, they will begin to look outside their own lives and understand that they too can make a difference in the lives of others. Along the way, they will learn a lot about science and the fascinating world of medical research and strengthen their skills of logic, reason, critical thinking and creativity.
Webisodes – http://kids.generationcures.org
I cannot vouch for your local library but here in New York we children’s librarians are encouraged to teach kids about existing websites that educate and entertain in turns and to often conduct programs around them. Finding a new website or source isn’t necessarily difficult (you can always go to the ALA Great Web Sites for Kids page if you need suggestions) but finding new and good science related sites can prove a bit tricky at times. I was intrigued by the notion of a hospital reaching out to kids in this manner, so I sat my buddy Chris down for a talk so he could tell me a little more about what Generation Cures is about.
Fuse #8: So first things first . . . where did the idea for Generation Cures come from? Did you model it after an already existing program or is it wholly and entirely new?
Chris Maddocks: Club Penguin was a major inspiration for this project – seeing how they were able to build a safe, dedicated space for kids in the virtual world for community and education. We found it really ground breaking for the Internet medium. However, we wanted to take it a step further. The idea for Generation Cures was to take that existing model for safe kids’ community and extend it to teach core values like empathy, compassion, scientific curiosity and social empowerment. This whole project is designed to teach kids that they can make a difference – whether through scientific research, philanthropy or community activism. In this way, pairing the kid (and parent) friendly games and content with a hospital seemed a perfect fit.
Fuse #8: The site provides a lot of scientific information, which is something parents and educators are always hoping to find in online content for kids. Who decides what gets added? Is there a committee?
CM: At the moment, the scientific content is being developed jointly by Children’s Hospital Boston and the education publisher Fablevision. We are in the process of developing a Generation Cures advisory board that will help steer content and direction for the site as it expands.
Fuse #8: Who do you see as the main target of this site? Has there been any attempt to partner with local library systems to inform more kids about it?
CM: Our main target demographic is kids between eight and twelve years old. In terms of partnering, we are still in the “spread the word” phase – however, we see tremendous relevance and impact for libraries, classrooms, parent groups in leveraging the digital community to present more than just games on the web.
Fuse #8: You’ve covered webisodes and games on the site, which is cool. Has there been any thought about including some kind of blog for the kids/parents?
CM: Absolutely. Technically, we’re still in our BETA period so not all functionality is yet live. In spite of that, we’ve already rolled out our first kid-produced video with many more to come. Blogs and other user-generated content are just around the corner.
Fuse #8: How often is the site updated?
CM: Right now, our team is working on the site constantly. New webisodes, games, kid-produced videos…
Fuse #8: Any thought on bringing in professional authors to write some of the webisodes?
CM: That’s a great thought! As the Generation Cures movement takes hold, we’ll be exploring many ways of expanding the reach of the site and extending the storylines and vision.
A big thank you to Chris for the interview. For more information you can, of course, check out the website.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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