Building Emotional Intelligence Through Play

Building Emotional Intelligence Through Play

An exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh uses the movie Inside Out to teach children about their feelings.

In 2016, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (CMP) partnered with Pixar Animation Studios to develop the first interactive exhibition based on the award-winning film Inside Out . In the film, five emotions—personified as the characters Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness, and Joy—wrestle for control of the mind of 11-year-old Riley as she navigates the challenges of growing up and the emotional tumult that comes with it. While Riley may be the main character, the emotions are the stars, specifically Joy and Sadness, who lead audiences on an adventure about the important role emotions play in our everyday lives.

We saw the project as a platform for merging the art and storytelling presented in the film with hands-on activities that would add new dimensions to the story’s emotional themes. After months of prototyping, working with our advisory panel of experts in social-emotional learning for children, and watching the movie many, many times, we distilled the major messages of the film to the following three exhibition goals: 1) help visitors identify their own and other people’s emotions; 2) equip visitors with a deeper knowledge of how emotions and memory “work”; and 3) encourage visitors to explore the role that imagination and storytelling play in helping us process our experiences.

The result was Emotions at Play with Pixar’s Inside Out , a tactile, interactive exhibition that lets the audience live in their favorite parts of the story and learn to recognize emotions in themselves and others with the characters they know and love. We developed the activities using the film’s storylines as entry points for visitors to have deeper, more personal conversations about their own emotions and memories.

The Partnership

This partnership developed as many of ours do—from a conversation between friends. In this instance, our executive director was talking with people in the education department at Pixar Animation Studios about the CMP’s recent work about emotions, specifically our traveling exhibition “XOXO: An Exhibit About Love & Forgiveness” and our research project on the subject of kindness.

We wanted to develop more exhibitions that would let us build on this previous work while also challenging ourselves to go deeper into social-emotional topics. Pixar’s education team saw a connection between the emotional themes we were exploring and those presented in Inside Out, so they introduced us to the film’s creative team with the idea that our shared interest in making emotional experiences more playful and accessible to children and families might turn into a compelling exhibition.

curaFUN Contributor
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