CU's Crown Institute partners with Pixar for emotional learning based on "Inside Out" movie

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Posted at 9:09 AM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 16:15:53-05

BOULDER, Colo. — A team from CU Boulder has partnered with Pixar Animation Studios to build an emotional learning platform based on the 2015 movie "Inside Out." Now it's giving students, parents and teachers access to free mental health tools.

The "Inside U" program, from CU's Renee Crown Wellness Institute, helps kids and their caregivers who may be struggling with how to respond to certain feelings, building off the characters from the movie.

In the movie, it follows the main character "Riley" through the eyes of her emotions — Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear.

The "Inside U" storyboard platform use's kids' interest in the movie to create buy in for learning about their feelings.

"I've tried both strategies of coming in with more like the scientist-educator hat," one of the app's co-creators Dr. Sam Hubley said. "You get eyes glazing over, maybe even eyes rolling a little bit, and the engagement is just so much harder. But if we come in and lead with this really cool movie, and how it can be helpful, there's this immediate leaning in."

Children's mental health awareness rose during the Covid-19 pandemic because of isolation and time away from friends. So CU's Crown Institute was formed to help bridge the gap between the tools available and access to them.

They partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver to build the "Inside U" platform.

"We see kids can pretty easily relate to anger," said Julia Zigarelli, associate director for the Crown Wellness Institute. "And we find that fear and sadness right now with a lot of kids. Anxiety and sadness are bubbling up to the surface."

The program was designed for kids 6 to 12 years old. They hope to expand it into school districts around the Denver metro area.

The Disney Pixar movie "Inside Out 2" is due out this summer which takes "Riley" through the teenage years.

CU Boulder partners with Pixar for emotional learning platfo

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