Just a few months ago, UConn’s Feel Your Best Self collaborative project was named one of the best in global children’s programming. Now, it has also been honored for its excellent video content for all ages.
The free educational toolkit and its accompanying videos, which feature three puppets named Nico, CJ, and Mena, teach children and caregivers coping strategies to promote emotional well-being. In May, Feel Your Best Self was honored with four Telly Awards, which honor excellence in video and television across all screens. The Telly Awards came only three months after the project won a Kidscreen Award for best original web/app series.
“Putting Feel Your Best Self out has been one of the most exciting challenges I have experienced as a scholar,” says co-founder Sandy Chafouleas, who is also a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in the Neag School of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology. “When we first decided to collaborate, we knew there was a critical need to bring fun and easy-to-use ways to learn emotion-focused coping skills. What we didn’t know was how quickly interest would spread, and we continue to be both surprised and thrilled at the tremendous positive response across ages and settings.”
The 44th annual Telly Awards were announced on May 23 and the Feel Your Best Self team was recognized in the following categories:
- Social Video – General Health & Safety, for which they won gold
- Social Video – General-Instructional, for which they won silver
- Social Video – General-Children, for which they won silver
- People’s Telly – General-Online Series/Shows/Segments, for which they won silver
Feel Your Best Self (FYBS) began during the pandemic as a way to address the emotional challenges faced by schools, children, and their caregivers. The team brings together collective expertise in educational psychology and puppetry to teach simple emotion-focused coping strategies to calm yourself, catch your feelings, and connect with others. Over the past couple of years, the project evolved synergistically into the complete toolkit, which features Nico, CJ, and Mena as they navigate everyday issues and work through big feelings using the program’s 12 educational strategies.
The project is led by co-founders Chafouleas and Emily Wicks, who is also manager of operations and collections at UConn’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, and Neag School postdoctoral scholar Emily Iovino ’15 (CLAS), ’16 MA, ’20 6th Year, ’20 Ph.D. who coordinates implementation support for the research team.
“We’ve seen engagement on our website and YouTube channel from people on every continent but Antarctica – and we’ve been told by families, community providers, and educators that they’re enjoying the ‘fun’ of FYBS and are seeing positive outcomes from using our videos and materials,” Iovino says. “It’s amazing that we’ve reached so many people in such a short time, and that kids and adults have already benefitted.”
“When we first decided to collaborate, we knew there was a critical need to bring fun and easy-to-use ways to learn emotion-focused coping skills. What we didn’t know was how quickly interest would spread, and we continue to be both surprised and thrilled at the tremendous positive response across ages and settings.” — Sandy Chafouleas
Nearly 13,000 entries from around the world were submitted for this year’s Telly Awards, with submissions from content producers such as Audible, BET Networks/BET Digital, Disney, NASA, Netflix, PBS Digital Studios, and more. The awards were judged by 200 industry leaders from companies such as BBC World Service, Nickelodeon, National Geographic Society, and others. Past award winners include the likes of ESPN, HBO, MLB, NBC, and The History Channel.
“The caliber of the work this season coming from creators such as the University of Connecticut truly has reflected the theme of breaking out and standing out,” said Tellys Executive Director Sabrina Dridje. “Our industry is experimenting with new technologies like never before, crafting truly compelling stories to draw attention to some of the world’s most pressing issues, and companies big and small are turning to more sustainable practices to break the cycle of past production processes.”
Feel Your Best Self is a partnership between UConn’s Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH) and Ballard Institute. CSCH sits between UConn’s Neag School of Education and Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy, while the Ballard Institute is part of the School of Fine Arts.
“This project has been an exciting interdisciplinary collaboration that has brought together so many areas of the University of Connecticut,” Wicks says. “We spent a great deal of time making sure the video content was engaging, fun, and well-made, so to be awarded four Telly Awards is a huge honor to everyone involved.”
Feel Your Best Self is made possible through the generous support of the Principal Foundation. Additional support is from The Neag Foundation and others. To learn more about Feel Your Best Self, visit feelyourbestself.collaboration.uconn.edu or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.