Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Media Studies


Michael Schoonmaker


Children's media, Communication, Elementary education, Film

Subject Categories



Children have access to popular media characters virtually everywhere in their daily lives except within a school setting. With familiar animated faces on packages of food, art supplies, shoes, clothing, etcetera, children develop relationships with characters and view them as socially relevant. Given the struggling education system in the United States and the knowledge that social relevancy contributes to bettering academic engagement and achievement, this study examined how the relationship between children and media characters can be used in elementary curriculum design to potentially decrease cognitive load. This two-phased study began with semi-structured in-depth interviews with 8-11 year old children to gain an understanding of how and why the relationships between children and fictional characters form—to learn what was attractive about these characters in order to inform how to best design engaging academic activities. The results of this phase found that children are most attracted to characters that take on a comedic role, characters that are part of a larger series, and characters that engage in the same activities as the child participants. Additionally, it became evident that male participants were much more closely tied to characters of their own gender than female participants. The second phase took the learned understanding and applied it to answering the question of how elements of popular children’s films can align with Common Core standards. Four primary methods of integration were discovered and explored in how to bring them into a school setting.


Open Access

Included in

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