Coach Adam Gretsinger encourages a middle school student to join the fun. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO) Jerry White III answers a question during the Orange Frog training. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO) Orange Frog Project participants take a selfie. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO) Hoonah City Schools Superintendent PJ Ford Slack, right, sits in on the Orange Frog training, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)This story starts with Superintendent of Hoonah City Schools, PJ Ford Slack. Hoonah is a small village on Chichagof Island in Southeast Alaska.Listen nowSlack came to Hoonah as an “emergency replacement” for the district’s last superintendent and when she got to work, she noticed something.“The adults were really not happy. That didn’t mean they actively knew that, but they seemed to be down,” Slack said.Hoonah’s community does feel a lot of stress.The isolated town’s commercial fishing and processing industries dried up years ago, the school district is under heavy financial strain and drug and alcohol dependence are growing concerns.Slack believes a teacher’s attitude has a powerful impact on the kids they teach. So she started researching something called the Happiness Advantage.It’s an idea based on research that points to a link between a positive mindset and success.“It seems to make sense that would make a difference if the kids and the adults all learned a little bit about this and learned happiness is a choice,” Slack said.The district used about $20,000 in grant funding to pay for a training based on the work of author and motivational speaker, Shawn Achor.It’s called the Orange Frog Project. The project was supposed to teach Hoonah’s high school and middle school students how to choose happiness every day.The adults went through it months ago and Slack says it has already changed some their lives.Devin Hughes at the front of the class during the Orange Frog training. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)“Whoo! You’re awesome, BAM! Let (them) know, let’s go,” Devin Hughes yelled. He’s the chief inspiration officer for the International Thought Leader Network.Hughes ordered a round of high fives as he explained that he would teach the room full of high school kids to be outwardly positive even if it means being the weird one.Hughes said, “my whole mission, my tenet, is to go around and inspire, motivate others to achieve happiness and joy and optimism. It’s pretty cool.”Hughes used a comic book to jumpstart the training. It’s a story about a bunch of sad green frogs and a happy frog, who slowly turns orange.The more the orange frog does to make himself happy, the better he gets at catching flies, and the more orange he turns. Eventually, the other frogs copy him: they get happier, they catch more flies and they start turning orange too.Hughes said his company travels to corporations around the world and to schools teaching people to be orange. Devin Hughes holds the positive outlier graph. The orange dot reflects an unusually postive person. The green dots represent average people. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO) 1 of 10 “So right now, I think schools are probably the fastest growing segment within our business,” Hughes said. “Because if you can get a kid, whether it’s a kid that’s 6 or 16, and start to rewire their brain and doing these things more often and feeling pretty good, behavior issues go down, test scores go up.”But let’s walk this back. Hughes said he’s being paid to teach people to be happy. Doesn’t anybody question that?“Oh, all the time. I mean people are like, ‘Really, really,’” Hughes said. “Because, if you think about it when I ask you the question, ‘Did you have anyone in your life when you were a youngster teach you, give you the secret sauce to happiness, tell you something prescriptive, something actionable that you need to do to work on this, your mojo and your mindset? Universally nobody raises their hand.’”Hughes said after the initial skepticism, people usually jump in, because, “who doesn’t want to be happy?”The high schoolers seemed to embrace Hughes’ message. All around the room kids wore bright synthetic orange wigs, frilly orange necklaces; they had streaks of orange marker on their faces — any kind of orange prop or clothing they found, they wore it.A high school student sketches a formline frog based on the main character from the Orange Frog comic book. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)Hughes told the kids to keep it positive. Throughout the day, he had them share the best things happening in their lives with other people.“First rule (of) Orange Frog, if something good happens you have to talk about it,” Hughes said.Hughes asked them to run the halls delivering what he called “joy bombs” to people all over the building so the kids gave people unexpected high fives and hugs and told them that they were awesome.Hughes told them to think about how to stop their problems from keeping them down.He told them to think about changing behaviors that affect everyone, things like bullying or ignoring kids they usually don’t hang out with.At the end, Hughes asked the kids to spend time thinking about how they can remember to keep doing this after he leaves.Some of the kids said Orange Frog definitely changed their school’s atmosphere, but will it last?Senior Kelsey Thein isn’t sure.“I think that only time will tell with that one. I can see that a lot more people are upbeat than normal and if it stays, it stays,” Thein said.Other kids said optimistically that they can easily turn their school orange in the long term.Superintendent Slack hopes so too.“I’m hoping that this will help them as they go through their life know that they can make some choices and that those choices are tough sometimes,” Slack said. “Life is tough. But, there are ways that we can turn the frown the other way around and make it a smile.”Slack doesn’t see this as some kind of silver bullet. She hopes learning about Orange Frog will help them develop better coping skills to handle whatever life throws their way. Health, P.E. and History Teacher, Adam Gretsinger, poses during the Orange Frog training. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO) Middle School kids work on a poster for their Orange Frog training. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO) Three boys show off the frogs they colored. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO) High School students and their teacher dance during an assigned presentation in the Orange Frog training. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO) During the training students were given multiple assignments in small groups that included at least one teacher. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO) High School kids taking part in the Orange Frog Project. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)
I know that headline may throw you off a little bit (or a lot), but it’s true. GameStop, the world’s biggest video game retailer, is partnering with Insomniac Games and is set to publish the developer’s next project, Song of the Deep.This non-traditional developer-publisher partnership came about after a conversation between Insomniac Games President and CEO Ted Price and GameStop executive Mark Stanley where each of the men discussed their plans and hopes for the future. Stanley talked about how GameStop was searching for new ways to engage with their customer base and Price discussed how Insomniac had an idea for a new game. After describing what Song of the Deep was all about to GameSpot, the project got rolling.“I think this will work because we’ve both been in the games industry for a long time,” said Ted Price in a press release. “There’s a lot of trust involved. They trust us to shepherd our creative vision and make the best possible game. That’s not always the case with traditional publisher-developer relationships.”Though GameStop is producing the title, Insomniac Games will retain complete ownership of the IP.Song of the Deep is a bit of a departure for Insomniac, as the title isn’t the type of big AAA game that the developer is known for. This will be a 2D side scroller in the vein of Metroid and Castlevania. Players will get to play as a girl named Merryn who goes on a journey to find her fisherman father who is lost somewhere in the depths of the ocean. She has to use a submarine to explore the abyss and battle all sorts of nasty underwater monsters.The game will be available digitally for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, but it will also be available physically exclusively at GameStop stores. Beyond the game, there will also be a children’s book from Sterling Publishing, and other merchandise related to the title.“It’s a big risk because a game like this at this level has never had this type of support at launch,” said Mark Stanley. “We don’t have unreasonable expectations that every gamer out there will want the game, the doll, the book, the T-shirt — everything. However, we feel it’s worth the investment to see how well it will do and be received.”GameSpot getting into game development may seem odd but given that the industry is moving more toward digital releases, the company has to find other venues to generate profit. Expect them to publish more games if Song of the Deep is successful. Expect the title to be released sometime this Spring.