LSU alums imbue teaching with the spirit of song and science

February 10, 2023

The Hollingsworth family

Gracie’s Corner co-founders and LSU alumni Javoris Hollingsworth, Ph.D. and Arlene Gordon-Hollingsworth, Ph.D. with their children, Graceyn (left), Celine (center), and Elliott (right).

BATON ROUGE - The animated internet series, Gracie’s Corner, has become a popular resource for educating children on topics such as phonics, counting, and shapes. Originally a family passion project, the channel has now grown into a sensational entertainment and education enterprise. 

As an educational series that values representation and inclusion, Gracie’s Corner was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Animated Series, the only entry independently produced outside of a large streaming platform or network.

The series began in 2020 when co-founders and LSU alumni Javoris Hollingsworth, Ph.D. and Arlene Gordon-Hollingsworth, Ph.D. had difficulty finding diverse content for their daughter Graceyn, Gracie for short, and her siblings to watch on television or online. 

“As far as the representation of children of color, there really wasn’t much content out there,” Hollingsworth said. “It was a need for kids to be able to watch the programming, and from a culturally relevant perspective, really connect with it.”

To meet the growing need for diverse and representative educational media, Gracie’s Corner set out to create culturally relevant versions of nursery rhymes to empower children from various backgrounds.

New to the video production process, Hollingsworth used the skills he learned during graduate research to organize and structure the early days of Gracie’s Corner. Similar to leading his doctoral research project in chemistry, he had to test and experiment on how to put all of his creative ideas together into a cohesive project. 

“I knew nothing about creating a YouTube channel,” Hollingsworth said. “I had to do research on how to build a studio, how to do all these different things, so that required all the skills I gained from LSU.”

Before transitioning to YouTube full-time, Hollingsworth was an associate professor teaching chemistry at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. His experience teaching complex information motivated Hollingsworth to implement creative methods of introducing and reinforcing concepts to children. 

“In the classroom, you can tell by students’ faces that something didn’t quite make sense. But then you say, okay, let me take a step back and repeat that. Doing it on the audiovisual level is really helpful,” Hollingsworth said. “But the channel was on a much larger scale, reaching kids all over the world.”

The series goes beyond teaching the basic building blocks. Gracie’s Corner also empowers children of color to practice self-care and develop higher-level logic skills. Arlene Gordon-Hollingsworth, a licensed clinical psychologist of almost 20 years and another creative influence for the series, emphasizes the importance of including social and emotional development content that teaches coping skills for stressful situations and self-love. 

“The earlier you give children tools to help them cope and adapt in a healthy way to their environment and various stressors, the better; it can be preventative,” Gordon-Hollingsworth said. “These songs provide the tools of positive affirmations, which have been shown to decrease maladaptive thoughts associated with depression and anxiety.”

Gordon-Hollingsworth explains that Gracie’s Corner also helps build a child’s sense of agency, in which they recognize that they can initiate their personal learning and make their own decisions.  

“The series empowers children by allowing them to see themselves in the characters and the family; children of color can see themselves portrayed positively and in the forefront as main characters,” Gordon-Hollingsworth said. “Children watching these episodes are often affirmed and given other tools to help them grow into intelligent and mentally healthy individuals.”

What began as a fun concept to create a more inclusive online education resource turned into something more. By October 2022, Gracie’s Corner reached the million-subscriber mark, and has since accumulated nearly half a million more. 

Hollingsworth and Gordon-Hollingsworth are surprised by the overwhelming reception of the show and look forward to seeing new opportunities arise in light of its success. In the future, they hope to incorporate scientific themes into the content rotation for Gracie’s Corner.

On February 25, the 54th NAACP Image Awards will air on BET at 8/7C. The ceremony honors outstanding representations and achievements of people of color in motion pictures, television, music, and literature.