This new interdisciplinary Journeys in Film curriculum guide is based on the film Like Stars on Earth, which follows the inspirational story of a young Indian student struggling in school. Ishaan is packed off to boarding school to “be disciplined”, where they discover he has dyslexia.
Perfect for middle school students, the “Discovering India” curriculum guide includes nine lesson plans that cover math, science, language arts, social studies, media literacy, visual arts, music and specialty areas.
No one should have to grow up with a misinterpreted mind, falsely accused or educationally mishandled. Success is like a vitamin – so essential if a child is to thrive and sustain motivation. Kids must feel a sense of optimism and excitement as they ponder their possibilities.”
– Dr. Mel Levine
About the Film
The Indian film Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth) is the story of 8-year-old Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary). A failure at school, humiliated by teachers and classmates for his inability to keep up with his studies, he seeks escape through daydreams and art.
His mother, though sympathetic, doesn’t know how to help him. His father, a successful businessman, is increasingly frustrated by his son’s academic problems and applies pressure to his young son without seeing improvement. His older brother, who loves and tries to defend Ishaan, nevertheless increases his isolation because he is a high-achieving and diligent student. Finally, completely exasperated by Ishaan, the father makes the decision to send him away to boarding school. There, his problems compounded by his homesickness, Ishaan becomes more and more withdrawn and depressed.
At this critical juncture, a new figure quite literally bounces into his life – substitute art teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan). This dedicated and creative teacher energizes his classes, inspiring them to use their imaginations. He notes how subdued and uninvolved Ishaan is, and finally realizes that dyslexia is the cause of the child’s problems. He teaches a lesson about dyslexia and explains to Ishaan’s class how many famous and accomplished people have been dyslexic.
As he tutors Ishaan and meets with his parents, Nikumbh also comes to see the brilliance and innovation in Ishaan’s art. Ishaan responds by coming out of his depressed state and feeling more confident about himself. Nikumbh organizes a schools arts festival to celebrate talent and imagination, even winning over some of the more traditional and staid teachers. An interesting parallel to the boarding school is the local school for children with more severe learning disabilities; Nikumbh is also a part-time teacher at this school. It provides a look at how even severely handicapped children can flourish if given appropriate love and support.
The Film’s Lessons
Like Stars on Earth is especially useful in social studies classes because it gives students an opportunity to meet a contemporary, middle-class Indian family. Students will have the opportunity to draw parallels with their own families, seeing similarities between the obstacles and challenges faced by the Awasthi family and their own. Too often social studies classes focus only on differences between cultures; Like Stars on Earth gives students the chance to understand that there are universals as well.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the film is its ability to help the viewer understand and sympathize with the difficulties of the young protagonist and the heartache and frustration of his parents. Younger students may need help understanding that the father is not just mean; he loves his younger son but cannot understand why he does not behave and think like his older brother.
Students in your class who struggle with learning differences will recognize many experiences and emotions they have had. Students who handle academics with ease will learn more about the struggles, and strengths, of their less academically inclined classmates.
Doctor, author, and educator Mel Levine has spent a lifetime studying the physiological, neurological, and psychological reasons for learning differences and discovering practical ways for classroom teachers without training in special education to help students understand their own minds, discover their own strengths, and shore up any weaknesses. The name of the institute he founded, All Kinds of Minds, speaks to the fact that all of us, whether teachers or learners, have unique brains and learning patterns.
Like Stars on Earth is a remarkable film in its ability to drive that message home, to teachers, to parents, to mainstream students, and, above all, to students who struggle.
The Curriculum Guide
The Journeys in Film curriculum guide based on Like Stars on Earth is now available for preview and purchase on our website. View the Guide Now!
More About the Film
Starring: Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan, Tisca Chopra, Vipin Sharma
Written by: Amole Gupte
Directed by: Aamir Khan
Produced by: Aamir Khan
Running time: 165 min
Language: English/Hindi with English subtitles
Rating: PG for thematic material, brief violence and language
Awards: Filmfare Awards for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Film and Best Story; Screen Weekly Awards for Best Child Actor, Best Dialogue, Best Director, Best Lyrics, Best Story, Best Supporting Actor, Most Promising Debut Director; National Film Award for Best Film on Family Welfare