Journeys in Film has selected quality, age-appropriate documentaries and foreign films which offer windows into our world, to the unique traditions, societies, values and humor of various countries, cultures, and even sub-cultures within our own country.
The films not only transport students beyond borders and boundaries; they move beyond lectures and textbooks to provide insight, transform preconceptions and prejudices, and foster genuine cultural understanding.
Middle School Series – Global Education
As teenagers develop emotionally, intellectually and socially, they begin forming world-views. Studies show that these impressionable years are the ideal time to teach students about other cultures and countries. Today’s youth encounter peers from a variety of different backgrounds, including many multilingual and multicultural students whose families have recently arrived in a new home country. Seeing the world helps to dispel myths and misconceptions, cultivate empathy and acceptance, and nurture a deeper understanding of our common human experience.
The standards-based curricula developed through our program help teachers meet core curriculum requirements, teaching core subjects like math, language arts, social studies, and music, while cultivating interest among students in the world beyond what they already know. We strive to also develop competencies in topics which have become critical for students to learn more about – such as poverty and hunger; climate change; global health and pandemics; refugee issues; and media literacy.
Our middle school program helps students:
- Mitigate attitudes of cultural bias;
- Develop a deeper understanding of global issues;
- Prepare for effective participation in the world economy; and
- Make relevant connections between global, national, community, family and individual experiences.
Films and Lesson Plans – Global Education Series
- Like Stars on Earth – India
- Please Vote for Me – China
- Beat the Drum – South Africa
- Children of Heaven – Iran
- Whale Rider – Maori Culture
- The Way Home – South Korea
- The Cup – Tibet
- The Prophet
Documentary Series – Building Social Awareness
Our documentary series also uses film as the basis for powerful lesson plans, however this series was developed primarily for high school and college age students. The lesson plans explore profound and nuanced issues, including what makes us happy in life, how communities can thrive in the face of oppression, the role of service to others in our lives and communities, and much more. Subjects such as world history, music, visual arts, social studies, and more are woven into the curricula as well.
Why Documentaries? Documentaries have become an important and exciting way to experience narrative. Documentaries have evolved over time from hard news, nature shows, and travelogues to a dynamic storytelling experience so that today the documentary sits side-by-side with fictional filmmaking. In this evolution, the very definition of what a documentary is and how it is experienced has changed the way not only how we tell stories, but also how we define truth.
Filmmaker Bias. The filmmaker almost always has an agenda with a point of view. In this series, we encourage at least one lesson to explore the filmmaker’s point of view on the subject of the film: Does it lead to distortion? How much faith can the viewer put in the film’s perspective on the subject? This is not to say we (or our students) should never trust a documentary film, only that we should examine the film’s and the filmmaker’s perspective to determine how much we accept their depiction of reality. This provokes interesting discussion and examination of the various definitions of “truth” we find around us in the media each day.
Viewer Bias. We may notice a clash between our own beliefs and those of the filmmaker that keeps us from accepting what is being presented, despite the ethical intent of the filmmaker. For example, would someone who adamantly believes that mankind plays no role whatsoever in climate change accept a National Geographic program that assumes the opposite point of view? For this reason, we encourage viewers to be aware of our own biases that may prevent us from accepting information that is honestly depicted in a film – a useful lesson about the filters we use everyday as we process information.
It is up to the teacher to help the viewer to be as aware as possible of the biases we bring to viewing a film in order to think critically about its point of view on a subject, as well as our own. Calling to mind that others may disagree with our conclusion is a good way to try to open students to the possibility that there is more to be considered than we thought on any given subject.
Films and Lesson Plans – Social Awareness