What are the stories your students hear about education? I love that question. I have found, however, that it isn’t a question educators frequently address despite recognizing the importance of messaging. We should be able to share a compelling story about the “why” of education with students, parents, colleagues and anyone in our local or global communities. This means that educators must devote time to reflect up, craft, and apply a compelling and meaningful story about the purpose of education.
But what would happen if we play with that question a bit and ask “What are the stories students tell about education?” Hmm?! The question certainly shifts the agency of education being done by students instead of education being done to them. Such a shift creates a broader range of possibilities, interpretations, and outcomes. In short, the singular (outcomes, narrative, purpose, vision etc.) is supplanted by the multi. This sentiment has been been engaged with millions of times in the popular 2009 Ted Talk: The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
This brings me to this post’s guest interview with Holy Carter. I had the pleasure of meeting and discussing global education with here at the Institute for International Education in New York City.
Ms. Carter is the founder and executive director of BYkids, a non-profit organization that provides kids around the world with the training and equipment to make short documentaries about their lives. BYkids believes that we can understand the world’s challenges — and how to best meet them — through the personal stories of young people. Their Season One films aired on public television on more than 170 channels in 107 markets, in 64 million American households.
Holly started her career at The New York Times and has worked for 30 years as a journalist, editor, documentary filmmaker, fundraiser and non-profit leader.Before founding BYkids, Holly ran the Global Film Initiative, a foundation bringing feature films from the developing world to major cultural institutions across the country in an effort to promote cross-cultural understanding.
Prior to that from 1999 to 2003, she produced Media Matters, a monthly PBS magazine show about journalism and concurrently worked as a consultant for The After-School Corporation, a non-profit initiative founded by George Soros that brings quality after-school programs to New York City public schools. In 1999, Carter co-founded North Carolina’s Full Frame Festival, which has grown to become the largest documentary film festival in the world.
The BYKids website can be found here. Enjoy!
- Holly, tell us about your background and views on global citizenship education?
I started my career as a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist at The New York Times and have worked for 30 years as a journalist, editor, documentary filmmaker, fundraiser and non-profit leader. I am interested in revolutionizing American education by teaching empathy and global citizenry to our students in a way they understand – through moving image. They spend their lives outside the classroom processing the world and expressing themselves through moving image. We need to speak to them in the language they use. Putting a textbook on a tablet is not innovative. Bringing short documentary films into their classroom and curriculum as a way for them to walk a mile is someone else’s shoes – now that has real impact. Once they feel the issues of the world, they can be guided to find solutions.
- Connecting students is indeed a key aspect of global education. How did BYkids get started?
I started BYkids as a platform for the voiceless to share their voices. Kids are honest storytellers, yet their stories often go unheard. BYkids was created as a network of cross-cultural storytelling. By sharing the untold stories of children in countries like Nicaragua about climate change or Mozambique about AIDS, we engage a younger audience in a global discussion to teach the intangible qualities like empathy and tolerance.
- Can you share some examples of schools using BYkids and the impact it had on students, teachers, and the community?
Our films and curricula are distributed to over 100 million viewers and students around the country.
Season One of FILMS BYKIDS is a partnership between THIRTEEN, the flagship station of PBS, and BYkids, a non-profit organization, bringing the voice of five young filmmakers from different cultures to a wider audience through the power and reach of public media. In addition, we do many live screening and panel discussions, using our films as a conversation spark.
Last year, for example, we were invited to Bergen Country, NJ for Anti-Violence Week to screen and discuss POET AGAINST PREJUDICE, a story told by a young Yemeni immigrant to Brooklyn who finds a creative outlet for self-expression in a post 9/11 world. The young filmmaker was like a rock star to the thousands of high school students. In fact, the film and resulting conversation left some young audience members in tears. By watching Faisa’s inspiring response to discrimination, the kids sitting in the front row had tears rolling down their cheeks. The film reached their hearts and left them changed with a new perspective on this all too relevant issue of Islamophobia and the struggles of new immigrants.
- What is next for BYkids and what is your vision for the future of the program?
BYkids is currently working on its upcoming Season Two to include films about climate change ravaging coffee growing in Nicaragua (see trailer below), forced child marriage in Senegal, the Syrian refugee crisis, modernity in Bhutan and the juvenile justice system in the U.S.
We look to continue to start meaningful conversations around these globally relevant issues and innovate in the education space so that our students are engaged emotionally in the world around them.
By continuing to produce films, we are expanding our community of young leaders and introducing more overlooked stories throughout the world. Our future is strong with the continued support of our contributing BYkids family.
- If you could make one change in education, what would that be?
Education should promote open-mindedness by teaching empathy. Our films show lives different from most audience members and children in American schools. Things that seem foreign at first, like growing up on a struggling coffee bean farm or falling victim to a longstanding tradition of child marriage, become more relatable and seemingly real through our films. My hope for education is that, like at BYkids, it does not stray from a sometimes different or uncomfortable truth, and teaches through an honest lens.
- I love what BYkids offers. The penpals platform is one of my favorites. How can teachers get involved with BYkids?
Our films extend beyond one single screening in the classroom. Our various curricula help teachers turn viewing into action. On our website, we provide School Guides and Take Action Guides, in which teachers are encourages to add to the film’s viewing curriculum, to help expand the experience of each film, promoting students to react, think, reflect and engage after watching one of our films.
PBS Learning Media has grade specific curricula for each film:
PenPal Schools helps connect kids around the world through the films:
Once the students have watched the film and learned about their peers from around the world, the teacher helps them get engaged with the issue and understand how to access their own voice.
This is all about the power of storytelling and listening.
Thank you Holly. Films from BYkids can be purchased on Amazon. They would be a great addition to libraries, global ed programs, leadership courses and all academic courses.Be sure to follow ByKids on twitter @BYkids