Movies made for the classroom
New partnership formed by USC Rossier combines film-based curricula with professional development for teachers
By Matthew C. Stevens
Movies are coming to a classroom near you.
The USC Rossier School of Education has formed a new partnership with Journeys in Film, an organization that develops film-based curriculum and discussion guides to engage students. The latest guide features “He Named Me Malala,” a powerful film that had its West Coast premiere at the Microsoft Theatre on Sept. 29 with 6,500 Los Angeles public school girls in attendance. The film opens nationally today.
“It is exactly this kind of synergy we are hoping to generate by using films to inspire and educate today’s students.”
— USC Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher
“It is exactly this kind of synergy we are hoping to generate by using films to inspire and educate today’s students,” said USC Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher, who attended the premiere and marveled at the enthusiastic reception of the film by students, who were gathered to kick off Girls Build LA, an initiative of The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education. “Films have the power to change lives, and USC Rossier is excited to partner with Journeys in Film to multiply this same kind of impact many times over.”
“We take feature films and documentaries, both domestic and international, and develop curricula that are aligned with state standards,” said Ashe, executive director of Journeys in Film. “We are so excited to be joining forces with Rossier. As much as this is about film, it’s even more about education.”
Teachers have reported that Journeys in Film has helped increase students’ empathy and acceptance; increased curiosity about the world beyond their own group; and increased their ability to identify distinctions between cultures and countries.
Journeys in Film has now produced companion curriculum guides for more than 15 films, including The Prophet, Defiant Requiem, The Dhamma Brothers, Dying To Tell The Story, Happy, Please Vote for Me (China), Like Stars on Earth (India), Children of Heaven (Iran), and Beat the Drum (South Africa). By selecting age-appropriate movies that feature young people, it offers entry points for lessons on science, mathematics, social studies, language and art, while also teaching the history and culture of the films’ countries of origin.
Actor Liam Neeson, a spokesman for Journeys in Film and star (voice) of The Prophet, the animated adaption of Kahlil Gibran’s best-selling book of prose poetry, recently told Esquire that he took the role in part because it was an ideal fit to create Journeys in Film curriculum. “It’s basically using the storytelling power of film to educate our kids in schools, to have a richer understanding of the complex world in which we live,” Neeson told the magazine.
The film “He Named Me Malala” was directed by Davis Guggenheim, award-winning director of “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Waiting for Superman,” and produced by Parkes/MacDonald and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures in association with Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Participant Media and National Geographic Channel. It details the remarkable life of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was attacked by the Taliban for speaking out about girls’ education in her country. The curriculum guide by Journeys in Film includes nine lessons for teachers focused on English language arts, world history and other social studies classes.
Said Alan Arkatov, USC Rossier’s Katzman/Ernst Chair for Educational Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation, who also attended the West Coast premiere of “Malala”: “Today’s kids are more entertainment literate than reading literate. We plan to build upon the outstanding work already done by the Norman Lear Center and the Annenberg School of Communications, and include the tremendous expertise within the School of Cinematic Arts, to demonstrate that in the entertainment capital of the world, USC can effectively harness the power of storytelling in ways that dramatically improve teaching and learning outcomes.”
The collaboration is part of a larger plan by Arkatov and USC Rossier to focus on ways that uniquely and effectively engage students and improve their education, whether it be via the arts, sports or games.
“Films have the power to change lives, and USC Rossier is excited to partner with Journeys in Film to multiply this same kind of impact many times over.”
— USC Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher
Ken Yates, Associate Dean for Professional Development at USC Rossier, sees the value of expanding the mission of Journeys in Film by tapping into the appetite teachers have for using film creatively and strategically.
“Teachers have always used popular culture in the classroom,” Yates said. “Journeys in Film brings an intentional focus to this process, giving teachers the ability not only to engage students but to heighten their understanding of the curriculum.”
The West Coast Premiere of “Malala” served as a kick-off for Girls Build LA, which will next bring 450 high school students to USC on Oct. 27 to attend the Girls Build LA Challenge Forum.