My students are between 10th and 12th grade taking either United States History or Senior Forum which is a current events and civic engagement class. We are in an inner city district and the majority of my students come from low income Hispanic or African American families and have difficulties with language and comprehension.
Although we study wars, economics, social structures, and historical thinking skills, what really interests my students is the diversity of American culture, and how history will affect their lives.
Students in my Senior Forum class study current events and often the most poignant and effective teaching tools are video resources.
Documentaries help students see the humanity of current events and can show them how their decisions impact the world around them.
The topics in this course are always changing, but many of the issues we are dealing with in the present have their roots in history, and each of these documentaries deals with a major issue occurring in either the nation or the world by telling the individual stories and showing the physical impact of events my students only see in tweet or headline form.
The documentaries I have requested deal with issues of climate change ("11th Hour", "Gasland" and "Before the Flood"), race ("I Am Not Your Negro" and "Welcome to Leith"), the refugee crisis ("Fire at Sea"), gun violence/culture ("Bowling for Columbine"), human trafficking ("Tricked"), net neutrality ("Killswitch"), and, the student's favorite, food ("Food Inc."). While some of these films may be controversial or contain controversial topics, all of them deal with issues that will certainly make a difference in the lives of these students as they graduate and enter college or the workforce.
Giving students the opportunity to see these subjects, see the people they affect directly, and hear from experts on the issue, even if they only come from one view point, is invaluable. Through rigorous class discussion and explanation of the films students will be given the opportunity to challenge and integrate these perspectives into their larger study of current events.
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