Community Classroom -- Engaging educators and students through film

Lesson Plans & Film Modules

Standards-based curricula and film modules accompany Independent Lens films on a broad range of topics: immigration, civil rights, women’s rights, religion, the environment, and more.

  • A man speaks into a microphone, his head tilted back and arm outstretched

    Inspired by the Independent Lens documentary, The Calling, and the accompanying video archive on the What’s Your Calling? website, this educator guide is designed for young adults on the verge of making important life decisions, defining who they are, and determining how to achieve their hopes and dreams. Short film modules and highly customizable lesson plans allow educators or youth group leaders to spark meaningful dialogue with teens and young adults and encourage them to develop a richer understanding of themselves and their possible futures.

    Level: Middle School, High School, College
    Subject areas: Social Studies, Sociology, Language Arts, World Religions, Comparative Religion, Interfaith Dialogue, Leadership Development, Theology/Divinity Programs.

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  • Darlene Bustos

    The Graduates explores pressing issues in education today through the eyes of six Latino and Latina high school students from across the United States, offering first-hand perspectives on the barriers they have to overcome in order to make their dreams come true. The Youth Action Guide consists of seven hands-on activities and discussion prompts that foster peer-to-peer mentorship and community building around issues ranging from teen parenting, gang involvement, bullying, peer juries, homelessness, to undocumented status. Resources are accompanied by by six short film modules featuring the young people profiled in the film.

    Level: Middle School, High School, College
    Subject areas: Social studies, Civics, Ethnic studies, Language arts, Arts.

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  • Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed

    The Island President explores the global politics of climate change and the ethics of government and industry. President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives confronts a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced — the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. After leading a pro-democracy movement against a brutal regime — surviving repeated imprisonments and torture — Nasheed became president of this low-lying country, only to face danger from the rising ocean. Two standards-aligned lesson plans explore climate change and human rights, accompanied by three short film modules.

    Level: High School, College
    Subject Areas: Environmental Science, Social Studies, Government, Media Literacy, Economics, Current Events, World Cultures/History, Language Arts, Ethics

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  • me-facing-life-list

    Film modules feature unique stories from documentaries about the impact of mass incarceration on the lives of women and girls in the United States: Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, Girls on the Wall, and Troop 1500. Lesson plans engage students in discussions about the criminal justice system; factors that put teens at risk; the impact of mass incarceration on individuals, families, and communities; and effective responses to these issues.

    Level: Middle School, High School, College
    Subjects: Social Studies, Sociology, Language Arts, Criminology, Counseling, Psychology

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  • Daisy Bates smiling at rally.

    Film modules feature clips from documentaries about extraordinary African American women leaders: Daisy Bates: The First Lady of Little Rock; The Interrupters; and The Black Power Mixtape 1967 - 1975. The first lesson considers the leadership of the largely forgotten Daisy Bates in school desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas. The second lesson introduces Ameena Matthews, a former drug-ring enforcer turned violence interrupter, who intervenes in conflicts before they turn to bloodshed. The final lesson asks students to examine the legacy of Angela Davis in liberation movements around the globe.

    Level: Middle School, High School, College
    Subjects: History, Social Studies, Sociology, Language Arts, Civics, Political Science

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  • Benazir Bhutto talks into a microphone, looking down at a podium

    Women and Girls Lead is a public media initiative that amplifies the voices of women and girls, expands understanding of gender equity, and engages a connected network of citizens and organizations to act locally and reach out globally. This curricula collection features film modules from three documentaries: Pushing the Elephant, Bhutto, and Waste Land. Lesson plans introduce students to the personal stories about gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, women’s rights in Pakistan, and the power of art to change women's lives in the world's largest landfill in Brazil.

    Level: Middle School, High School, College
    Subjects: Social Studies, Sociology, Language Arts, Civics, Political Science, Global Studies, World History, Geography, Art

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  • Against a backdrop of clouds and sky, a girl holds out her fist in a karate stance, wearing a white martial arts uniform, with two men and a woman behind her, similarly attired and also striking the same pose.

    Film modules draw from four compelling documentaries about women's empowerment and leadership around the world. Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai introduces Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Laureate that launched an environmental movement in Kenya, while Waiting for the Revolution follows an indigenous Bolivian leader fighting for labor rights. Shayfeen.com, We’re Watching You spotlights three Egyptian women working for fair elections, and Shadya profiles a young Israeli Arab karate champion with feminist ideas. Lesson plans encourage students to learn and understand international struggles and take an active role in addressing local concerns.

    Level: High School and College
    Subjects: Social Studies, Global Studies, Civics, Economics, Government, Political Science, Sociology, World History, Language Arts, Geography

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  • Two young boys and one girl stand against a blackboard in a Chinese elementary school classroom.

    Film modules for the documentaries Please Vote For Me, Iron Ladies of Liberia, Chicago 10, and An Unreasonable Man offer thought-provoking perspectives on the changing nature of democracy across the globe. Lesson plans ask students and teachers will find new ways to explore democracy abroad, elections, gender, and media literacy through class discussions, activities, and homework assignments.

    Level: High School and College
    Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies, History, Civics

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  • Byron Hurt stands in front of a graffiti-covered wall.

    Film modules examine representations of manhood, sexism, and homophobia in hip-hop culture through the eyes of a fan and critic determined to challenge representations of masculinity in his favorite music. Lessons ask students to think critically about the limits of artistic license and the effects of media on cultural attitudes.

    Level: High School and College
    Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies, History, Civics, Media Studies, Media Literacy, Music

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  • QBert cradles a vinyl disc like a frisbee

    Film modules from the documentary Copyright Criminals explore the origins of sampling culture in hip hop music, copyright law, creativity, and technological change. Lessons ask students to trace the rise of hip-hop from the streets of New York to a multibillion-dollar industry, and think critically about what happens to “remix” culture when record company lawyers get involved.

    Level: High School, College
    Subjects: Media Studies, Media Literacy, Social Studies, History, Sociology, Media Production, Music and Language Arts, Business, Legal Studies

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  • A young Cambodian man stares into the camera; a simple box-like house stands in a water-filled field behind him

    Film modules from Sentenced Home follow three young Cambodian Americans through the deportation process. Raised in inner city Seattle, the young men pay an unbearable price for mistakes they made as teenagers as each confronts a legal system that offers no second chances. Lesson plans humanize the controversies of immigration and ask students to think critically about immigration policy.

    Level: High School, College
    Subjects: Social Studies, History, Civics, Human/Civil Rights, Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy, Legal Studies

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  • Two men in suits, one older and one younger, stand in the middle of a suburban block holding black briefcases, a wide sky behind them

    Film modules from Knocking open the door on Jehovah's Witnesses, who despite their intention to stay out of politics, won a record number of court cases that expanded civil rights for everyone. Lessons ask students to learn about the largely unknown history of the misunderstood Christian faith and meet two families who stand firm for their beliefs.

    Level: High School, College
    Subjects: Social Studies, History and Civics, Human/Civil Rights, Religion, Theology, Ethics, Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology

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