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PAMALA MILLER
Second Place

9-12 | Social Studies | Video Production

Station WENH in New Hampshire

My Classroom Innovation

Geopolitics is a required semester-long course for Juniors at my school. We use the book, Why Geography Matters by Harm de Blij as the text. I particularly enjoy the Frontline Rough Cuts because the engaging film style is appealing to adolescents, and the length of the film clips is perfect for using film to highlight current issues and give students a glimpse of what powerful journalism looks like. I wanted to find Frontline film clips that would directly relate to the topics and issues in the text, so a couple of summers ago I watched all of the Rough Cuts, and made a reference notebook with background information on each film. Then I organized the film clips by chapter in the text and wrote lesson plans to weave the text and Rough Cuts together. It has proven to be the most compelling way I have found to use a PBS resource. The students are riveted to the screen and I play a Rough Cut almost every day in class. I require the students to maintain an interactive notebook in which they respond to articles, homework, films, etc. The Frontline Rough Cuts, by far, elicit the most in-depth responses from the students. Near the end of the semester, students are assigned a final project that involves either making a short film or using other media to share their research on a topic of their choosing. By then, they have a sense of what a good story looks and sounds like after having seen so many Rough Cuts. This year, two boys wanted to do something on illegal immigration, inspired by the Rough Cuts titled, Mexico: Death in the Desert; California: Immigration Dilemma; and Guatemala: In the Shadow of the Raid. Living in New Hampshire, though, they thought they couldn't produce anything meaningful since they thought of this as a region-specific issue. I told them about a little-known issue related to migrant workers in the Vermont dairy industry. Migrant workers in the west can get temporary permits to do seasonal work in the U.S., however, since dairy farming isn't seasonal, illegal workers cannot get a permit. The Department of Agriculture doesn't have permits that would allow migrant workers to be here year-round. The Vermont dairy industry relies heavily on migrant labor, yet the workers stay indoors, fear being caught, and work incredibly long hours. The boys took this bit of information from me, researched it, and produced their own version of a Rough Cut-type film.

How Students were Engaged

The students were challenged to take Piaget's belief that they should be 'creating new knowledge,' not reciting what is already known, and use technology to showcase their research. Having seen so many Rough Cuts in class (I even gave some as homework assignments because there isn't enough time to see all of them!) and discussed the power of film to tell a compelling story, students were primed to find their own story and create a Rough Cut style film. At the end of the semester, students presented their film or slide show projects and taught their classmates about the issue they researched. The boys who researched the story of the illegal immigrants working in the Vermont (and New Hampshire) dairy industry filmed the countryside, gathered statistics, and found a young illegal immigrant who was willing to be interviewed for their film. They translated his answers to their questions, and shed light on an important issue that remains hidden from mainstream media. Their passion for this story stayed with them long after the project was completed. Another pair of boys chose to research Zimbabwe's current issues, and produced a Rough Cut-style film. They chose a popular song by a man from Zimbabwe as the 'narration,' used images from the PBS Rough Cuts about Zimbabwe, layered with text/facts in a slide show type format, and it was extraordinary. I can't say enough about the power of Frontline's Rough Cuts to engage and inspire youth to think about what matters, well beyond their own worldview.

PBS Program/Content Used

Frontline Rough Cuts