Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mass Humanities Awards Grant for BEYOND BELIEF Education Campaign

Good news from the Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities! We’ve been awarded a grant to get BEYOND BELIEF and its new curriculum/study guide (written by Columbia University Teachers College) into the hands of teachers and students. In fully funding our grant proposal, Senior Program Officer Hayley Wood says, “I can think of few more appropriate ways to learn about 9/11, focusing not on the horror of the event itself, which may not be the most appropriate approach for young people, but learning about the event more tangentially, through the choices of people who were directly affected by the tragedy.”

Now that we’ve been awarded the grant, we can’t wait to spend it! The $10k will accomplish a lot. In collaboration with our partners—Teachers College and its innovative development division Edlab, Primary Source, Educational Collaborative of Greater Boston (EDCO), and Beyond the 11th, we will hold a series of professional development workshops this spring. Feedback from teachers during those sessions will be used by Teachers College to write a Teacher’s Manual, and online professional development materials will be created to extend the reach and impact of this grant.

This fall—in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11—Primary Source will organize a “Global Watch” of BEYOND BELIEF—a live event at Coolidge Corner Theater that will be streamed online, allowing educators and others to participate via Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned for updates—we hope you can join us in-person or virtually!

The study guide has been developed with these specific disciplines in mind: history, social studies, English, peace studies, international studies, women’s studies, and psychology. While Teachers College has been busy writing, we’ve been editing a new educational DVD. New features include: 10-minute teaching modules, added special features from our return to Afghanistan, and a shortened version of the film that will fit into junior high, high school or university classes.

And we were thrilled to hear how effective the BEYOND BELIEF program has already been for students and teachers at Gill St. Bernard Middle and Upper school. “I have rarely seen students so moved and eager to make a difference on behalf of others whom they are never likely to meet or know,” says Peter Schmidt, the school’s Director of Studies.

One student explained her reaction this way, “Before watching the film, I felt prejudice toward Muslims… However, I learned my hatred was misguided toward the Afghan people who had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorists attacks… I feel like my own wounds from that day have started to heal. This film gave me a powerful sense of hope.” This is exactly what we hope for – that students are able to internalize the film’s messages.

“This film and its study guide will move your students to talk about and understand the history of America and Afghanistan at war,” says Ambassador Swanee Hunt from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “The message is that this whole world is ours, we are all connected, we are all responsible for making this-our-world better.”

Initial funding for this educational effort came from the Fledgling Fund, making it possible for us to build the capacity for a strategic and robust campaign.

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