MERN Forum Presentation id=321
MERN Forum # 20
Session: 2C
Author: Rob Jantz
Affiliation: Gimli High School
Title : The student documentary: An implement of positive destruction
Description : In 2006, the Gimli High School Social Justice Committee surveyed our student population in regards to the most prominent social justice issues within the school. What resulted was a long journey, sometimes filled with road blocks, to address the presence of homophobia within our school walls. Since that time we have taken on initiatives to address the issue, the most significant of which was to create a documentary. ‘In the Locker’, a film created by and for students, explores the various student viewpoints on sexuality and the impact of homophobia on the climate of our school. In our search for a way to address the issue, we discovered that the student created video resources on this topic were markedly absent.

While we could not have predicted that our project could be of use to others, we were encouraged by the MTS EIE and Teacher Action Cohorts committees to make the documentary available to other high schools. As of today, we have received 43 orders from across Canada (mostly Manitoba) for our film. It can serve as a starting point for discussion about a subject that is often hard to broach. We felt that we may not be able to agree on the rightness or wrongness of the issue, but we could hopefully agree that schools need to be safe places for all persons, and that it needed to be a part of the curriculum.

We enlisted the help of Winnipeg filmmaker Randy Guest to produce a documentary that was of an acceptable quality for students. We included a discussion guide with the DVD that can help teachers lead students through an exploration of how our schools can provide a safe climate for homosexual students and staff, whether out of the locker or not. We hoped that through this initiative, schools province wide could lessen the impact of homophobic actions on all students. The students who created this project were excited about how their efforts impacted other schools and organizations. That excitement has given rise to what we need to do next. This project took us 2 years and approximately $2000 to complete.

The concept of teaching citizenship as actions of social justice was important for us. Teaching citizenship is first about giving students a voice. Students took responsibility for, and leadership of, this project from start to finish. They chose the topic to be explored, conducted the research needed, created the pre-production concept, were directly involved in the filming and editing process. They were also involved in the design, marketing, and distribution of the final product. Currently, a new group of students are giving a voice to another issue that is difficult to broach, once again in the film medium. This is where the citizenship education is extended, for the students will see their ideas teaching others. It can set them on a course where they see the value and excitement of creating change in the lives of others. What I also like about this concept is that students are reinforced in the idea that part of being a good citizen is leaving something behind for those who come behind you. Their work will provide funds for the next documentary involving other students. What is important here is that the documentary reflects student voice, and that they see their voices creating change.

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