Students and teachers help develop an online toolbox against discrimination

 

The International School of Amsterdam partnered with the Anne Frank House in an educational project to combat prejudice and intolerance

“In a world where discrimination is pervasive, inescapable, and rooted in the entire history of humanity’s existence, the next generation must be equipped to take on injustices wherever they may be found,” says Rania Khan, a Middle Years Programme (MYP) student at the International School of Amsterdam (ISA), in the Netherlands.

Rania is part of a group of students at the school, who have helped to develop Stories that Move, a free online toolbox for schools, which challenges learners (aged 14-17 years) to think critically about diversity and discrimination.

Created by the Anne Frank House with partners from across Europe, it is available in seven languages and has five learning paths, featuring assignments, information and short films of young people’s experiences of discrimination.

ISA was approached to become a project partner by the Anne Frank House in 2015, explains English teacher Shannon Hancock, who is one of the programme leaders. The school was able to offer extensive experience with online learning, a diverse student population (60 nationalities), innovative pedagogical practices, as well as an IB ethos of international-mindedness.

“The aim of the project is to create a framework and space for safe, open dialogue about identity, discrimination, and to inspire students to take positive action in one’s local and/or global community,” says Hancock.

It fits with the MYP, which encourages students to make practical connections between their studies and the real world and aims to develop active learners and internationally minded young people who can empathize with others and pursue lives of purpose and meaning.

Testing the toolbox

Students and teachers at the school have made an important contribution to the project. Hancock piloted the materials online and offline with students, as well as providing input on teaching strategies, content, design of lesson tracks and refining the learning paths. While Michael McGlade, Director of Educational Technology at ISA, has acted as a technical design consultant.

“The grade 8 teaching team also collaborated closely, by trialling the materials in their homerooms and providing feedback to the Stories that Move partners on both the look and feel of the online learning tool,” says Hancock.

McGlade and Hancock presented the project at two conferences and helped facilitate the international project launch and teacher workshops in Berlin in July.

Student input

Four students from ISA—Rania (from Bangladesh), Zozi Lencz (from Hungary), Trinabh Banerjee (from the Netherlands) and Leilani Hancock  (from the US)—participated in workshops at the Anne Frank House and provided feedback and ideas. They were also asked by the Stories that Move team to present and lead a social media campaign at the international project launch.

The project has made a deep impression on the students. Leilani says: “Through these experiences, I have learned that we all deal with discrimination and intolerance each and every day, granted to varying extents. No one is immune.”

Trinabh adds: “I consider myself well-informed. Every day, I read the news stories of people who have faced discrimination, prejudice or racism as a result of a multitude of factors. Despite this, there is only so much information one can receive from a news story. And as I reflected personally, I began to realise the importance of personal stories. It’s not every day that someone who has faced discrimination comes up to you and shares their story with you face to face.”

The students have been asked to continue as ambassadors for the tool. This autumn, they launched a creativity, activity and service (CAS) club with the goal of creating a larger team of students to develop a series of parent workshops; to reach out to other schools in the Netherlands; to continue to act as speakers for the project at conferences and workshops and to prepare as teacher/student trainers for the tool.

The school has also expanded its use of Stories that Move—it is now being used in grade 10 English as an additional language, grade 7 individuals and societies, and grade 8 homeroom. ISA’s grade 9 individuals and societies team plans to use the discrimination learning path section this semester. The Dutch department has also expressed interest in using the online learning tool in the Dutch language.

The toolkit is already garnering praise. It won the prestigious 2018 Comenius EduMedia Medal for excellent teaching materials, and will be presented at the UN headquarters in New York on 2 November 2018, at a conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Kristallnacht 80 years ago.

With antisemitism, racism and discrimination still prevalent today, Stories that Move is even more necessary to combat prejudice and help create tolerance and social cohesion.

As Trinabh, says, “If we cannot value another person for who they are, then we have failed to make society work. We must value each other for who we are, as individuals and as a collective global community.”

For more information, see Stories that Move.

 

From the IB Community Blog

October 11, 2018 in Inside IB classroomMiddle Years Programme (MYP)

Nature of Science Students Visit Neanderthal Museum

ISA’s grade 12 Nature of Science students have recently been studying a unit titled “the quest for understanding”, which focuses on the universe, the nature of our planet and human evolution. On Tuesday, 11 September, the class visited the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany, to gain a deeper understanding of how humans have evolved.

The Nature of Science is a pilot IB Diploma programme course that is currently only offered at 20 schools worldwide and was developed developed to meet the needs of students who are not intending to continue scientific study in further education by helping them develop an understanding of scientific methods in order to make sense of the world around them.

The Neanderthal Museum is located at the site of the discovery of the first Neanderthal man in the Neander Valley, which gave its name to the newly discovered species. The students received an in-depth tour, focusing not only on how humans evolved but also on the specific methods that scientists use to map out the story of human evolution. They also participated in a practical workshop where they learned to identify and classify skull specimens from a variety of species.

“Human evolution is an important part of the Nature of Science course” noted Darren Frampton, ISA Nature of Science teacher. “It’s inherently interesting but, of course, doesn’t lend itself to direct observation. By going to the Neanderthal Museum, I’m hoping that the students learned by associating the concepts with real artefacts and appreciate the difficulties faced by real scientists in uncovering the human story.”

Author Colson Whitehead Visits ISA

On 6 December, Colson Whitehead, author of Pulitzer-prizewinning novel The Underground Railroad, visited ISA for a Q&A session with the grade 12 Theory of Knowledge class. Recently, the students have been discussing art as a form of knowledge. The session was a unique opportunity for students to meet an artist and consider his role in the process of creating the artwork.

Sofia presents Colson Whitehead with her artwork.

The Underground Railroad tells the story of Cora, an escaped slave from a plantation in Georgia, who makes a bid for freedom by following the Underground Railroad, which is represented in the novel is an actual subway system. While he didn’t intend the book to have a didactic message, Colson explained that he depicted brutal violence inflicted on slaves because he felt a responsibility to portray the cruel treatment of his ancestors. 

One student raised the issue of slave auctions today and asked if there were any lessons that the book can teach us. Taking a realist view, Colson answered that the book was by no means a manual. According to Colson, we will always have literal slaves and people who live slave-like experiences under capitalism, as they are trapped in an economic system which oppresses the poor. This, he said, will continue “until we’re robots on Mars.”

Grade 12 student Sofia was inspired by her experience of reading the novel to create her own piece of artwork; a drawing of Cora, peering at the outside world from the attic through a small hole. Sofia was invited up to the front of the discussion and presented the drawing to Colson; she felt that, as he was her inspiration, he deserved the original piece.

Written by Megan Amelia

Hispanic Community Fundraising

Following the earthquake in Mexico in September, ISA’s Hispanic community came together to raise funds to help those affected by the disaster.

A key aspect of the fundraising efforts was the Hispanic Community Solidarity Breakfast held on November 1st. The breakfast was kindly supported by the Mexican embassy, who loaned the decorations and sent their representative, Mr Jorge Delgado Sumano, to speak at the event. The breakfast was a great success, selling over 220 tickets and attracting a large crowd.

The Hispanic Community Solidarity Breakfast. Credit: Olga Bolhuis.

Both the Upper School and the Lower School held bake sales to raise funds. Staff, parents and students across the school worked tremendously hard to make these sales a success. The Upper School bake sale alone raised €548.35, a fantastic achievement that the students can be proud of.

As a result of the combined efforts of the solidarity breakfast, the upper and lower school bake sales and personal donations, the Hispanic community raised a fantastic total of €3834.65.

The funds will go directly to UNICEF Mexico, an organisation who specialise in relief efforts for children and families in the hardest hit regions of disaster, providing them with life-saving resources. This is a fantastic example of how our ISA community can come together to do something truly amazing.

Some of the ISA community. Credit: Olga Bolhuis.

 

Written by Megan Amelia

A Meet and Greet with Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation

Yesterday, bestselling author Jean Kwok visited ISA for a meet and greet session with grades 10, 11 and 12. It was a wonderful opportunity for a few of the ISA Upper School students, some of whom are studying Jean’s internationally successful novel Girl in Translation as part of their English B course, to ask in-depth questions about the book and the author’s life.

Jean Kwok visits ISA.

As a follow up to the formal meet and greet sessions, four students were given the opportunity to attend a small, intimate lunch with Jean as a reward for their hard work and to ask her questions about her twin passions–writing and dancing. Having all danced from a young age, three of the students discovered that Jean shared their passion and gained insight from her about the competitive nature of professional ballroom dancing.

For most ISA students, Jean is a highly relatable figure. A Chinese immigrant to the US at the age of five, Jean left behind everything she knew at home and arrived into a whole new world, with an alien language and culture. Not only did the students have a chance to learn more for their coursework, but they also received some powerful and inspiring life advice from Jean.

Jean began by telling the story of her own life and the extent to which Girl in Translation is based on reality. She discussed her experience as an impoverished immigrant in the US, where her entire family worked in a clothing factory for as little as 1c per piece of clothing they produced. She described feeling ‘all wrong’, with her handmade clothes and short hair, which left her feeling isolated and an outsider to American culture. This is reflected in her protagonist Kim’s own feelings in the novel.

The picture of squalor Jean paints in her book, including the apartment ‘from hell’, filled with roaches and rats, where Kim and her mother have to ‘seal the windows in the kitchen with garbage bags’ for ‘a bit more protection from the elements’ is absolutely true to life, Jean explained.

Before meeting Jean, it might have been easy  for the students to dismiss Jean’s experiences as unique or rare, or to argue that times have changed since her childhood. However, with an estimated 170 million children across the globe still engaged in child labour, with many of these employed in the clothing supply chain, Jean’s emphasis that ‘this can and does happen’ certainly remains pertinent today. She explained that her work is for people without a voice; for the working-class people who don’t have their stories told.

What was really striking about Jean’s talk was her passion and enthusiasm, not just for writing, but also simply for life. Jean argued that while hard work itself is not fun, the deepest happiness comes from the knowledge that you are fulfilling what you were meant to do, to the best that you can do it. Everybody fails at things, she said, but success comes from resilience; successful people are the ones who get back up again. Her most powerful advice to the students: you’re the only one who can give up on yourself.

 

Further Reading

To find out more about Jean, you can visit her website: http://www.jeankwok.com/

https://labs.theguardian.com/unicef-child-labour/

http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—ipec/documents/publication/wcms_221513.pdf

 

Written by Megan Amelia