A Girls Scout Leader Reflects on Using ITVS Docs to Help Girls Behind Bars

By Shalon Maral
Outreach Manager, Got Choices

In 2012, ITVS’s Community Classroom partnered with the Girls Scouts of the USA to create the curriculum “This is a Story You Have to Tell: Women, Girls, and the Criminal Justice System.” The collection features modules from three ITVS films: Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, Troop 1500, and Girls on the Wall. The Girl Scouts have since adapted the resource to be used as curriculum for their national programs Beyond Bars and Girl Scouting in Detention Centers, reaching nearly 17,000 women and girls around the country. This week, their program in Northern California, Got Choices, will present at the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. Here is a video portraying the project, followed by reflection from Shalon Maral, the Got Choices Outreach Manager.

I started out with Girl Scouts 22 years ago as a volunteer and I now have the most incredible job! For the last 10 years, working for Girl Scouts as an Outreach Program Manager has opened my heart. Our program, Got Choices, is a nationwide Girl Scouts in Detention Center Program. It is very strong in Northern California and continues to grow. We serve at least 660 girls a year in our council, in 18 sites in five counties.

My girls are in juvenile detention centers, on probation, and in group homes. Girl Scouts is working with girls from all walks of life. They are involved in gangs, drugs, and prostitution, to name a few of their choice activities before Got Choices… and they are Girl Scouts.  We have weekly meetings where I am potentially the only person that the girls see from the “outside” for days on end. These girls are MY girls. And I know that the work we do with them matters. Continue reading

Community Classroom Reaches New Educators During Black History Month

btb_ccEarlier this month, ITVS Community Classroom launched a host of free resources for both public television stations and teachers to use in celebration of Black History Month. You can now find classroom modules and lesson plans, along with other educational resources, on PBS Video and PBS LearningMedia

These resources help make it easier for educators to incorporate African-American history into year-round curriculum:


The PBS Video player is the destination to watch public television content online. Educators can find all of the Community Classroom modules here, including those that highlight African-American achievements and history. For example, teach students about the rich history of African-American music traditions through interviews with Clyde Stubblefield and De La Soul from the Copyright Criminals curriculum. Or introduce them to the revolutionary African-American women Angela Davis or Daisy Bates from the Women and Girls Lead Volume 2 curriculum.

Students meet Clyde Stubblefield in the Copyright Criminals Classroom modules, which explore the rise of hip-hop music from the streets of New York to a multibillion-dollar industry.

Students meet Clyde Stubblefield in the Copyright Criminals Classroom modules, which explore the rise of hip-hop music from the streets of New York to a multibillion-dollar industry.

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On the Road with Community Classroom

November was a busy month for Community Classroom, the ITVS program dedicated to creating educational film resources for use in high schools, colleges, and community settings. We took Community Classroom on the road to three annual educator conferences, including the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), and reached thousands of America’s finest educators.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheryl WuDunn delivers a keynote address about her book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

At the NCSS conference in Seattle, Sheryl WuDunn, author of the book that inspired the documentary film series Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, gave a keynote speech to a crowd of more 700 social studies teachers. WuDunn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, spoke of the work she and her husband, Nicholas Kristof (also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist), have been engaged in to shed light on the oppression women and girls face worldwide–from Tiananmen Square twenty years ago to the innovative, media savvy Half the Sky Movement of today.

After watching clips from the documentary, the audience had a chance to engage a panel of educators, youth advocates, and teen activists in a discussion about how to teach issues related to gender oppression in their social studies classes. The event came just days after NCSS officially endorsed the curriculum that ITVS’s Community Classroom program created for the documentary. The endorsement is a significant milestone for ITVS, now part of an exclusive group to receive the stamp of approval from America’s largest association devoted solely to social studies education. Continue reading

Help Us Improve Our Community Classroom Materials for Educators

Community Classroom is an innovative and free resource for educators, offering short-form film modules adapted from ITVS’s award-winning documentaries and standards-based lesson plans for high school and community colleges, NGOs, and youth organizations.

Do you work with young people? Have you used our FREE resources for educators? Community Classroom features lesson plans and film modules from award-winning documentaries and new media projects from Independent Lens and ITVS.

Tell us what you think about our materials. Take 15 minutes to complete our short survey and you will be entered for a chance to win a Kodak PLAY flipcam.

Check out itvs.org/educators (or pbs.org/independentlens/classroom) for more information on all of our FREE film modules and lesson plans.

KQED Tackles Dropout Crisis with Town Hall Meeting

By Annelise Wunderlich
ITVS’s Education Manager

ITVS’s Community Classroom, along with over 150 Bay Area educators, gathered at Laney College for KQED’s town hall meeting about the dropout crisis.

Panelists included educators Cesar Cruz of ARISE High School, Dr. Kimberly Mayfield of Holy Names University, Dave Orphal of Skyline High School, Josue Diaz Jr. of Oakland Tech, and Betsy Shulz of Emiliano Zapata Street Academy.

Here are some startling facts:

  • Every year, roughly 1.3 million students in the U.S. drop out of high school. That’s 7,000 students each day.
  • More than 20 percent of California high school students drop out of school before graduation*
  • In the City of Oakland, almost 40 percent of students don’t graduate*

ITVS Community Classroom attended the March 13th event at Laney College, sitting in an auditorium filled with passionate teachers, present to talk about the growing dropout crisis in American education. It is hard to grab headlines with this story in a news environment already saturated with reports about the sad state of the public education system in this country. But with their American Graduate initiative, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is keeping the conversation alive. KQED is one of 20 “hub” public media radio and television stations across the country that CPB tapped to host public forums about the crisis. Continue reading

The Black Power Mixtape Inspires Students in NYC

The Education Department at the Tibeca Film Institute will screen the documentary before more than 200 high school students at the Tribeca Cinemas on March 21, at 11AM ET.

This spring, the Education Department at Tribeca Film Institute is rethinking the way they share film with the community. In partnership with ITVS Community Classroom, and in conjunction with their Women and Girls Lead initiative, they will screen The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 on March 21st at 11am.

A film by Goran Hugo Olsson, The Black Power Mixtape brings together never before seen footage of Harlem, New York in the 1970s, and black power leaders like Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis. Watch Davis discuss the film in an ITVS interview conducted earlier this year, after the jump.
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The Year of the Girl Begins: Girl Scouts of the USA 52nd National Convention

The Girl Scouts of the USA is a major partner for the Women and Girls Lead campaign and last week, they invited ITVS to be a part of their National Convention in Houston, TX. Celebrating the launch of their 100th anniversary activities, the Girl Scouts announced that 2012 will be The Year of the Girl! Women and Girls Lead presented two campaign films: Strong! and Pushing the Elephant, and trained more than 100 girls to use digital storytelling tools. Today’s post from ITVS National Engagement and Education Manager Annelise Wunderlich highlights the digital storytelling trainings.

Photo by Julie Wyman


I have a confession: I was never a Brownie, or a Daisy, or a Girl Scout. In fact, as a girl in grade school I suspected those groups of not being “cool,” and I was intimidated by their uniforms covered with mysterious and colorful badges. Now, that was admittedly a very long time ago — and the Girl Scouts has surely evolved as an organization since then. But nothing prepared me for just how cool the Girl Scouts actually are.
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Live Chat on Fostering Digital Citizenship

The National Association for Media Literacy Education and ITVS’s Community Classroom invite you to celebrate Media Literacy week in a live chat with educators from across the U.S. and Canada. The discussion begins at 4PM PT / 7PM ET on Monday. If you’re not available during that time, you can always replay the event in the archives below.

ITVS Joins Leading Bay Area Media Groups to Celebrate Teachers

This past month, over 100 media-savy educators attended the first Bay Area Media Innovators in  Education event in San Francisco. The event was co-hosted by ITVS, KQED, BAVC, and the San Francisco Film Society.

At a time when school budgets are tight, it is rare for teachers to get treated to wine, gourmet treats, and free media content. But ITVS and four other leading Bay Area media organizations decided they deserved some pampering and inspiration.

This past month, over 100 media savvy educators attended the first Bay Area Media Innovators in Education event at the Lab art space, co-hosted by ITVS, KQED, BAVC and the San Francisco Film Society. The event was a showcase for educational resources from each organization, and featured a panel discussion with four teachers who are using media creatively to engage their students.
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Community Classroom Profiles the Best. Teacher. Ever!

Last month, Community Classroom unveiled the winner of the Best. Teacher. Ever! Contest: Negussie Tirfessa, Ph.D., Professor of Physics, Manchester Community College. As a followup, we asked Independent Lens viewer Cordelia Vahadji to interview her nominee, so that we could discover what makes this educator so inspirational to his students, and that physics is fun.


Dr. Negussie Tirfessa, Ph.D., Best Teacher Ever!

Dr. Tirfessa was born in Ethiopia. He received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Physics at Addis Ababa University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He taught Physics at the same university for six years and came to the U.S. to study at Ohio State University in 1995. Dr. Tirfessa graduated with Ph.D. degree in Theoretical Nuclear Physics in 2001 and joined MCC as an instructor of Physics in January 2002.  He currently lives in Manchester, CT with his wife and two children.


Cordelia Vahadji attended Smith College, majoring in biology. She completed internships at Smith, Yale, Princeton, the NIH, and the Association for Women in Science, as well as an NSF teaching fellowship. She worked as a molecular biologist at Johns Hopkins. Recently she has switched her career focus to mechanical engineering.
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