Grade 8 students Kieran and Andrew share behind the scenes glimpse of their learning journey as a part of the 2021 ZIS Videos for Change Competition. Their video, Listen to Nature, went on to be an Award-Winner in the Global Videos for Change Competition and showcased to an international audience.
Authentic contexts make learning meaningful. Learning is more engaging and enduring when students inquire into real world-issues, dilemmas, and perspectives, but how do we shift the focus from the overwhelming weight of the future we face towards a place of hope and optimism? A place where young people can envision a world they want to inherit and start to develop the critical competencies and confidence they will need to get there.
The Social Studies team and Sustainability Curriculum Coordinator at Zurich International School (ZIS) reimagined their Global Issues Exhibition into a new unit entitled, The Future We Want. Using the C3 Social Studies Standards as the foundation, the concept-based unit is grounded in a forward-thinking approach, where students investigate types of sustainable solutions and progress already underway. From a systems-thinking lens, students choose a focus area they’re passionate about and research innovative initiatives, creative solutions, and advocacy at various organizational levels that contribute to the future they want. Student focus areas last year included the circular economy, biodiversity, human well-being, improving our food systems, climate justice, and water rights.
ZIS defines learning as a process that leads to a sustained and demonstrable consolidation or extension of conceptual understanding, competencies, or character. To maximize engagement and outcomes, they partnered with Videos for Change, an innovative digital platform and real-world, project-based learning experience of The High Resolves Group, a collaborative ecosystem dedicated to activating human responsibility.
Videos for Change empowers and amplifies youth voice and stimulates transformation at a personal and community level. Young people care deeply about the issues in their world, and they want to be a part of the solutions, but it can be difficult to know where to begin or to feel that they could possibly make a difference. Videos for Change harnesses the power of short-form video storytelling to support students in building confidence as agents of social change and develop strategies to create empathy and inspire impact in their communities, locally and globally.
The program began as a national competition in Australia in 2015 with a simple but powerful invitation for 13 to18-year-olds to craft one-minute videos to build awareness and motivate change on social issues they care about, with the opportunity for their voice to be amplified to an audience beyond their direct network. Fast forward seven years, and it’s now a scalable platform that has empowered thousands of teenagers in over 50 countries. Student videos have had billions of collective video impressions across 100 countries through a community of international partnerships, like NBCUniversal Networks, and have been shown at major landmark events, like COP26.
The program has demonstrated to national governments, businesses, and societies just how talented, innovative, and passionate the world’s youth are when they’re given opportunities to speak up and lead, spotlighting the significance of injecting youth voice into the conversations that matter the most. The leaders of tomorrow need a seat at the table today.
Videos for Change was a natural fit for ZIS students to apply their understanding and use their voices to advocate for a more sustainable future. Beyond the big ideas of sustainability and action, the project supports students in understanding three core unit generalizations:
- Arguments and explanations can be adapted for digital technologies, such as the internet, social media, and digital documentary, to amplify student voice, and reach audiences and venues outside the classroom (D4.3.6-8).
- To affect change, individuals and groups consider their individual capacity while considering the range of possible levers of power, strategies, and potential outcomes (D4.7-6-8).
- Civic context often determines the strategies that are feasible when proposing a vision for a more sustainable and equitable future (D2. Civ.6.6-8, D2 Geo.4.6-8, D4.8.6-8).
Flexibility is core to the Videos for Change experience. The program is designed to be adapted to meet diverse curriculum objectives across educational contexts to serve a truly global community of young changemakers. The learning framework is divided into key steps that guide the process of choosing a focus issue, engineering an idea and stylistic approach to creating content, and engaging an audience. The Social Studies team at ZIS embedded the key process steps and extended the learning with additional targeted lessons and assessments related to specific skill-development focuses for the unit, including organizing research, claim writing, and evaluating sources.
In addition to the technical skill development, the program provides valuable opportunities for students to build critical competencies, including civic engagement, collaboration, creative and critical thinking, empathy, effective communication, and collective leadership.
Below is a Video for Change, Listen to Nature, created by Grade 8 students Kieran and Andrew, as a part of the 2021 ZIS Videos for Change Competition. The video went on to be an Award-Winner in the Global Videos for Change Competition and showcased to an international audience.
As a part of the competition, ZIS ran a People’s Choice Award through their Videos for Change platform, which engaged the greater school community to show their support and vote to help decide the winning entry. The grade seven students witnessed the buzz of last year’s cohort and were eager to participate. As ZIS gets set to launch their 2022 competition, it’s now time for them to get creative and have their voices heard.
The videos created by students will also be embedded as assessment tools for future cohorts. Teachers have seen the benefits of creating final assessments that don’t reveal the correct answers. Instead, final products from previous years are being explicitly designed to be analysed by students in the following years to help them determine the elements that they see as making a successful final product.
ZIS is committed to a thriving school culture and community where every student understands the importance of good values, and the power they hold to make the world better. They are focused on developing true global citizens who recognize the value of their local community, and are open to different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. Videos for Change provides a platform for diverse local expressions of global issues. In one minute, these videos have the power to bridge generations, make us feel hope and connection, and empower us to know that our voices can make a difference.
To be inspired by other student created videos from around the world or find out more about Videos for Change, visit videosforchange.org.
Cassie is the Global Curriculum and Youth Engagement Manager for Videos for Change.
Alysha is a Social Studies Teacher and Curriculum Area Leader at Zurich International School in Switzerland.