Raise students’ social awareness with these six educational documentaries that deserve a spot on everyone’s must-watch list.
By Melissa Campeau
A below-the-poverty-line school in Brooklyn lays the unlikely claim to the most national chess championship titles in the United States. Watch how teachers and students in this after-school chess program overcome budget cuts and personal challenges, and transform I.S. 318 into one of the best institutions in the city.
Watch it: iTunes, $17.99; Netflix
Bully (98 minutes)
Director Lee Hirsch (see Professionally Speaking, June 2012: “Pop Quiz,” bit.ly/1jnY0sL) follows a year in the lives of five students who are being bullied. This heartbreaking documentary captures raw moments of abuse and isolation, and raises critical questions about how schools should tackle the issue.
Teach it: Get students talking about this tough topic with a school climate survey, a relationship mapping exercise and cyberbullying lesson plans at bit.ly/Si3RIP.
Watch it: iTunes, $19.99
This CBC documentary presents an alarming statistic: at least 70 per cent of university students cheated in high school and counted family and peer pressure as motivators. The filmmakers interview essay hawkers and spy equipment merchants who help students fake their way to higher grades.
Watch it: bit.ly/TTwD42, free
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) exposes the hidden culture of cruelty that lurks within a group of popular 10-year-old girls. Witness the social bullying that perpetuates as each struggles for power outside of their teachers’ and parents’ watch.
Teach it: The student version features six 5- to 10-minute modules that help your class spot a social bully, the victim and the bystander.
Watch it: nfb.ca, $19.95–$34.95
Listen to Rae Spoon, a transgendered musician from Alberta who uses the pronoun “they” instead of he or she, discuss growing up in an ultra-religious family in this NFB documentary-musical. Spoon sings about the harassment they endured at school while discovering their gender identity.
Teach it: Bring serious themes to students’ attention with a guide (bit.ly/1tXjwv7) that was written by Pride Education Network and Out in Schools.
Watch it: iTunes, $12.99; nfb.ca, $17.95–$24.95
Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim follows five students waiting to be picked in a charter school lottery as he exposes challenges within the U.S. system. Prepare to be inspired by the teachers who fight to give students a better education.
Teach it: Next time the topic of creating and sustaining great public schools comes up, be prepared! Review the filmmakers’ community discussion guide at bit.ly/1rpGj4K.
Watch it: iTunes, $19.99