Archive for the ‘It’s STILL Elementary’ Category

No Name Calling Week Discount on Our Anti-Bias Documentaries



By | blog, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Let's Get Real, LGBT, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

We were proud to offer free streaming of all of our Respect for All Project films for No Name Calling Week. This month, hundreds of school social workers, guidance counselors, and teachers signed up for the free streams and showed the films to thousands of students during No Name Calling Week. It’s been exciting to hear the feedback from educators.

Amber Schweitzer, a teacher at Castle Rock High School in Castle View, Colorado told us that because of their screening, the school will be inviting a panel of LGBTQ speakers to speak with students.

“Our school is not very diverse.
Straightlaced opened my students’ eyes to not only gender norms,
but also cultural differences they are not used to considering.”

-Amber Schweitzer, teacher

Jen Cusa, a social worker at the Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women in Brooklyn, NY showed Let’s Get Real to 60 students. The highlight for her was after the film, students shared their own experience with name calling and how they coped. They talked about “how they will support others going through similar experiences and help create a safe/kind community.”

For the rest of January, you can still take advantage of the No Name Calling Week 50% discount on all educational purchases of the full quality DVDs and curriculum guides, or educational streaming licenses of these films. Just use discount code NNCW17 when you place your order.

We know these resources are especially valuable as schools work to counteract the messages of bias and division that the presidential race and aftermath has brought.

RAFP films

The Respect For All Project includes five highly acclaimed documentaries, each crafted for targeted age groups:

All the films have accompanying curriculum guides. The films are available close captioned in English and with Spanish subtitles.

The 50% discount in honor of No Name Calling Week ends on Tuesday, January 31 so order your DVDs or streaming licenses today!

Purchase a Film with the No Name Calling Week Discount

Once you select the films you want to purchase, you will be sent to our distributor, New Day Films, and upon checkout you enter the discount code NNCW17 to receive 50% off! You also can enter a purchase order number during check out.

Free Streaming for No Name Calling Week 2017



By | blog, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Latest News, Let's Get Real, LGBT, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

As you have probably heard, students across the country have been experiencing increased levels of bias-based bullying connected to the tenor of the presidential race and its aftermath. That’s why this year’s No Name Calling Week is more important than ever.

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GroundSpark is proud to partner with GLSEN for No Name Calling Week 2017. To help create safe schools free of name-calling, bullying and bias, we’re offering free streaming of all of our Respect for All Project films during the month of January!

Sign Up for Free Streaming

Our free streams allow educators and youth group leaders to preview five highly acclaimed documentaries, each crafted for targeted age groups:

All titles are excellent discussion starters for college students and professional development as well.

Whether you’re an educator, student, or another kind of school leader, these films are excellent resources for organizing transformative events in your community during No Name-Calling Week.

“GLSEN and GroundSpark are long-time partners in promoting respect for all in our schools. GLSEN connects teachers and students with the tools they need to make a difference, and when used leading up to and during No Name-Calling Week, these powerful films can help foster respectful dialogue around issues of bias and bullying.”
                            –Eliza Byard, Executive Director, GLSEN

Help us spread the word about this amazing opportunity! Share the news on Facebook and Twitter or pass this email along to a friend who works with youth.

Start Streaming GroundSpark’s Award-Winning Documentaries Today



By | blog, Choosing Children, Deadly Deception, Homes and Hands, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Let's Get Real, One Wedding and A Revolution, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

If you are affiliated with a college or university, you may now have a way to access all of GroundSpark films and share them with your students, colleagues and staff on campus. Hundreds of colleges and universities are subscribed to Kanopy, a streaming service for institutions of higher education. If your academic institution is subscribed, you can get instant access to our films at no extra cost to you or your students. Explore all the GroundSpark films:

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Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up

A69C0585.JPG Phyllis Lyon, left, and Del Martin, who have been together for 51 years, embrace after their marriage at city Hall.

One Wedding and…a Revolution

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It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School

5kanopy

It’s Still Elementary

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Let’s Get Real

That’s a Family!

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Choosing Children

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Homes and Hands: Community Land Trusts in Action

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Deadly Deception—General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment

Learn more about each of these films here and please contact us if you have any questions about how Kanopy streaming works for these titles!

Victory! It’s Now Elementary in California



By | blog, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Latest News, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project
We did it! After years of advocating that our schools adopt LGBT-inclusive curricula, I am thrilled to share news of a great victory that just happened in California.

GroundSpark, through our Respect for All Project, is part of a coalition that has persuaded the California State Board of Education to adopt a new history and social science framework that is inclusive of LGBT people. The FAIR Education Act went into effect in 2012, but many teachers and schools have been waiting to comply until they received guidance from the California Department of Education.

The new History­ Social Science Framework provides the guidance educators have been waiting for and ensures that important contributions by LGBT Americans are no longer excluded from history education. The framework includes LGBT content such as key historical figures and essential moments in the struggle for equality for multiple grade levels throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Lessons about people with disabilities will also now be included in the frameworks as well.

GroundSpark has been calling for LGBT-inclusive curricula since the 1996 release of our landmark documentary, It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School. Twenty years later, this is a critical step forward. Now teachers in at least one state will have the official support to teach LGBT history. And we know, as California goes, so goes the nation—eventually!

It’s Elementary is still the go-to resource to inspire educators to address anti-LGBT prejudice with their students. Our pioneering documentary shows that children are eager and able to wrestle with stereotypes and absorb new facts, helping them develop compassion and a foundation for respecting differences of all kinds. Now, thanks to the CA Board of Education, students in California will have the opportunity to do just that.

Watch the It’s Elementary Trailer
Order a DVD and Curriculum Guide for Educational Use
Order a DVD for Personal Use
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Free Streaming for No Name-Calling Week



By | blog, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Let's Get Real, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.08.40 AM

For the last ten years, Groundspark has proudly partnered with the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) for No Name-Calling Week, a week dedicated to celebrating kindness and working to create safe schools free of name-calling, bullying and bias. In recognition of this powerful decade-long commitment, we’re offering FREE STREAMING of all of our Respect for All Project films during the entire month of January!

Click here to sign-up. 

Our free streams allow you to preview award-winning films challenging limiting social norms and prejudice, like Straightlaced, Let’s Get RealIt’s ElementaryIt’s Still Elementary and That’s a Family!  We’re also offering a 25% discount on the full-quality DVD or educational stream licenses of these films throughout the month (Use discount code NNCW15 when you place your order).

Whether you’re an educator, student, or any other kind of school leader, these films offer an excellent resource for organizing transformative events in your community during No Name-Calling Week, January 19th to the 23rd, and beyond.

“GLSEN and GroundSpark are long-time partners in promoting respect for all in our schools. This year, we are excited to announce an expanded partnership for GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, giving educators and students free streaming access to all of GroundSpark’s Respect for All Films for the month of January. GLSEN connects teachers and students with the tools they need to make a difference, and when used leading up to and during No Name-Calling Week, these powerful films can help foster respectful dialogue around issues of bias and bullying.”
                                                          –Eliza Byard, Executive Director, GLSEN

Help us spread the word about this amazing opportunity! Share the news on Facebook and Twitter.

Together we can expand this inspiring tradition and continue to work towards ending name-calling and bullying in our schools!

Groundspark Launches First Ever Respect for All Institute; Educators Applaud Hands-On Workshop



By | It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Let's Get Real, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

rfap-training-smOne by one, rocks with words like courage, humor and perseverance began to pile up. The participants of the first-ever Respect for All Institute introduced themselves, and brought these stones, on which they had written their strengths, to a common table. This activity, “We Rock,” was just the first of many that would build attendees’ skills, capacity and leadership to address bias, deal with bullying dynamics, support diverse students and families, and thereby help all students succeed.

Just like the Institute brought together a group of dedicated participants – teachers-in-training, seasoned educators and administrators, school counselors, curriculum planners and social workers – and their many assets, for the first time Groundspark brings together all of the nationally celebrated films in the Respect for All series in a two day intensive institute.

While we have offered workshops and professional development about important issues such as family diversity, prejudice, bias and bullying, and the pressures young people face around issues of gender and sexual orientation, since 1992, this new Respect for All Institute brings together all of these subjects in a comprehensive training for educators and other adults working with youth.

“This program allows me to be a change agent in my communities, both professionally and personally,” praised one of 35 educators and school staff, who attended this pilot program hosted at the University of Connecticut and in partnership with the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER).

“Groundspark’s films and guide books provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss challenging topics. I also appreciate the hands-on approach to work with and respond to the diverse constituencies in my school,” she continued.

Groundspark’s approach to creating safe and inclusive schools is about modeling safety and inclusiveness and cultivating a positive, energizing, and hopeful tone in all of our efforts. “I enjoyed the different activities that allowed us to meet other people, role-play and simply be in a vulnerable room where we could all share and relate to our experiences,” offered another participant.

In this environment, participants found that they could more easily explore how identity-based bias manifests and is perpetuated in many areas of school life, laying the foundation for bullying, harassment and violence of all kinds. “I am taking away realizations that bias is all around whether regarding race, culture, family structure or gender,” another educator reflected at the end our work together, “I have to be a leader and teach my faculty about addressing these biases.”

After viewing That’s A Family, participants were invited to draw what a family meant to them. As each shared their drawings, some with laughter and others with tears, the group realized how the definition of family could be a broad one. Raised by a single mom and growing up on her own, one educator realized how her own academic achievement was connected to her family experience and how recognizing the strengths and needs of all families would impact her own students. A light bulb went off as another participant pointed out that even the name; “Parent-Teacher Conference” was not welcoming to the constellations of family members that support some of her students.

Later in the workshop, participants practiced applying the principles of inclusion and safety ideas to students dealing with issues of race and sexual orientation from Let’s Get Real, by brainstorming strategies and solutions they could implement at an institutional level to support similar students at their own schools.

At the end of two full days, educators and administrators devised actionable individual and community plans to take back to their own schools. We hope that leaving the institute with a concrete road map – complete with due dates, strategies for working with colleagues for mutual support and follow-up steps – will springboard inspiration and new learning into powerful action.

One teacher said, “While my school climate is far from perfect, I feel confident that we have an abundance of resources, especially people to make it an inclusive community. I am encouraged by the words and ideas of my colleagues and others who do the work I do. I feel more people share my values than I thought.”

Leaving our first Respect for All Project Institute, participants were excited and empowered to make their schools a place where students and teachers have respect for all. I shared in their excitement and can’t wait to bring this new, comprehensive model to more educators across the country in 2014! We will be hosting a Respect for All Institute in the Bay Area in the Fall of 2014 – let us know if you would like to participate!

 

Beyond Tortellini – Igniting Change With Film in Italy



By | blog, Choosing Children, It's STILL Elementary, LGBT, One Wedding and A Revolution, Screenings


When I received an invitation to “Some Prefer Cake” the lesbian film festival in Bologna, Italy, of course I said “Si si si!” Tagliatelle, tortellini en brodo, miles of archway-covered streets and a sea of Italian lesbians. I cleared my calendar immediately.

I’m happy to report that I was able to enjoy all those delights last week. But the most important thing that happened on this trip is that, once again, I saw GroundSpark’s mission come alive. We “create visionary films and dynamic educational campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world.” This time, the “world” was Italy.

The festival had programmed a selective retrospective of the films I have directed. Watching them again through Italian lesbian eyes provided a remarkable opportunity to take in how much social change these films have helped create and how much more work there is to be done all over the world.

When the lights went up after Choosing Children, the documentary Kim Klausner and I made 28 years ago, the audience was pensive and somewhat stunned. They couldn’t believe the courage of the women in the film who had found ways to have children as out lesbians. I learned that lesbians are not yet opting to become parents in Italy. “We don’t even talk about it,” one woman explained. “It’s just impossible with the way that the Catholic Church controls everything.” “I know one couple that wanted to have children,” another offered. “But they had to move to Spain. You can’t do it here.”

In the discussion of this film and then later of It’s STILL Elementary (made with Johnny Symons), I had an opportunity to share GroundSpark’s perspective on the importance of fighting the taboo and stigma the LGBT community historically has faced when it comes to anything connected to children.

We will never have full civil rights—in the United States, or anywhere in the world—as long as a perception remains that LGBT people should be kept away from children. That belief is the basis for so much of the animosity, and the rationalization for why our relationships are less important, less deserving of full legal rights, than heterosexual ones are.

When the festivalgoers watched One Wedding and a Revolution (made with Kate Stilley Steiner) they were equally transfixed. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s courage in deciding to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples was unbelievable to them. “And he’s Catholic!” one woman exclaimed.

At the end of the last screening, a woman stood up and said, “Thank you so much for coming here to be with us. You have shown us that we must stop just talking to ourselves. We must have the courage to interact with the rest of the society and talk about children and marriage, that those are key to a new future.”

Marta, one of the festival producers, was effusive. “You got them talking to each other, about things we never discuss. I see these same women at many events, but we never have a conversation like that.”

She started waving goodbye as women began heading back home, not just to their apartments in Bologna, but back to Sardinia, Milan, and other regions of the country. I could see the ripple effects of the screenings go with them into the night.

I went outside and met with a journalist who was covering my visit. “So, you are an activist, not just a filmmaker?” I smiled, thinking of everyone back home who has made this work possible and whom I know stands with me. “Si – that’s right.”

 

Honoring a Trailblazer, Honoring our History



By | blog, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Latest News

Kim Westheimer, Director of Welcoming Schools at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, guest blogs for GroundSpark following an event last week hosted by HRC and the St. Louis Chapters of the Anti-Defamation League and the National Conference on Community and Justice. The event took place at the Missouri History Museum:

Too often, we get so busy doing our work that we forget to acknowledge the trailblazers who helped lead the way. I was   reminded of this at a May 10th event at the Missouri History museum. Two films were featured: the new Welcoming Schools Film, What Do You Know? Six to Twelve Year-Olds Talk About Gays and Lesbians and the film It’s STILL Elementary, which chronicles the making and impact of the film, It’s Elementary.

It’s Elementary was a trailblazer. When the film came out in 1998, I was working for the Massachusetts Department of Education. A colleague of mine got a preview copy of the film to use for a national conference she organized for representatives from other Departments of Education. The audience at this conference was stunned by the power of It’s Elementary. We all knew this was something special and that it would be a crucial tool for years to come. The longevity of It’s Elementary’s impact is documented in the film It’s STILL Elementary.

One powerful aspect of the newer film is the clips of children who were featured in the original film paired with interviews of them 10 years later. In one segment, a child has a jaw-dropping moment when she learns that Elton John – familiar to her as the composer of Lion King music – is gay. Ten years later, and a student at Drury University in Springfield, MO, she can’t believe how stunned she was, but she remembers how much she gained from these lessons about inclusion and respect.

It's Elementary

So in St. Louis at the Missouri History Museum, just a few hours away from Springfield, MO, I wondered how many other students all across the country had their perspectives broadened by educators inspired by the work of filmmakers Debra Chasnoff and Helen Cohen. How many of them went on, like other students featured in the film, to start GSAs, to become youth workers committed to standing up for LGBT students, or to come out, knowing that they were not alone?  Wherever they are, they are tied to a movement of social change, a movement that can take inspiration in the words of Cezar Chavez:

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”


Wisps of Change in Idaho



By | It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Screenings, Straightlaced

As the organizers were closing up the main meeting room Friday night at the Northwest LGBTQ Youth Conference for Hope, in Meridian, Idaho, one of them approached me and whispered, “there’s a young woman in the audience who is in tears and she’s asked to speak with you.”

I looked up and saw her. Cute with spiky blond hair, her eyes red from crying. I had noticed her earlier, burrowed into the arms of a tall transgendered woman who was slated to speak on a panel the following day.

The room cleared out and Kyle (not her real name) finally stopped sobbing. She told me she was going into eighth grade next fall and that she just didn’t know what to do. “I’ve lost so many friends, just because of the way I am.”

She had asked for me because I had just facilitated a discussion after screening our film It’s STILL Elementary as the kickoff for the conference.  It tells the story of why Helen Cohen and I made It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School back in 1996, what happened to many of the students in that original film, and how we had coped with vicious attacks from conservative right wing organizations that had tried to stop the film from airing on public television. (The only other time I have been to Idaho is when I came in 2006 to interview the staff at Idaho public TV about how they handled the pressures around the broadcast.)

The group had stayed afterwards for almost two hours after the credits rolled. It’s STILL Elementary opened up a floodgate of topics they wanted to discuss: Idaho politics (because some of the most heated battles were right here in their state), coming out, organizing Gay-Straight Alliances in schools, reading books with two moms, gratitude for supportive parents, and a wide array of teens’ experiences in Idaho’s high schools today.

“It’s a Christian school,” Kyle explained. “I just wish there was something at my school that was like you showed in the movie.” At her school, there is no GSA, no curriculum that fosters awareness of and respect for LGBT people, and not a single teacher at the school who she could imagine going to with her pain and loneliness. She said she knows there are many kids in the school who are LGBT or Q, but there is nothing to connect or support them.

“My mom is great though,” she said. “She’s here with me.” We agreed that maybe her mom could speak with other parents at the school and see if they could get something to happen.

The next day we screened Straightlaced, and when the audience questions were just about over, a middle-aged man took the microphone and haltingly told us that the part of the film that affected him the most was one of the last interview clips, when a student looks into the camera and reveals that he could lose his Eagle Scout status with the Boy Scouts because of coming out on camera in the film.

“My son was on track to get his Eagle Scout,” he said in almost a whisper, “but he wouldn’t do it because he was afraid they would do something to him. Why? Why would they do anything to my son?” No one in the room made a sound.

“He has all the leadership qualities they want Eagle Scouts to have.” It was clear that his heart had been broken to see his talented son back down from his goals because of the Boy Scouts’ homophobia.

I later learned that this father, who is Mormon, had attended the conference at his son’s request. “It’s amazing that he’s here,” the organizers told me.

When I meet people—like this father, like Kyle and her mom, and like Emilie Jackson-Edney, who proudly shared her experiences changing gender in the workshop after mine—in places as conservative as Meridian Idaho, I feel the arc of change bending. These are all good Christian people, who are struggling with their churches, their schools, and their community groups to ensure that all children are safe and loved.

“Do you think if you made It’s Elementary today that you would face as much opposition as you did in the early ‘90’s?” one person asked. I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.

We’re inching forward, but there is no going back.

Marriage Equality in New York? It’s Elementary!



By | It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary

Sixteen years ago, producer Helen Cohen and I were at PS 87 in New York City filming a fifth grade class during a civics lesson. “Today the law says that if you’re the same sex —two men or two women— you can’t get married, it is against the law,” their teacher explained. And then he set up a class assignment for students to debate whether or not the law should change.

When the news broke last Friday that New York had changed its discriminatory marriage laws, I immediately thought of this incredible scene in It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School, the film Helen and I ended up making with the footage we shot that day.

These children had the opportunity, in elementary school, to think critically—with their teacher’s support—about whether or not it was fair for same sex couples to be denied equal legal rights. Today these same students are 25 and 26 years old! And they are part of the electorate that voted in the current representatives in the New York state legislature.

We couldn’t possibly have imagined when we completed It’s Elementary that it would continue to be so relevant and utilized 16 years later. But every week new copies of the film go out to school districts across the country.

Sometimes it’s because states have enacted new anti-bullying legislation and school districts need ways to help their teachers and staff members understand why it’s so important to be pro-active in addressing bias. Sometimes it’s because there has been some horrible hate crime or suicide and the district wants to do everything it can to prevent another tragedy.

And sometimes, it’s just because the cultural tide is turning and staff need support on how to grapple with their students’ questions about why the government treats LGBT people differently than everyone else.

Educators watch the film, or our companion documentary, It’s STILL Elementary. They use the highly regarded curriculum guide for these films that offers support on how and why to address LGBT issues in school settings. Inevitably these screenings and trainings build teachers’ understanding and confidence, preparing them to lead age-appropriate lessons for their students that are inclusive and welcoming to LGBT people and families.

Even more importantly, they support educational pedagogy which prioritizes critical thinking skills, respect, and compassion.

I hope we don’t have to wait for all of today’s elementary school children to grow up and become voters before we truly have full legal equality throughout the United States.

But for today, we’re celebrating the fact that if we were to film that same scene again right now in New York, the lesson would be different: today, in New York, two people of the same sex do have the right to marry!