Granby Teachers Explore WGBY Educator Resources

Granby photo

Just one week ago, teachers from the Granby MA. Public Schools participated in WGBY workshops at the junior/senior high during their professional development day.  JoanVohl Hamilton, a dedicated ELA teacher there, was a great help in making these workshops happen.  (Here’s a photo of one group with Joan first in the top row and myself front row, fourth from left:).  These K-12 teachers came into the junior/senior computer lab enthusiastic to learn about the rich resources that WGBY’s Community Engagement and Education Department has to offer.  During our two afternoon sessions, they were able to sign up to receive WGBY’s Education Blog and learn about PBS TeacherLine online courses and WGBY’s Lending Library.  One teacher regretted that she had just asked her school librarian to purchase a Ken Burn’s film she could have borrowed for free, and another began checking off TeacherLine courses she can take to support her students’ needs and fulfill her PDP certification requirements.

But the highlight of each workshop was PBS LearningMedia with its now 34,000 — and growing — resources.  After seeing the site’s user-friendly functionality and registering for free, teachers were able to search resources by grade level, content area, standards, and collections.  Some teachers even began saving favorite videos, interactives, and lesson plans to later examine, share, and organize in folders.  While some had to contend with a few tech glitches such as slow computers and blocked sound, teachers’ feedback showed their appreciation for this hands-on opportunity, with many wishing we’d had more time to explore this vast resource!

American Experience: JFK

WBJFKEtched in my memory is the ubiquitous footage of President Kennedy being shot and, later,  his solemn, stately funeral.  To understand the depth of disbelief and sadness from such a tragic time in American history, younger followers of our blog can relate to watching the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers.

Forever enshrined in myth by an assassin’s bullet, John F. Kennedy’s presidency has often defied objective appraisal.  On Monday, November 11, and Tuesday, November 12, WGBY airs this new portrait with a fresh assessment of the man, his accomplishments and his unfulfilled promise.  Beginning with Kennedy’s childhood as the privileged but sickly second son of one of the wealthiest men in America, the film goes on to explore his early political career, his successful run for the U.S. Senate, and the game-changing presidential campaign that made him the youngest elected president in U.S. history.  Watch a preview.

To help bring presidential history alive in the classroom, American Experience offers films from The Presidents collection and additional special features.  At PBS LearningMedia you’ll find JFK video and teaching tips for Kennedy’s Flexible Response to Communism as well as film and support materials for Cuban Missile Crisis:  Three Men Go to War:  Kennedy’s Speech.

The Raisin [In the Sun] Cycle: Strength, Dignity, Humanity

raisin-photo-2.jpg__640x360_q85Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking 1959 drama, A Raisin in the Sun depicts the strength and humanity of an African-American family striving for a piece of the American dream by buying a house in a white working-class Chicago neighborhood. More than 50 years later, playwright Bruce Norris created Clybourne Park, a sardonic Pulitzer Prize-winning prequel and sequel that revisits the questions of race, real estate and gentrification in America.

Inspired by Hansberry’s original and Norris’ follow-up, Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of Baltimore’s Center Stage, penned a third play, Beneatha’s Place that follows two Raisin characters to Nigeria and its post-colonial struggles.  On Friday, October 25, at 9pm, WGBY airs a performance documentary that captures the history and legacy of Raisin and the backstage challenges of mounting two issue-driven plays simultaneously. To hear renowned playwright Kwame Kwei Armah reflect on his work, Beneatha’s Place, or to view images from Raisin Revisited, click here.

For other resources related to this powerful trilogy, you can go to PBS LearningMedia where you’ll find hundreds of resources on the struggles and successes of African Americans and other minorities in our country.  Here are just a few:

Aardvark Town:  (Grades 1-3) Join the Kratts Brothers Chris and Martin as they explore the digging expert of the African savannah, the aardvark. Viewers learn about aardvarks’ power to dig boroughs and break into termite mounds, the slurping power of their tongues, and the key role they play in nature

African/African-American Culture:  Anansi’s Rescue from the River:  (Grades 1-8) In this video, storyteller Nana Yaa Asantewaa performs this story from the Anansi tales, which are told by the Ashanti people of Ghana, West Africa, and have been passed down through the generations by oral tradition.

Malcolm X:  Regarding Whiteness (Grades 6-8) In this interview, taken from archival news footage, civil rights leader Malcolm X describes the impact of his 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca on his racial views.

Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympic Games:  (Grades 6-13+) This video from American Experience tells the story of Jesse Owens, whose four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics infuriated the Nazis and inspired African Americans struggling with racism at home in the United States.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month With WGBY At Presencia!

Presencia_Spotlight-v2Celebrate Hispanic Heritage month by joining WGBY and our many community partners this Friday, October 25, for Presencia, an evening of music, culture, food, and dance to benefit the Latino Youth Media Institute and North End Center for Literacy and Learning (NECLL) at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (directions).  We’ve been practicing our salsa and would love to teach you, or perhaps you can teach us a few new steps!

And thanks to PBS LearningMedia,  we have more resources to add to those we shared in an earlier post this month:

The Red Balloon | Oh Noah! | K-2:  Learn and practice Spanish, including vocabulary for colors and vehicles with the Oh Noah! “The Red Balloon” webisode, related games, and lesson plan.

We are the Music | Sante Fe Symphony | 3-4   :Explore the music and dance sequences of 11 cultural groups who have settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico over the past 700 years.

Hispanic Exploration | Library of Congress | 4-12:  This set of primary resources from the Library of Congress provides a window into this time period, as well as a Teacher’s Guide with historical context and teaching suggestions.

Baseball & Social Change | WGBH | 5-8:  In this blended lesson supporting literacy skills, students learn about baseball legend Roberto Clemente, his early years in the U. S.  during segregation and changes in the 1960s that made the culture more open to Clemente’s Latino culture.

Revolutionary Art | LPB | 9-12:  In this lesson accompanied by a film clip from the documentary ‘The Storm that Swept Mexico’, students examine the use of art as historical narrative and social commentary, and create a mural inspired by the Mexican Muralist movement.


American Graduate Week: Documentaries and More

FRONTLINE "Dropout Nation"High School dropout rates have increased at an alarming rate with the U. S. still losing about one of five young people to the crisis each year.   For American Graduate Week — September 23 through October 1 — the WORLD channel presents a collection of education-themed documentaries drawing attention to the challenges that face students and teachers.

America ReFramed’s “The Medicine Game” on Wednesday, September 24 at 8pm and “The New Public,” on October 1 at 8pm are inspired by the American Graduation initiative and also focus on reform and special education.  (You can search WGBY’s complete schedule for rebroadcasts.)

The program America ReFramed tells the many stories of a transforming American culture and its broad diversity through the lens of 26 independent films.  In weekly 60 or 90 minute independent films, the series takes an unfiltered look at relevant domestic topics (healthcare, immigration, the workplace, and politics) with personal storytelling tied to programming social themes.   To find out more about American Graduate Week or the WORLD channel, log on to

At PBS NewsHour/American Graduate you’ll also be able to select from a range of videos, reports, articles and blog posts focused on the drop-out problem and what’s being done to address it.

Bark About Books! Summer Reading

martha_speaksOn June 17, the last day of school for Springfield Public Schools, WGBY held its last Bark About Books kick offs in 7 Springfield schools.  All graduating kindergarteners in these schools – over 575 of them — received a Martha Speaks bag & book. Almost 400 hundred families are enrolled in the summer reading program, designed to help stem the “summer slide” when children can lose important skills they and their teachers work hard to acquire during the school year.

Bark About Books kick offs have been a wonderful time to talk and read with these beautiful, enthusiastic children and to impress upon families the importance of reading and talking together throughout the summer.  The children express their love of PBS Kids programs such as Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog, and when they see the Martha plush, they call out her name and often say “I love Martha.”  Such beloved characters can be strong motivation for learning!

Students enrolled in the program are mailed 5 books over the summer as a way to encourage family reading.  Thanks to WGBY’s partnership with WGBH in Boston, who receives funding from the Krueger Foundation, Bark About Books has served nearly 1000 Springfield kindergarteners over the past 3 years.

We’d appreciate hearing from you about the “summer slide” and school calendars that interrupt student learning for over two months each summer.

Empowering Children: Independent Lens’ The Revolutionary Optimists

fbOn Monday, June 17, at 10pm WGBY airs the documentary The Revolutionary Optimists about some of the poorest slums of Kolkata.  Amlan Ganguly, a lawyer-turned social entrepreneur, sows hope in the poorest neighborhoods of Calcutta by empowering children to become leaders in improving health and transforming their communities.

Inspired by The Revolutionary Optimists, which profiles “The Daredevils” in one of Kolkata’s most notorious squatters’ colonies, Map Your World is a multi-platform project in development that puts the power of new technologies into the hands of young change agents, enabling them to map, track, and improve the health of their own communities and share their stories.

When you search subjects like  “children in poverty” on PBS LearningMedia, you’ll find hundreds of resources.  Here are just a few:

Protect Your Health and Environment  (Grades 3 – 4) In this media-rich self-paced lesson, students explore health hazards in their environment and learn how to make their environment safer.

Poverty (Grades: 6-12) shows children in unclean conditions and asks students to write a description of what they think life is like for these children.

Teens Fight for Toxic Waste Cleanup (Grades 9-12) Meet a student who successfully lobbied her state legislature about waste sites in her neighborhood in this video adapted from Earth Island Institute’s New Leaders Initiative.

Real-World Political and Environmental Drama From Independent Lens

indexOn Monday, April 22, at 10:00pm Independent Lens:  The Island President airs on WGBY.  Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, confronts a problem greater than any world leader has ever faced — the literal survival of his country and everyone in it due to global warming.  As one of the most low-lying countries in the world, a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge the 1200 islands of the Maldives to make them uninhabitable.

The Island President captures Nasheed’s first year of office, culminating in his trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009 when he makes a stirring speech that salvages agreement on a written accord.  Then in February 2012, military and police oust him as leader.  After his efforts to lead protests and campaign for an upcoming election, a Maldives court bans him from travel abroad and he is later imprisoned.  Watch a preview.

In addition to exposing students to this real-world political and environmental drama, you’ll find pages of resources on global warming and political dissent at PBS LearningMedia, where you can search by content, grade level, standards and more.

Native Americans: Rural Poverty & Cultural Heritage

There’s still time to watch the second of a two-part series, Kind Hearted Woman on WGBY tonight, April 2, at 9:00pm.  This unforgettable portrait follows Robin Charboneau, a 32-year-old divorced single mother and Oglala Sioux woman living on North Dakota’s Spirit Lake Reservation.

Here are other classroom resources on Native Americans from  PBS LearningMedia:

Miss Navajo  (Grades 6-12) This video segment from Independent Lens documents a young woman’s experiences as she competes in the Miss Navajo Nation beauty pageant.  Instead of concentrating on a young woman’s outer beauty, the pageant’s focus is on her knowledge and understanding of Navajo culture and her ability to spread this culture as an ambassador of the Navajo Nation.

La’ona DeWilde:  Environmental Biologist (Grades 5-12) This video profiles an Athabascan and doctoral student who chose her career because of her traditional belief in respecting animals and caring for the environment. Her work involves helping local villagers record observations that can be used collaboratively with Western science to help solve problems that affect Alaska Native peoples.

Native American Culture: Little Deer and Mother Earth Marilou Awiakta, of Cherokee/Appalachian heritage, tells a traditional Cherokee story in which humans are killing too many of their animal relatives, threatening the delicate balance of nature. Little Deer leads the animals in taking action, teaching the lesson that people should take “only what you need with respect and gratitude.”  Support materials include Native American Culture: Cherokee People and Their Stories Lesson Plan (Grades 3-4).

It’s Not Too Late to Register for the The World of Water!

WMA World of Water ed blog adIt’s not too late for you to register for The World of Water: a local education and professional development event sponsored by Wilbraham & Monson Academy.  At this event, teachers and professors will have opportunities to explore how to connect water topics to Massachusetts curriculum standards.  Guest speakers will include a keynote from Fabien Cousteau, Brain Lapis of WWLP-22, and Carl Hodges, Founder and Chairman of the Seawater Foundation.

To register for the half-day conference, visit the WMA website.