As we’ve seen in recent protests about racial inequality and movements for increased diversity, youth are most often the voices of change and collective action that inspire us to demand justice, transform systems, and improve behaviors. By encouraging students to use their passion for positive change through a historical perspective, the program sets up a better future informed by, but not forgetful of, the past.
Teaching with Testimony is an educational program specifically designed to bring voices of the past to students today with the intention of evoking resilience and empathy in building healthier communities. The belief is simple: one person and one story makes a difference. As USC Shoah Foundation founder Steven Spielberg has said, “we show the power of random acts of kindness because the best way to teach empathy is by using the power of example.”
Utilizing USC Shoah Foundation’s vast library of historical audiovisual interviews with survivors and witnesses of genocide, Teaching with Testimony empowers students to find their voices and act for a better future. The program invites educators, students, parents, and communities to develop a sense of shared global citizenship and inspire action to make the world a better place.
The voices from the past, paired with virtual curriculum and powerful digital experiences give educators and students important resources to recognize and counter antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of hatred. Through testimony-based education, both partners aim to empower students to confront injustice by using skills they learned from survivors’ tales.
Teaching with Testimony emerges from thoughtful integration and collaboration between USC Shoah Foundation and Discovery Education. Both organizations leveraged diverse and dynamic internal departments to create the content, including instructional design, marketing and communications, design, research, and corporate social responsibility thought leaders. Through user experience testing, reflection upon USC Shoah Foundation’s existing collection of resources, and particular attention to society’s needs, Teaching with Testimony exemplifies the power understanding the importance of teaching the whole person.
Students can create their own community action project as part of the ‘Stronger Than Hate Challenge’ to activate change in their own schools and neighborhoods. The Stronger Than Hate Challenge invites students ages 13-18 to create a video, write a poem, song, or blog, or produce a painting or piece of artwork that demonstrates the chosen medium’s potential to create a community that is stronger than hate. By addressing injustice in their own backyard, students gain localized perspective of injustice as it applies to themselves and their peers. Winning entries are eligible to win up to $10,000 in prizing.
A virtual field trip (VFT) component utilizes video storytelling to immerse students in historical and contemporary conflicts, such as the Holocaust and Rwandan Genocide. This visceral element invites students to develop an empathetic connection to survivors through the presentation of challenging and historically accurate human experiences. The VFT, “Our Stories are Stronger Than Hate,” utilizes a student narrator to examine historical testimony with first-hand accounts from leaders such as:
• Steven Spielberg: Founder of USC Shoah Foundation and one of the most prominent storytellers of our time
• Eva Schloss: Holocaust survivor, speaker, author as well as friend and posthumous stepsister of diarist Anne Frank
• Samantha Grady: College student, musician, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor
• David Kassan: Acclaimed realist painter whose artwork captures humanity and portrays the stories of Holocaust
By harnessing powerful testimonies in multimedia formats, students are able to learn about genocide from witnesses and survivors themselves. These voices are global and vary by experience and history, allowing students to broaden their lenses of international hardship and resilience. The voices from the past, paired with virtual curriculum and powerful digital experiences give educators and students important resources to recognize and counter antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of hatred. The vast library provided by USC Shoah Foundation includes more than 50 firsthand interviews with survivors: teachingwithtestimony.com/testimony.
The program invites educators, students, parents, and communities to develop a sense of shared global citizenship and inspires action to make the world a better place.
Since its launch, Teaching with Testimony has reached over 3.5 million students. The program has steadily grown in popularity and continues to recruit educators and students to become new community advocates.
Specifically, the ‘Our Stories are Stronger than Hate” virtual field trip reached over 94,000 students across 2,030 classrooms. The companion curriculum was downloaded 765 times. On social media, the virtual field trip garnered more than 86,400 owned impressions, 565 owned engagements, and 180 hashtag mentions using #StrongerThanHateVFT on 11/5/19. Press outreach resulted in VFT coverage in approximately 180 education trade outlets, garnering +50M press impressions.
Additionally, the 2020 U.S. Stronger Than Hate Challenge closed on June 2, 2020. At challenge close, there were nearly 22K students reached through the challenge and over 250 completed submissions. The program saw a +160% increase in challenge entries from 2019 to 2020.
The content remains ever accessible through teachingwithtestimony.com and through the Discovery Education Experience “Dissent, Equity, and Inspiring Change” channel focused on how one single voice can change a nation and the world for the better.
Discovery Education has been working to build community resilience through this partnership with USC Shoah Foundation. In light of recent events, this program has proved more valuable than ever as educators immediately had a source to turn to when discussing systemic racism with students.
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