When schools closed in mid-March, the team behind the Illumine Media Project began to think about how they could nurture meaningful conversations among adolescent-aged youth. They quickly began to organize online screenings of episodes in their series, “How We Grow,” followed by facilitated discussion about the themes of the episodes.
“How We Grow” is an eight-episode dramatic series that follows three high school-aged friends who grapple with the challenge of contributing to the well-being of their community. It was produced by the Illumine Media Project in a collaborative, community-based process that engages young people in creating narratives and media reflective of their social reality and spiritual aspirations. The project is inspired by the teachings and principles of the Baha’i Faith.
“We were feeling like the stories and ideas that come up in these episodes could give way to meaningful conversations around the role we can play in our communities in times of hardship, as well as the condition of our world as it is being revealed to us in these unprecedented circumstances,” said Maya Wong, one of the project facilitators.
A series of screenings quickly began with young people engaged in the junior youth spiritual empowerment program and their friends. The online format allowed participation to expand to include new youth from cities across North America.
Another series of screenings engaged public school students in Toronto. The Illumine Media Project has been facilitating conversations about its films in public schools for several years, often with students in grade seven or eight.
“Through the experience of screening these films in schools and communities, we have realized that there is something in these ideas about who we are as people, what our nature is, what our capacity is as members of a community, that speaks to young people, and that they respond to,” reflected Ms. Wong. “They have so much insight to offer as they respond to the ideas in the episodes.”
When schools closed, the classes they were visiting had only advanced through about half of the series. The Illumine Media team responded by offering teachers the opportunity to continue the screenings and discussion over remote learning technology.
Throughout the series, the group of friends grows closer as they help each other to work to achieve their goals. This recurring theme of cooperation and friendship resonated with students during a time of difficulty. A public school teacher reflected after watching one of the episodes: “I think when something bad happens, you want to hold the people close to you closer than usual.”
Ms. Wong continued, “The examples the young people share from their own lives in the discussion space in response to the episodes demonstrate a reflectiveness and thoughtfulness, a kindness and compassion that have been giving me great faith in our capacity as human beings to enact our inherent nobility and work together for the betterment of our world.”
Videos produced by the Illumine Media Project can be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/illuminemedia