Through our acclaimed Robben Island Singers school program, Groundswell has pioneered a methodology for whole-school engagement that reaches across curricula. Our method of international exchange connects what students are learning in the classroom to the world around them. With help from Groundswell trainers, students exchange across cultures, learn to think critically and express themselves through visual arts, performing arts and media.
At a dozen Chicago neighborhood public high schools since 2007, students have interviewed and written about their inspiring guests for school newspapers. They make videos and podcasts. By comparing their own reports with the mainstream media coverage of these events at their own schools, students are able to recognize the differences in their own narratives, and those crafted by professional journalists for mainstream print and television audiences. This is a rare opportunity for youth to make local news that is meaningful.
The approach we use is arts-driven, inspiring students to recognize, develop and use their own natural strengths as communicators, whether using spoken word, music, visual art, or video and digital multimedia. Teachers tell us that the students who they see engaging in our programs are often the most disengaged in traditional classroom settings.
Our organization, Groundswell Educational Films, is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting cultural exchange and media making. Groundswell has pioneered a methodology of whole-school engagement that reaches across curricula, and connects what students are learning in the classroom to the world around them. Through Groundswell, students engage across cultures, learn to think critically, generate ideas and express themselves through visual and performing arts and media. Groundswell co-founders Jeff Spitz and Jennifer Amdur Spitz have been collaborating with Muntu Nxumalo, Thembinkosi Sithole and Grant Shezi, three former political prisoners from South Africa, since 2002 to create the Robben Island Singers programs in Chicago and South Africa. A feature-length documentary film about the Singer’s journey from a prison island with Nelson Mandela to inspirational triumph with American youth will be released in Spring, 2010.