On the Road with Social Studies Teachers

Coexist is a documentary and educational outreach project in use by more than 3,000 schools and community organizations in 50 states and more than a dozen countries. Our project includes a 40-minute film and a four-lesson Teacher's Guide, which can be used in the classroom and in support of positive school climate campaigns.

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Hundreds of New England’s social studies teachers gathered in Sturbridge, Massachusetts for a conference (NERC 43) on the role and future of social studies in early April. We were honored to have dozens of those teachers join us for a Special Screening of Coexist, which was moderated by David Bosso, Connecticut Teacher of the Year and Conference Co-Chair. Filmmaker Adam Mazo and I led a simulation to demonstrate how to teach the film, using activities from the Coexist Teacher’s Guide. Karen Cook of Norwich Free Academy in Connecticut sums up why so many educators find Coexist to be a powerful teaching tool by saying, “To see and hear people talk about their own experiences is especially humanizing and an important element in education.”

Teachers at NERC 43 were especially interested in new ways to teach genocide and colonial legacy. One teacher from Weston, Connecticut, Amanda Quaintance, referenced the connection between Alexander’s story in Coexist and the lives of her students. (Alexander is a bystander who participated in violence during the genocide by burning down the house of his neighbor.) “Alex gives us a great opportunity to talk about claiming mistakes whether it’s about a child running down the hall or something more serious.”

Teachers were also eager to explore how to make the connection between genocide and bullying. Former nun and author Barbara Coloroso says the common denominator between genocide and bullying is contempt. “When institutional and situational factors combine with a murderous racial, ethnic, or religious ideology rooted in contempt for a group of people, then bullying is taken to its extreme. The bullies are now well on their way to setting the stage for the dress rehearsals that precede a genocide.”[1]

We love when social studies teachers invite us to screen Coexist because they go deep into critical thinking and promotion of awareness of global issues, as well as social activism.

--Mishy Lesser, Upstander Director

I welcome your comments here or on our facebook page.  

[1] Coloroso, Extraordinary Evil A Short Walk to Genocide, 55-56, as quoted in Lesson 3 of the Coexist Teacher’s Guide.

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View Coexist in Schools around the world in a full screen map

How Coexist is working in Schools

Here's a link to one example of what happens in classrooms where we teach Coexist. That school now plans to broaden and deepen the conversation about violence prevention.

Read what people are saying about Coexist here.

Contact us at coexistdocumentary@gmail.com

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