Eagle Hill students explore World War II and media literacy

Eagle Hill Middle School students recently completed a cross-curricular project that entailed delving deep into the events and stories of World War II and then using their media literacy skills to produce a podcast or documentary.

Eighth-grade teachers Emily Baickle, English language arts (ELA), and Mary Kate Lonergan, social studies, teamed up for the project in which students practiced their research skills, learned how points of view and narratives affect peoples’ understanding of historical events and grappled with the idea of historical significance, and what lessons are learned from a historical event. The result was 59 individual projects highlighting significant people, activities and events, such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Navajo Code Talkers and medal of honor recipient, Sadao Munemori.

“Because storytelling and historical narrative are so similar, we felt the ELA and social studies classrooms were the perfect environment to complete this project,” Lonergan said. 

In May, students chose a fiction or non-fiction book about World War II to read. From that text, they then decided upon a World War II topic to explore using library resources, digital collections and articles. During their ELA and social studies classes, students worked independently or with a partner or small group on their research and then used WeVideo for their media creations. 

The project was inspired by Renee Hobbs, the founder and director of the Media Education Lab, and her “create to learn” practice that is intended to “pull back the curtain” of media production to empower students with media literacy skills as they engage in an inquiry project, Lonergan said. 

“Media is constructed and created for a particular purpose and for a specific audience. When creating media, students make choices about how to appeal to their audience, what stories and voices and points of view are emphasized or left out, and what story they want to tell,” she said. “Making those decisions helps them to recognize that media creation is a deliberative and intentional process. The hope is that this ‘pulling back the curtain’ becomes part of the foundation of their critical thinking—that is, asking good ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions—about the media they consume and create.” 

The project aligns with the district’s strategic plan, which highlights teaching and learning as one of its priority areas. A goal in that area is for teachers to offer learning opportunities that promote student engagement and allow for student voice and choice, such as this project did. 

“Young people, and adults, are constantly bombarded with media messages and, as we know, our information ecosystem is polluted with misinformation, sensationalized click-bait and provocations,” Lonergan said. “We believe that media literacy is literacy and being media literate is fundamental to literacy in the 21st century, but it’s also a civic imperative.”

Below are links to several of the videos students created.