Asking Big Questions with the 2017 Student Essay Contest

Posted by Laura Tavares on February 6, 2017

I came to the teaching profession with big ambitions. Like many readers of this blog, I imagine, I’ve always loved learning, and I enjoy the effervescent and unpredictable company of kids. As a first-generation college graduate, I know firsthand how education can transform an individual’s life. But I also entered the classroom with the conviction that schools have a communal and civic purpose, too—that they are the root and heart of democratic societies.

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Topics: Contests, Student Voices, Writing, Holocaust

To Free a Mockingbird

Posted by Sam Kiss on October 6, 2016

To celebrate LGBTQ History Month this October, we are honoring voices like Sam Kiss'. His essay was a finalist in the 2016 Facing History Together Student Essay Contest, which asked students to draw upon themes from Harper Lee's classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. He shared his personal story about what it was like to come out to his family as a transgender boy. 

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Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Student Voices, LGBTQ

StoryCorps’ Dave Isay: Show Gratitude by Listening

Posted by Aileen McQuillen on October 3, 2016

Imagine preserving the voices and stories of an entire generation over a single holiday weekend. For the second year in a row, Facing History and Ourselves is partnering with StoryCorps for The Great Thanksgiving Listen to accomplish just that. You can preserve history with us by uploading your own interview with an elder this year, and empowering your students to do the same, by using the free StoryCorps app. Visit thegreatlisten.org for more details about the project and to download the TGTL 2016 Teacher Toolkit.

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Topics: Student Voices, Memory, Identity, History, Community, David Isay, StoryCorps

How Samantha Power Inspired Me to be an Upstander

Posted by Yohara Molineros on September 23, 2016

There are more people displaced in the world today than at any time since the end of World War II. In May 2016, Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, shared this fact with dozens of New York City students, all immigrants, during a visit to Newcomers High School. By discussing the global refugee crisis with them, the ambassador hoped to inspire a sense of responsibility in students—to bridge the gap between us and them—and to empower them to take action. Hear how this visit inspired Yohara Molineros, one of those students. 

Teachers, make sure to check out Facing History's new lesson, Understanding the Global Refugee Crisis, which draws on readings and short videos from Ambassador Power's conversation. We provide essential materials, resources, and activities to explain and humanize a crisis that often feels too overwhelming to confront.

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Topics: Student Voices, Refugees, Refugee Crisis

Behind the Essay: A Q&A with Student Contest Winner Cicada Scott

Posted by Stacey Perlman on June 7, 2016

Cicada Scott, a senior from Manitou Springs, Colorado, received the $2,500 Benjamin B. Ferencz Upstander Award for the 2016 Facing History Together Student Essay Contest. To celebrate LGBT Pride Month in June, we go behind the scenes to learn more about what inspired Cicada to open up about being a non-binary gender teenager. Preferring pronouns like "them" and "they," Cicada describes non-binary as a "catchall category for people who are neither exclusively male or exclusively female."

After graduation, they plan to attend college at the University of Colorado, Boulder. They are looking into studying robotics but are still deciding the right major. 

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Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Contests, Student Voices, Writing, LGBTQ

Vote Today! Help Us Choose This Year's Student Contest Winners!

Posted by Aileen McQuillen on April 18, 2016

We couldn’t believe it ourselves: Over 4,000 students entered our 2016 Facing History Together Student Essay Contest!

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Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Contests, Student Voices

Q&A with Shireen Afzal: Her Advice for Students Entering the 2016 Student Essay Contest

Posted by Stacey Perlman on March 10, 2016

Shireen Afzal is a senior at the Woburn Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Canada. She was one of two finalists in the 2015 Student Essay Contest. In this Q&A, she’ll share her thoughts on the contest, what motivated her, and give advice for students entering this year’s contest inspired by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Contests, Student Voices, Harper Lee

My Mockingbirds

Posted by Margaret Stohl on February 18, 2016

Harper Lee's death reminds us that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is not only a classic work of American literature, but has also opened important conversations around the themes of race, justice, and morality. The day before Lee passed away, we published the following essay by writer Margaret Stohl, co-author of the bestselling young adult novel, “Beautiful Creatures,” on why “To Kill a Mockingbird” mattered so deeply to her. Our Teaching Mockingbird curriculum helps educators bring the historical context behind the novel into their classrooms.

I have a problematic relationship with conformity. Though I was born in Los Angeles, two generations of my family came from a small town in rural Southern Utah, and they carried the seeds of that community with them to California long after they left the town itself behind. As I grew up, I noticed that my family was nothing like our neighbors or my friends at school. We had different views, different beliefs, and different approaches to life. At the same time, the longer I lived in California, the less I fit in with my own family. That’s probably why, when I read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird as a teenager, I felt an immediate connection to the novel’s main character, Scout Finch.

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Topics: Insider, To Kill a Mockingbird, Contests, Student Voices, Writing, Identity, Harper Lee, Margaret Stohl

Join the Conversation: Enter the 2016 Student Essay Contest!

Posted by Stacey Perlman on February 3, 2016

The foundation of a good story is a cast of characters that shape our thoughts about the world. That’s certainly the case for Scout Finch in Harper Lee’s beloved novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. As a young white girl, she is forced to question her community’s spoken and unspoken rules when her father defends a black man falsely accused of a crime in 1930s Alabama. She and her brother, Jem, struggle to define their identities in relationship to the values of their small, segregated Southern town.

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Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Contests, Student Voices, ELA

StoryCorps’ Dave Isay: Engaging Everyone in the Act of Listening

Posted by Aileen McQuillen on October 7, 2015

Imagine preserving the voices and stories of an entire generation over a single holiday weekend. That’s our hope, as Facing History and Ourselves partners with StoryCorps for the 2015 Great Thanksgiving Listen. We will work with high school teachers across the country, whose students will interview a grandparent or elder over the 2015 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and record their story with the StoryCorps mobile app.

Ahead of the Great Thanksgiving Listen, we sat down with Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps and winner of a 2015 $1 million TED Prize. Isay made public radio documentaries for nearly two decades before starting StoryCorps 12 years ago. (The interview has been slightly condensed.)

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Topics: Student Voices, Memory, Identity, History, Community, David Isay, StoryCorps

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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