UMass CESL promotes learning for life-long, engaged citizenship, partnering with communities on and off campus to work collectively for a more just society.

Bryanna Malloy of the Citizen Scholars Program

The New York City People’s Climate March on September 21, 2014 started it all. An activist’s dream full of workshops, posters, and puppets. People of all origins attended, and each person had a unique way of showing what issue they were most concerned with. The bees, polar bears, Mother Earth, system change, Indigenous rights, climate change, nuclear weapons, resources—you name it! This was a catalyzing event that was used to show and progress the power of the people. I marched side by side with the nuclear disarmament group, as well as the director of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Northampton.

My role at AFSC came into fruition in 2013 thanks to my enrollment in the program Citizens Scholar Program (CSP). I had not known anything about nuclear power or weapons, but decided to join the Nuclear Free Future coalition. Through the year I learned about the issue, and was able to observe the work of several elders involved with the coalition against nuclear power plants.

This semester my mode of work shifted from nuclear power to the issue of nuclear weapons. During that weekend in NYC, I was able to meet with an International Planning Group for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Dozens of organizers from global organizations came together to discuss and plan for the upcoming mobilization in April 2015. I met exclusively with a group of youth, and began discussing what we could do to mobilize youth for this conference.

It has been over a month since my visit to NYC, and I am eager to say that a movement is starting to take shape. With communication and participation from activists across the globe, the People and Planet campaign for a nuclear-free, fair, democratic, ecologically sustainable and peaceful future is setting sail. 2015 marks an important year—it is not only the five year review for the States signed to the NPT to come together to discuss nuclear issues, but it is also the 70 year anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Momentum is being felt worldwide as humans begin to stand up for our brothers, our sisters, and our home—Mother Earth. We have exceeded beyond our limits, whether it be carbon in the atmosphere, fossil fuel usage, construction of nuclear arms, or nuclear waste capacity. We citizens are the majority, and to leave the fate of all of life in the hands of a few, well, that is just plain crazy!

I have gratefully taken on a role of leadership, working with other organizers to educate and empower youth to draw them to NYC to take action. If it is a peaceful world that we desire, then we must take action to put an end to these weapons of mass destruction. Won’t you take part in this fight for life?

Join us April 25-27, 2015 in NYC for an international peace, justice, and environmental conference, rally, and festival. Let our numbers be so large that our voices are certain to be heard inside the UN and around the world!

Like the ‘Peace & Planet’ Facebook page to learn more.

Authors of "Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid" speak at BOLTWOOD Seminar

This past Saturday (October 25), The BOLTWOOD Project held its second seminar of the semester, with  a focus on the history of the disability rights movement, where we've been and we’re were going as a society, so as to make the world accessible for disabled individuals. The seminar begin with rotating small group discussions, the majority of which asked students to imagine their daily lives as a disabled individual, using only the accommodations presently available for them. Students were faced with difficult questions such as, ‘Is the UMass campus accessible for disabled individuals? The town of Amherst?’ The Project was lucky enough to invite guest speakers for the afternoon portion of the seminar, authors of Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid, and founders of The Movement of Imperfection. These incredible speakers addressed how fortunate we are to live in a time where disability can be accepted, and often times celebrated, because as students learned earlier in the day this was not always the case. Students were asked to think critically about what disability looks like, for oftentimes it is invisible, and to embrace that while often different, disability is not bad, and that in fact none of us are perfect, and that together as a community of service learners, we can create a society accepting of and accessible to all.

CSP Students Visit the State House

State Representative Ellen Story Hosted CSP Students at the State House on October 23rd. 
Students from the course, Public Policy and Citizen Action, in the Citizen Scholars Program explored issues of democracy, power, policy-making, and funding at the Massachusetts the State House in Boston.  Representative Ellen Story and members of her staff, Brad Dye and CSP alum Amanda Jusino ’11, talked candidly about their paths to and experiences in their work.  Students also deepened their learning through meetings  with Rep. John Scibak, Rep. Paul McMurtry, former Rep. Steve D’Amico, and Chris Dunn, Director of Public And Constituent Relations for the University.  The CSP students are currently studying public policy as a tool for social change.  They are developing a policy analysis that connects to their work with local community organizations.  CSP (which has returned to its original name) will begin accepting applications for the next academic year in January.

A Student Leader's Perspective: BOLTWOOD

by Hannah Michlmayer        

Being one of the coordinators for the BOLTWOOD Project was never a goal of mine. This might not be the best way to start this blog post, but it is the truth. When I transferred to UMass my Sophomore year, I stumbled upon the club while doing some research on how I could get involved in the community. “BOLTWOOD?” I remember thinking. “What kind of name is BOLTWOOD? What does that even mean?” I was intrigued, and so I unknowingly entered into one of the dreaded interview nights, thinking it was just an information session (something I know a lot of people in BOLTWOOD can relate to). The BOLTWOOD Project, I discovered, was a community service-learning club on campus. There were 12 different service sites where you volunteered with adults with mental or physical disabilities. Still though, I didn’t fully comprehend the impact that BOLTWOOD was going to have on me. In a blur, I received my acceptance letter, went to orientation night, and started at my service site, Mountain View.

            Often times, I hesitate to say that BOLTWOOD has changed, and even defined, my entire college experience, because I fear that people won’t take me seriously.   more.......

Alaskan Summer

by Hannah Weinronk

It never crossed my mind to travel to Alaska.  But this past summer, I found myself 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle for eight weeks in the rural Northwest Arctic Borough, in a primarily Inupiaq (Alaskan Native) community.  I was there with five other students working on a community-based participatory research project, which is essentially research with a service-learning spin.  The basic premise of community-based participatory research is that the community is involved with all aspects of the project, and that the research process itself contributes to addressing the challenges facing the community. 

The project we were working on was called IDEA: Intergenerational Dialogue, Exchange, and Action.  Eleven youth in the community were hired as co-researchers on the project, along with six of us students from the “lower 48”. Together we identified and reached out to community members who had stories to share about resilience, and invited them in for Q&A-style group interviews.  Some of the most common questions were about who their role models were growing up, the significance of Inupiaq culture and its importance today, visions for the future of the Inupiaq people, and the role that youth can have in shaping that future. We heard from a broad range of people, from community elders to the borough mayor, from firefighters to pastors, from the head of the tribal council to the leader of environmental programming for the region. It was fascinating to hear their different stories and perspectives. Each one provided a fresh insight into the community- both for us as outsiders, and for the youth co-researchers who don’t always have the space to ask these kinds of questions. It was an amazing way to get to know the community. For a region that is often represented through statistics and histories of trauma, it was inspiring to learn about the community through the eyes of its leaders, through stories of community members fighting for change, and through visions of hope for the future.

As a part of the IDEA process, we also did a photovoice project. Every few days we had a prompt, and everyone on our research team (both us from the "lower 48" and the youth co-researchers) would bring in photos in response to the prompt and talk about what they meant. It was a powerful way to share our values, to get to know each other, and to think about the kinds of ideas we were talking about in the interviews. One specific moment that stood out to me was the day when we all brought in photos of people we looked up to, and almost all of us brought in a picture of a grandparent. It was a powerful reminder that as different as our lives may seem, at our core all of us are young people trying to find our place in the world.  

As the final piece of the IDEA process, we created digital stories- pulling together our ideas from the summer and creating short videos with photo slideshows and narratives that could be shared with the community. On one of our final evenings, we hosted a potluck where we shared the digital stories and celebrated with many of the community members who helped to make this project possible. It was a wonderful way to bring everyone together, to share what we had been working on for the past two months, and to celebrate what we had accomplished through our project.

Six semesters of service-learning courses prepared me well to be thinking intentionally about engaging with communities.  But regardless of how much I had thought about these questions, I was reminded that there is always more to learn.  My experiences in Alaska gave me the opportunity to develop strong relationships with people who came from a different world than I did, to think about what it means to build capacity and support leadership within a community, and to think more critically about where I fit into the story.  The learnings, skills, stories, and experiences from my time in Alaska will continue to shape my thoughts and actions as I continue doing community-based work today and into the future.



Amherst Cinema: bringing out the best for its community

By Jaime Ianiello
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
pring 2014

     Tucked in the corner of the busy center of Amherst, runs a small town program with big aspirations.  Amherst Cinema hosts the hands-on, See-Hear-Feel program that not only helps third grade students across the Pioneer Valley gain worldly knowledge, but also introduces them to the culture of production as well as helps direct them create their own messages within a story.  

     Being part of the Amherst Cinema volunteer staff has helped me be of assistance and connect with children from the surround areas of Amherst.  The See-Hear-Feel program aids its students not only on an educational level, but also on a personal level where you help them to understand and originate ideas for the purpose of activity.   This program also helped me connect with the local volunteers who take their time to assist Jake Meginsky, the educator for See-Hear-Feel-Film.  I have made new friends of all different ages and learned something new every visit to the Amherst Cinema; most importantly, how to inspire and welcome all types of creativity.  Finally, the program See-Hear-Feel has helped me connect with the inner beauty of Amherst.  This beauty is signified by the dedication to education as well as helping to make a difference for children by captivating their attention and desire to be apart of creating something great.

     Overall, the See-Hear-Feel program in Amherst helps to provide knowledge about diversity, inner and outer dialog and how they differ, media education as well as the offering limitless space for creativity.  As an out of state student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, being part of the See-Hear-Feel program has made me feel like more than just a student, but a part of the Amherst community.  

Media Literacy: A Much Needed Discussion

by Morgan Mackintosh
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Spring 2014

     These past two semesters I gave had the chance to see how important the film Miss Representation is. It allows us to enter classrooms and have a much-needed discussion on media literacy and gender.  I was lucky enough to be able to present Miss Representation multiple times and each time was so much different from the last. I went into Amherst High School more than four times over the past two semesters. Last semester we had the opportunity to go present Miss Representation to the Women in Leadership club. This club was full with eager and aware students who had a passion for breaking down our societal norms and discussing the true importance of the messages we see everyday. It was a great opportunity to truly see the potential that learning media literacy has given these students and to myself as well. This semester they invited us back to train the club’s participants to teach their fellow classmates what they had learned, which in itself is a great practice. Each high school student was paired with a college student. I thought this was a great opportunity for both the high school student and the college student; it allowed me to see that media literacy should be a conversation between many different age groups. The classroom of high school students in particular all had great responses to the video. Many of them were taken back by the information they had learned, and immediately raised their hands to comment on it. The majority of the students were so taken back by the information because most of the visual imagery that Miss Representation uses is mainstream music videos, television shows, movies, and advertisements. We had an in depth conversation about how its so easy to get caught up in our media that we just accept it for what it is instead of taking a moment to break down the messages. Many of the students agreed that it would be very beneficial to somehow bring in media literacy into their school. Just from the quick 30 minutes we had with the students it was easy to see how much they loved being able to finally discus these issues with one another. After this presentation I realized first hand how much the media affects us and how we need to stop ignoring its existence. 

Studying Sustainable Food and Farming as a Resource Economics Student

by Emily Bassett
Stockbridge 397C: Community Food Systems
Fall 2013

     What I take away from the class includes specific topics we covered in class and useful critical thinking techniques. What really struck me was diving deeper into the school lunch programs and understanding the food system within the schools. I felt comfortable coming into the classroom, having a basic understanding for most of the topics covered in class. But I really enjoyed diving deeper into the background of school food. The class helped me connect emotionally to certain topics without losing sight of the big pictures and the smallest details. Finding the passion I had inside helped me critically analyze certain food systems and programs. This class also helped me realize how important a strong community is. What a community puts into the system is what they get out exponentially.

     Looking back and also at my future, this class was/is imperative for my college career. As a resource economics major I analyze systems quantitatively, and I try finding value where it may be hard to express. Taking this class helped me connect my quantitative skills into an agriculture and local food system.
     In general, this class along with the Sustainable Food and Farming certificate program has influenced me to further my studies in local and sustainable food systems. Linking resource economics with this topic provides a new outlook to food systems. I am currently in the midst of thinking of grad school, where I am considering continuing my studies in the economic methodologies associated with agriculture on a global, national and local scale. 

     The community engagement part of this class was very interesting and I wish it lasted longer through out the semester instead of only being just a few weeks out of the semester. I would have loved more feedback and evaluation from  teachers and students themselves. I also would have liked to go more than once and build upon relationships made with the children. I feel like I would have taken away much more by investing more into this project. I would have loved putting more time into this project during the semester because when we went to the school it felt good to go out there and spread some knowledge of what we've been learning in class. 

Anytime Foods at the Kindergarten Initiative

by Abigail Hobart
Stockbridge 397C: Community Food Systems
Fall 2013

     After my service experience, a couple thoughts immediately popped into my head. I was surprised that it had been so difficult to keep the students’ attention, and I noted that going around to the table groups separately had been more successful. The attention of the kids was easier to keep, in groups of about five or six. When I squatted down next to the tables, and asked them directly what they thought of the vegetables and fruits, and how the veggies related to the color wheels, I got focused attention, answers, and enthusiasm. After the lesson, I also realized that I was jittery, and though I hadn’t realized it, at the time I was fairly nervous. I did loosen up over the course of the lesson but I didn’t entirely relax.

     Upon reflection, I think our lesson plan was fairly successful. The color wheel handout was a good reminder that the students could take home to give to their parents or primary caregivers. The main goal of the Kindergarten Initiative and of our lesson was to expose the children to vegetables that they might not get to try otherwise, while trying to educate them about nutrition and health. We did so by giving them samples of vegetables and explaining what constituted an “anytime food,” while emphasizing the fact that “anytime foods” were good to eat!

     Because most of the students in the class live in transitional housing at the hotel across the street from the elementary school, and were affectively homeless, many of them had never tried vegetables like kale or beets before, but had tried the more common samples of apples and carrots. As a white, upper-middle class woman, raised in a family of academics, I was aware of a huge class disparity between the students and me. My parents had never had trouble putting nutritious meals on the table for my sister and me, and also had the time to encourage us to eat well and exercise. Entering this classroom reminded me that I come from extreme privilege. My relationship with food is not perfect, and I may still have body-image problems to work through, but I am so fortunate that I was raised in a family and environment that encouraged me to be healthy and to take care of myself, and moreover, completely enabled me to do so, without really even trying. The same cannot be said for many of the children in the class that I taught. This imbalance made me feel a little strange; I realized that everything I think and know about food comes from my position in society. The same is true for the children, but because our demographics differ so much, our knowledge base is effectually different.

     However, creating a space where the students could try kale, beets, apples, and carrots, and be explicitly encouraged to enjoy them, was very helpful. It seemed like a sharing experience; I was sharing a liking for vegetables that I had received from my upper-middle class upbringing, and was sharing my opinion to the students, in the hopes that they would agree, and share my appreciation for these delicious vegetables!

     There are some difficulties that come up with the planning of Farm-to-School programs, but there are ways around these difficulties, as the success of the Holyoke Kindergarten Initiative clearly demonstrates. The experience I obtained teaching a lesson on local food, at Donahue Elementary School has put the entire Farm-to-School movement in a new context for me, one of reality and applied knowledge. I hope I will be able to continue and support the beneficial work that organizations like the Kindergarten Initiative do, and I see real value in the emergence of even more likeminded organizations.

Working with the Nuestras Raices Farm

by Hailey Young
Stockbridge 397C: Community Food Systems
Fall 2013

     Before this class, I sadly have to admit that I had never been a part of a community engagement project. I had volunteered before at my home town’s senior center, local homeless shelters, and soup kitchens, however, I wouldn’t really consider that critical service learning. Working with a group of other students in my community food systems class at the Nuestras Raices Farm in Holyoke allowed my peers and I to get involved in a real-life service experience. Our work at the farm impacted the city of Holyoke in a positive way. The vegetables we harvested were donated to the Holyoke community that same day, and the garlic we planted will be included give to those members of the NR CSA.

     This was only the hands-on part of my course. In addition, I found the readings that our instructor chose for us look at and write about were extremely useful to understanding why our service experiences (working at NR or going to the school for KI) were so beneficial to the community as a whole. Community engagement projects like these are key to improving impoverished cities like Holyoke. They promote food justice and health and wellness by providing people of all ages with fresh, quality produce. They also create a sense of community in a large city like Holyoke and help people from all walks of life interact and form mutually beneficial relationships. Overall, participating in a community engagement project has been an inspirational experience and I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such incredible people, including the instructor of community food systems, Catherine Sands, our entire CFS class, and Tom, our farm mentor at Nuestras Raices.

Teaching Media Literacy

By Kimberly Edson
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     When I started at UMass Amherst last semester, I had very little understanding of what media literacy was. I had heard of it, but had never studied in any capacity.  Once I started to learn the concepts of media literacy and all it encompassed, I realized how important it is to learn about media literacy and wondered why it is not taught at a middle or high school level.  Now that I have been given the opportunity to teach media literacy in schools, I cannot wait to give these kids the skills I have learned at Amherst and at the Miss Representation conference at UMass Dartmouth.

     Even though I had learned about media literacy, how was I supposed to teach a bunch of high school students, who may not give an ounce of care, about it?  The conference “Miss Representation to Mass Representation” at UMass Dartmouth helped ease those fears.  The first day I had to go to seminars about different points in media literacy and watching the women I took the seminars from relived some of my fears about how to engage the students I would be teaching.  I watched as they confidently took control and handled the sometimes sensitive material being shown or talked about.  These seminars also furthered my learning of media literacy, something that I feel that I can always learn more about.  I also realized that a great way to get the students I will be teaching interested in media literacy is using examples they are probably very familiar with.  Using examples straight out of today’s pop culture world will help me relate to them and (hopefully) peak their interest. The second day of the conference was about teaching Miss Representation to students.  When we were handed forms on how to facilitate the sessions with the students, I immediately knew that I could teach high school students about media literacy.  The guide gives questions that should be asked of students, but also keeps it open for the students to ask new questions, of either themselves or of me.  

     Though I have not been to a classroom yet, I cannot wait to get in there and teach the students about media literacy.  Do I have fears about this?  Of course, but my fears are ones I cannot control.  I don’t know if these students will be interested in what I have to say or if they will even understand why what I’m saying is important to their lives.  As long as I can get the message about media literacy to these students, I feel as though I will have made an impact, no matter what happens right then and there.

Theatre Engagement

By Ove Asendorf
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     I have spent five days over the past few weeks at Amherst Cinema as students from surrounding schools have attended the theatre to participate in the See-Hear-Feel-Film program. These kids are third graders aged seven to nine and when attending Amherst Cinema they watch two films and are asked questions on what they saw and heard. These films are quick cartoons that easily grab these students attention. After, they watch the films over again to see what students picked up on in the films the second time around. The students are always coming up with new ideas that happened in the story and really seem to enjoy this part of the program. Once they watched each film twice, the students break up into small groups to create their own story full of imagination and creativity before they present it to their classmates.

     This has an unbelievable impact on the kids as their imaginations come to life and they all get to express the great thoughts and ideas that young children possess. The students work together and as a team and build off each other while helping one another on spelling and grammar as well as input on illustrating the story. It is easy to see each student grow and improve while inside the theatre, as they are able to express their feelings and interact with each other and group leaders. Inside the classroom, I have learned how media affects children today and the impact it has on young boys and girls. This is easy to translate to Amherst Cinema because often times they draw and write about certain ideas and characters that they see on TV or online. I enjoyed my time at Amherst Cinema as well, as I got to learn from these young students how great it is to have a free imagination and approach everything as if it were a blank storyboard. Upon leaving I know that this is a great program for these children and it will continue to grow as each new student entering the theatre continues to learn.  

From University to Community: A Societal Change in the Representation of Women

By Morgan Mackintosh
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     This semester as part of my Communications 338: Children, Teens and Media class, Allison Butler gave us the assignment of choosing what specific community engagement program we wanted to be involved with. The choices were either See-Hear-Feel-Film that involved going to Amherst Cinema and teaching elementary students visual literacy. Or option two, Miss Representation which entailed going into middle and high schools in the area to promote the importance of media literacy. I enthusiastically chose Miss Representation. I chose this option because it is the pilot year of the program and I love being involved with seeing how a program can evolve into something much more. 

     This past Tuesday my group and I made it into the Amherst Regional High School for a presentation of miss representation called Women in Leadership. The only thing we knew before stepping into the school was that we would be presenting in front of a club called Women in Leadership. As we entered the classroom the first thing I noticed was that the club consisted of 19 students 18 of them were girls. As we began to talk I realized that these girls were saying things in a much more sophisticated manner than I would have thought. Our job was to help teach media literacy but they already knew so much.  Modeling what we learned in training we started off with an “ice breaker” called mirrors and windows. Mirrors meaning that you see something that you have in common with the photograph and windows being that you see through to something else. This is where we shared a picture with the group of what looked an action shot of young women playing basketball. We asked them to share what they thought some windows and mirrors were from the picture. The students were a little reserved at first, but then when we revealed the entire picture we got their attention. The picture of what looked to be young women playing basketball, was wheelchair bound young women playing basketball. They all started raising their hands to comment on the full picture. The point we wanted to get across was that sometimes in life when meeting new people and we tend to look at the differences (windows) that we have with them instead of the common (mirrors) things. As a society; we have this awful habit of letting differences set us all apart instead of looking for the common threads that tie us all together. 

     Before we began the clip, we asked the students to come up with examples of who they thought were great leaders. To our surprise the students named three women leaders; Angela Winkler, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Elizabeth Warren. During our training for Miss Representation my fellow colleagues and I only came up with one women leader and the rest were men.  Then they only said two male leaders; their teacher Mr. Levy and President Obama.  As we began the clip from Miss Representation called, “Women in Leadership” it was clear that they were all intrigued. After the film we began to talk about what they thought different stereotypes of femininity and masculinity were. Some adjectives that the students came up with were slutty, emotional, and weak. Before our conversation came to a close, we asked the students to brainstorm ways in which they could help spread this awareness as their school. They began to think of ideas such as hanging up posters and speaking up if they heard classmates saying things that reinforce stereotypes. 

     When my group and I were walking out of Amherst High school I had this overwhelming feeling that we had just planted a seed, one that was going to grow and evolve into a movement. There is so much more that I could share about this powerful experience but I simply don’t have the words. I wasn’t ready for the club to have this much pre- existing knowledge of the subject matter. They had known about most of the material we were learning in our class such as gender roles, the exposure of media and stereotypes. It would be a lie if I didn’t say that I learned just as much if not more from these students. This experience of taking what I have learned in a class and applying it to “real life” was a huge impact on me. I think that being at school and learning all of this information we forget that acting on our knowledge is the most important part. Being a club for women leadership it was at first intimidating, but as I let my guard down and my true personality and beliefs out it was extremely beneficial. This overall experience allowed me to see that taking action in your own beliefs is the best way to make a difference and spread awareness. 

Introducing Miss Representation

By Erin Martin
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     For my community engagement project, I picked Miss Representation which introduces young teens to the ideas of female roles and objectification in society. I decided to focus on the “Women in Leadership” conversation of the film. From my own experience as a young woman, I never grew up with any female role models that were not celebrities or women that I knew personally from my own life. Because of this, I think it is really important to let young women know that just because there are not  a lot of women in public leadership positions does not mean that it is not possible for them. 

     Going into this experience, I was nervous what the reaction would be to the clip and the following discussion about women in leadership and media, because for most of these students they have participated in this forum of conversation ever before. However, once our conversation started, there were a lot of strong opinions from the young girls who agreed that women are objectified and focused only on their outward appearance. The boys did not seem very comfortable discussing this topic, however, there was one boy that was pretty outspoken about the fact that we will never see a woman president in our lifetimes. This conversation was not meant in a malicious way by any means, but as one would imagine, it created a lot of anger from the girls. However, I think it is important for us to focus on why he stated this. His reasonings had a lot to do with the fact that men cannot imagine or accept a woman giving them orders or being above them. Although this may be true for some men, I think it is important for us to start the conversation of women as equals much earlier with youth, in order to really change and have an impact on these views. I do think that this program of presenting clips from Miss Representation is a great first step, but these kids are already in high school, and their minds already have been molded to a great extent. I think that if we start this conversation earlier in life, that we can hope for a more equal future and maybe even see a women president in our lifetime!

College Student Creating Curriculum: Bringing Media Literacy to Massachusetts Schools

By Lisa Rizzo
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     Last semester I was enrolled in a CESL course called Media Literacy. For my engagement project I, along with other students, worked to build curriculum for the Massachusetts Media Literacy Consortium (MMLC). This semester I will be developing media literacy curriculum for three more classes. Although I have experience in curriculum development it is almost like entering uncharted waters. Last semester, the lesson plan was for high school (grade eleven) students. Now I am shifting the focus to fifth and eighth grade classes and honestly, I’m a bit nervous. 

     One reason I am feeling so nervous is that I worry about my own knowledge of fifth/eighth grade level math, history, etc. Reading through the Massachusetts core standards for eighth grade math can be a pretty humbling experience. I was almost tempted to give up on an idea for a lesson just because I felt I needed to learn a lot more about mathematics than I currently knew to make it work. What is important to remember in building media literacy curriculum is that the school teacher provides the knowledge of the core subjects and I provide the media knowledge. Content is also something I feel I must be more aware of now than in my high school lesson. I spend a lot of time thinking through my ideas and making sure they are “appropriate” for the classroom and the ages of the students. It’s impossible to say that once someone hits age 10 or 13 that they are mature enough to handle certain subjects. The way I’ve dealt with it is to think about what you think fifth and eighth graders should know. Then the content comes much easier. 

     Although I am nervous to be working with new grade levels I am also incredibly excited for the challenge. A lesson I am currently working on for fifth grade English involves analyzing the lyrics and themes of popular songs. My goal is for the students to discuss what messages are being sent in the music they hear. 

     The biggest thing I have taken away from my CESL courses is that there are many different ways to help out and be involved in your community. I may not be able to physically teach in a classroom or volunteer at an organization but I am using the time and skills I have to make a difference. It feels great to know that my ideas will be going into the classroom to help children and teens become more literate in the media industry, especially because media has such a strong role in our lives. CESL courses have given me an opportunity to make a contribution to the community in a way I didn’t think was possible.

     On October 31, 2013 people from all over the state joined together at the Massachusetts State House in Boston to support legislation that will make media literacy a part of the state curriculum. There are still many ways to support this project. For more information and ways to get involved visit  

Miss Representation at Amherst High School

By Shayne O'Neil
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

My CESL project was to go to Amherst High School and present the three different clips from Miss Representation, which is about how women are portrayed in the media. I had two female partners and we all participated in all three of the segments, each of us as the discussion leader for one of the clips, while the others wrote notes on the whiteboard. The group we presented to is the after school group the Women and Leadership club. So far we have done the first two clips and it went over very well, as the club appeared extremely enthusiastic to learn about how women are represented in the media. They have been asking very good questions and seem to be grasping the concepts we presented to them very well. We have had discussion before the clip that we watch, in which we ask questions that will lead up to what material is in the movie clip. The movie clip usually lasts around ten minutes, and then we went  over what the films message was and how the group  felt about it. Since the group was primarily female I think it was great to have some of this information presented them through a male’s perspective. Having a male that taking part in these discussions is helpful because it shows that it’s not just women who are interested in learning this subject, and that if I am interested in it maybe some of their male peers are as well. After two of the presentations, the club suggested talking to their principal and showing these clips to the all students at a school wide assembly. Once that was suggested it made me feel good to know that we were really making an impact. The girls also found it really important and relevant enough to be seen by every student in the school. When they had suggested showing it to the entire school, we asked them if we thought this material should be taught in the normal high school curriculum and got a unanimous consensus of “yes”. If these girls only got a small glimpse in to how the media works and really found it to be enlightening I think that if there was more in depth classes with teachers certified in teaching the subject. I think both the students and the presenters learned a lot from each other. The students learned about a crucial part of everyday life, which the media is. As for us the presenters we learned that younger students than us feel that the material was so interesting and central to everyday learning that they want it to be taught to the entire school and have it put in to their curriculum.

A Radio Interview with Jake Meginsky of See-Hear-Feel-Film

By J Kyle White-Sullivan
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     For much of my time in being a student of Allison Butler's, I had always heard of a media literacy program run at Amherst Cinema for third graders dubbed “See-Hear-Feel-Film”. We would often be required in a class to engage in some way with the community, and volunteering for this children's program would always seem to be an option as a student of Butler's. The time commitment had always deterred me, so while I was always curious I had never actually had the opportunity to experience the work being done there first hand. It was only when I was seeking guests for my radio program, the Commonwealth Honors College thesis project I produce for WMUA 91.1FM, that I realized I could gain some insight into what my classmates were seeing over at Amherst Cinema on weekday mornings.

     On October 14th, I sat down for a conversation with Jake Meginsky, the Educational Director at Amherst Cinema who proctors the visual literacy program run there called See-Hear-Feel-Film. Prior to the interview I was able to research the program online, and watch a few promotional videos which showcased some of the sessions attended by these children. Each week, my colleagues are able to watch the third graders at See-Hear-Feel-Film engage with, and create media in ways which I personally have never seen before. Using the state's core curriculum standards for english language arts (the institutional tools used by public schools to teach their students), Amherst Cinema has produced a program which seeks to teach children the process of creating film, both as audience members and a storytellers. By inviting students and teachers from all across the Pioneer Valley, as well as volunteers both young and old to facilitate group work, Amherst Cinema has made a strong presence in the community and the local schooling system. Having become quite a well known program in the area, and such a respected academic resource in the community, I wanted to know what Jake's motivations were as the Educational Director. Granted, See-Hear-Feel-Film is a genuine learning experience for the third graders in the audience, but how much of an effect does it have on the volunteers who help run the program? What was the trajectory which brought the program from approaching schools directly for their involvement, to being approached by schools for what they were offering? 

     Jake explained to me the intricacies of this teaching tool; how a student's day begins at Amherst Cinema, the films they watch, the conversations and projects they have to look forward to, the curriculum itself, and some of the program's history. See-Hear-Feel-Film now serves over 1,400 students in the Pioneer Valley and works with multiple school districts. Not only are the third graders engaging with media in a comprehensive way, but so are their teachers, their parents, and the college students locally. The curriculum used at Amherst cinema has seeped its way into classrooms within the community, which is Jake's main goal as Educational Director. Not only does the program teach a great deal while the children are there, but also it's format serves teachers outside of the theater, for various subjects in other core disciplines at this time in their schooling.

     My finished piece included the voices of the students, volunteers, and of Jake himself while facilitating the program, so I might convey to an audience what actually being present for a session would be like (a goal which must have been motivated by my own desire to feel as though I had been there). I also managed to discover what some student volunteers involved in the facilitation of the program itself may not even be aware of; how the program is funded, what it's relationship is like with the surrounding school districts, even what Jake's personal experience was like with a pilot program run at Bridge Street School in Northampton (done a short time before See-Hear-Feel-Film could even be found at Amherst Cinema). To really hear what's happening at Amherst Cinema, with the third graders visiting every week of the school year for See-Hear-Feel-Film, visit WMUA's mixcloud page to catch an archived copy of the finished interview.

Miss Representation Takes a Step Forward

By Mary Reid
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     After attending the Miss Representation to Mass Representation: Education for Change workshop on September 28th and 29th, the underlying impact of this incredible community engagement project suddenly became very evident to me. After 24 hours of what seemed like non-stop information overload, I realized the importance and significance of this pilot project isn’t entirely what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, but why it matters that truly means the most throughout this experience.

     Being able to participate in this weekend’s activities overall brought the mission and message of “Miss Representation” to life. It was inspiring to listen and learn from all the women involved in this project, as well hear about the strides they have taken throughout their own careers and work at large. The workshops helped bring into conversation many of the gender and media topics we will be brining into the classroom.  I also found support and comfort in meeting and making friends with my fellow “Miss Rep’ classmates, and sharing not only our excitement for this project, but our own personal experiences wand interests in gender politics, feminism, communications, and so much more. Most importantly, it was motivating to know the one thing we all want from this experience is to ultimately make a change. We don’t just want to talk the talk; we wanna walk the walk, even if it takes one student at a time. We’re here to make a difference, to educate, and to change minds. And that is why it matters. 

     Shortly after the Miss Representation weekend, my project partner Kim and I were contacted back from a very hopeful teacher from Easthampton High School. We are all extremely anxious to meet with one another in person and to discuss in depth our plans for this amazing project in her two elective media classes. Luckily the DVD also arrived at Easthampton High today, so slowly but surely this community engagement project is coming underway. At this point, I can only hope to be as educationally informative and personably relatable to these students as the women and speakers at this conference were to me. 


By Kate Paleologopoulos
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     During my first visit to Amherst Cinema for  See-Hear-Feel-Film, I observed the program, the students engaged in the program, as well as the adults that help facilitate the program. This program is teaching media literacy to children through short films and activities. In the first part of the morning I noticed that many of the students were actively participating and eager to watch and learn about the details of the films. Engaging young kids in things they are exposed to everyday, like film, and television, is an effective way to teach them more elaborate concepts. The students learned about the structure of how films are made, as well as characteristics of the films, and why the creators of the films did certain things. The students that I observed on my first day at Amherst Cinema were an ideal group to see participate. The students from South Hadley School systems set a precedent for the behavior of the students going through the program. I realize that not all groups of kids are going to come from they same backgrounds where they know any basic facts about film.  But through this program and the tools the program uses to teach these kids, I can see numerous kids coming out of this program with a greater understanding and newly developed interest in film. 

     Something that I am looking forward to experiencing more of through my time at Amherst Cinema is hearing from the teachers on their perspective of the program. I am highly interested to hear about how students come out of the program, what do they bring back to the classroom with them? I am looking forward to observing and learning more in the up coming weeks at Amherst Cinema and See-Hear-Feel-Film.


By Allison Griggs
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     This semester, one of my courses, entitled Children, Teens and Media, requires students to participate in service learning, and we were divided to participate in different community service projects. Though I was skeptical about the requirement, I believe in using my privilege to better my local community. In volunteering, I hoped to make a difference in somebody’s life while more about the social environment surrounding us everywhere.

     The project I chose to participate in is a program run at Amherst Cinema. The program, called See-Hear-Feel-Film (SHFF), allows groups of third-grade children from around the Pioneer Valley to watch and learn about films, and to develop storyboards from their own ideas in an interactive setting. There is intense diversity between the different groups of children, and the schools they come from, making it an excellent environment to learn.

     During my time with the children, I assist in facilitating the activities as well as interacting with them on a personal level. My aim is to provide a good role model for them and help them learn as much as possible in a short period of time. Though much of my role at SHFF is instructing, I believe the children teach me just as much.

     I am finding that this project is greatly reinforcing topics studied in class. The most noticeable of these reinforcements comes up when relating to children’s gender performance, especially that of the boys. One class reading, by J. Tobin, discusses how boys and girls act and why. I have learned that each and every one of us represents our gender through different codes and performance rituals. Whether these codes are our chosen clothes, words, or the way we stand, everything we do represents who we are. During my volunteer time, it is becoming more apparent to me that the boys and girls are experiencing a time of discovery. They are figuring out who they are, and how they “should” act in the world.

     In boys, most notably, I see significantly more violent themes in their ideas for storyboards; this includes killing, fighting, and more between characters. Though not all boys are suggesting violent themes, they are more common. Understandably, boys in our society are typically shown more violence in terms of what it means to be a man. Men are “tough” and “strong”, and boys are taught that they have to grow into that. 

     This danger of violence leaving a great impression on the boys is much bigger than the individual, but other volunteers and I have taken steps to thwart the problem. Instead of giving the boys free range to creative violent ideas, we work to shape attention in a new, more constructive direction. By taking the non-violent portions of children’s ideas and suggesting an alternative, the boys can be contented with the appraisal of a portion of their idea, while they take advantage of creating a new idea that is more widely accepted and encouraged. One example of this includes a time when one boy tried to kill off the main character in the third frame of the story. To avert attention from the killing, we reminded the child that the group still had half a storyboard to complete, and we offered a suggestion: maybe the main character does something exciting, or daring. Maybe there is a surprising twist in the story! After making this suggestion, the boy changed his mind about the death, because now he came up with new ideas about his main character being a hero! This was equally as enticing a storyline for the children, but it involved significantly less violence.

     Encouragement is perhaps the most important aspect of See-Hear-Feel-Film. Boys and girls can be initially nervous to share thoughts and ideas in a public setting. Once they receive encouragement from both group leaders and their peers, a remarkable difference in their self-esteem is noticed. SHFF works hard and has much success in keeping the creative juices flowing in young minds while enhancing their confidence.

     See-Hear-Feel-Film is an astonishing, innovative program making a difference in many children’s lives. If you would like to get involved, there are many opportunities to volunteer with the program, or at Amherst Cinema. Amherst Cinema holds many events supporting art and independent films with social justice themes. More information can be found at

Miss Representation Session

By Nicole Noonan
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     This past Tuesday, I entered into Amherst High School to join the Women Leadership Club for an intimidating yet exciting experience as I attempted to spread awareness and teach the students about media literacy. For this first session, we focused on a woman in leadership portion of the program, as we found it most suitable for their club. As it is hard to guess what may happen in an experience like this, we were lucky as our first session was an extreme success, consisting of engaged students and intelligent conversation.

     At 2:45PM, we met the president of the club outside of the front door of Amherst High. Filled with anticipation and eagerness, we walked through the halls to the classroom where 19 students consisting of all girls and one boy stared at us wondering who we were and why we were attending their meeting this week. We began by introducing ourselves and having the students participate in a small ice-breaker activity. Once we had the attention of the group, we began engaging in different activities and conversations. We asked the students to describe to us their definition of a great leader and to give us some examples of great leaders that come to mind. To our surprise, the club listed three women leaders, Angela Winkler, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Elizabeth Warren, and only two males, Obama and their teacher. As the conversations moved forward, we began discussing different stereotypes of femininity and masculinity. After concocting these lists on the board, it was easy to engage in discussion. Words such as slut, emotional, objectification and weak were all ideas that came quickly into conversation, much to no surprise. After the conversations came to a close, we discussed what the group could do to help spread this awareness to their school. They came up with ideas such as putting up posters and speaking up if they hear people saying things to others that are reinforcing stereotypes.

     There is so much more I could say about this experience, as in my eyes, it was truly eye- opening. I was definitely surprised as to how much the club knew about all the ideas we were learning in class such as stereotyping, embodiment of gender, and media exposure. The whole group had a ‘girl power’ outlook on the situations, which correlates directly with the topics being discussed in class. I believe that this experience was an unforgettable way to use the ideas and theories learned in class and take them somewhere where I was able to make a change through my knowledge and understanding of these topics.

     This experience was very interesting for me, as it was one of the first times I could openly discuss my own personal values and attitudes towards women, stereotyping, and the media with a group of people who were still learning, but still just as interested as I was. The group brought such interesting ideas to the table, such as why is it that our society tells us that especially in high school, all boyfriends MUST be taller than their girlfriends. Although I was there to teach these students about these ideas, through all our discussions, I may have learned more than them. It was rewarding to know that because I stood up for my own values, and taught others about them, that they are going to take this experiences further, and promote positive outlooks on women throughout their school. The most rewarding part was when the students asked us to come back next week as they want to learn more. This experience made me realize that it is possible to make a difference if you take a few ideas further, and stand up for something you believe in.

Working with the Massachusetts Media Literacy Consortium

By Julia Givens
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     Over the course of the semester, I’ve worked closely with Professor Allison Butler on work in connection with the Massachusetts Media Literacy Consortium. MMLC is a grassroots organization that works to implement media literacy education in Massachusetts public elementary and secondary schools. MMLC also helps within the community by contributing to media literacy education programs like the See Hear Feel Film program at Amherst Media and The Miss Representation to Mass Representation: Educating for Change program across the state.

     Media literacy education is a way for children to become knowledgeable about the media to which they are being constantly exposed. It is a way for them to understand the messages they are receiving. Instead of just consuming the media and taking it all as truth, children exposed to media literacy education can challenge the messages fed to them. This in turn helps them become informed citizens. Being active participants in the media helps for them to make informed decisions about their consumption of goods.

     So far, I have worked on updating the MMLC website, editing phone and email scripts for reaching out to political figures, and some other behind-the-scenes work in conjunction with Professor Butler and other MMLC members. The best experience I have had with my work was speaking at the Massachusetts State House on behalf of Senate Bill 213/House Bill 472: The Act Concerning Media Literacy In Schools with another student in the class, Katie. We spoke in front of the Education committee; this bill would implement media literacy education in K-12 Massachusetts public schools. After listening to many testimonies about other curriculum implementations like the genocide in the Ukraine as well as comprehensive geography studies, we were given the chance to speak as the fifth panel in support of SB 213/HB 472. I spoke about my own media literacy education and how it came too late in my life. People don’t understand the impact the media has on them unless they choose to study it or critically analyze it. It was an incredible experience of having my voice heard in front of the people who can make change happen at the governmental level. They were genuinely interested in hearing what we all had to say and I cannot thank Professor Butler enough for giving us that opportunity.

     I have seen my classmates make a difference with their individual work with Amherst Cinema as well as the Miss Representation program with young people. I look forward to working more closely on amending this legislature to be more comprehensive and put into practice by teachers. I also look forward on extending this work not just into next semester but also after I graduate in May.

Filming See-Hear-Feel Film

By Trevor Frederick
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     When I was approached by my Children, Teens, and Media professor at University Massachusetts Amherst for a potential film project, I didn’t know what to expect. A media literacy organization in Amherst called “See-Hear-Feel-Film” was looking for someone to film their program and produce a short promotional video. “See-Hear-Feel Film” is a program in town that has third grade students from various elementary schools in Western, MA traveling to Amherst Cinema each day. At the time my professor told me about “See-Hear-Feel Film”, all I knew was that several community leaders and volunteers would work with children and film, and that it was a program designed to help children use their imagination and media skills. My combined interest in the video production industry as a career and the “See-Hear-Feel Film” program prompted me to agree to produce the video. While my work with the program doesn’t require me to work with the third grade students directly, my role as the videographer for the program allows me to observe a community grow and learn.

     At this stage of the semester, I have only been to Amherst Cinema for “See-Hear-Feel Film” twice. In both of those experiences I was greeted by Jake Meginsky (the primary ‘educator’ for the kids), and I was given ample time to set up my camera and tri-pod. Elementary students poured in to the cinema, smiling and widening their eyes at the enormity of the theater. Many of the students pointed at me and my camera throughout the days, and some of them expressed immense interest in my activity. One student even asked me if I was a “Hollywood Director”, an innocent question that made me smile. As I filmed the various activities the students and volunteers conducted in, I came to the realization that although my impact wasn’t exactly the same as my peers, my work as a videographer was a making an impact. Once I’ve attended enough “See-Hear-Feel Film” trips, conducted some interviews, and put the video together, I will have documented evidence of the program’s success. Western, MA will have the chance to understand what the program truly is and about beyond texts and written testimonials. They will see the smiles of children, the energy of the volunteers, and the magic film possesses. Overall I’m working to immortalize a special in the lives of young students, who will all grow up to make an impact in our world.

Made from Scratch

By Keith Miller
Anthropology 297LS: Intro to Latino Studies
Fall 2013

     As an electrical engineering major, I wasn't all that excited for my anthropology class. It was just to fill a Gen-Ed and I always had a small interest in sociology and language, so a linguistic anthropology course seemed like a relatively painless way to fulfill the requirement. Then the professor said he was offering a 1-2 credit independent study to conduct research as a tutor. I had some previous math tutoring experience and being an engineering major meant I needed all the credits I could get, so I signed up. I ended up at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke helping their tech director. When I arrived on my first day, the tech director said one thing he really wanted to do with kids is Scratch.

     Scratch was developed to get kids interested in programming using a simple drag anddrop method. Boxes represent different actions, conditions, etc. and linking them together makes the program. I had used Scratch once, but had more previous experience with Game Maker's Apprentice software that is based on the exactsame concept with more features and made to handle larger games, so I was up to the task.

     Since then, I have been going to Holyoke weekly to teach a small group of kids Scratch. I do not tell them what to program although there will be an ultimate goal to have them enter a competition using Scratch to make a videogame that opposes bullying. For now, I am there to help them turn Scratch into a vessel with which to bring their imagination to life. They want to create Pokémon battles, basketball games, and dragons chasing other fantasy creatures; I am privileged to share the knowledge that can help them bring it all to life. It was hard at first to explain x and y coordinates, why forever loops were needed, how to create and utilize variables, etc. After the first couple weeks, when I walked in the kids' eyes lit up and one ran up and said he wanted toshow me what he finished up on his program after I left. It felt good. I know that's what everyone expects to hear and it's true. The best way to teach people how to program is to have a complete code and manipulate it to find out how each part works. That's what the kids were doing with the little pieces I would give them, so they could create stories and games, and play them on the computer using Scratch.

     Did I teach them much? No, not really. What I did was create an interest with computers. That interest will hopefully lead to trying different programs and then possibly ignite a passion.  Telling the kids about UMass and listening to them say they want to go to UMass makes me realize how great I have it. I get to see that these kids aspire to get to where I am and that I can help push them in a good direction to help them get there.

The Impact of See-Hear-Feel-Film

By Carleigh Kmetz
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     The See-Hear-Feel-Film writing-based media literacy program at Amherst Cinema has proven to be an eye-opener of an experience thus far, as I witness how children make an understanding of media, and in return create media themselves. This program stresses the importance of creating an environment that is emotionally safe for the shyest children and most reluctant readers and writers to express themselves. As a volunteer during unit one of the program, I am a facilitator for a group of 6 to 8 third graders during a collaborative storyboard activity where they are given a title that stimulates their imaginations. Collectively, the group shares and actively listens to one another to create a story that has never been created before, jolting them with an immense feeling of power and accomplishment. This activity starts after they are empowered from the discussions of two short films they analyze and unpack with the director of the program, Jake.   

     I have visited Amherst Cinema three times and have worked hands on with the third graders two of the visits. To start, my assumptions of children’s lack in creativity on a general scale has been consistently refuted when witnessing the children engage in the discussion with Jake, as well as present their stories. The main theme that I have been witnessing is that children are truly more insightful than they are given credit for at that age. The level of sophistication in the kid’s thoughts is remarkable. They show a true understanding of the material by asking questions back to Jake and not only following his direction. Another observation that speaks to their insightfulness is that each group has been able to recognize the concept of a person having more than one feeling.

     I also have been observing this program in a new light, and noticing themes that translate not from the students, but the older adult volunteers. A theory that I am developing as I witness the interactions of the older volunteers with the children, is the volunteer’s persistent need to maintain power over, and demonstrate their dominance through use of body language and speech. I believe that society has placed this embedded ideology of adults having power over children. This concept ultimately hinders the students learning ability within See-Hear-Feel-Film because they are more so discouraged from sharing their ideas. One girl within my group for the storyboard activity was taking awhile to spit out an idea, and right when she was about to speak, the other volunteer shut her out and started giving them ideas for the story. Overall, I believe that based off of today’s definition of “child,” children are casted as less superior to adults and the juxtaposition we have created between the two belittles our understanding of what a child is.

     It is hard to truly see any form of longstanding impact with the students, since we only meet for one session and I as a volunteer do not get to see them return unless I return as a volunteer for the second unit starting in January. However, based on my observations, the students do leave Amherst Cinema with a sense of accomplishment and power, as showcased by their smiling faces. I believe much of the impact from this program comes from the environment the volunteers and specifically the director, Jake, creates. The central belief that See-Hear-Feel-Film prides itself in is within a collaborative and brainstorming environment, it is impossible for the children to make a mistake. This belief creates a sense of power that most children do not get to experience in their daily lives. By far, giving children this source of positive energy and self-confidence has been the most rewarding aspect of the community engagement assignment thus far.

My Journey So Far

By Fadjanie Cadet
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     Initially, I was really excited about participating in the Miss Representation to Mass Representation program. While I remain eager to get the students’ responses, the excitement started to die down. Being that this is a pilot program, we were initially warned about potential upsets, but now the warning has come into fruition. Bringing the film, Miss Representation, to youth and emphasizing media literacy is very important. Not only because of the misrepresentation of women in the media, but also because the topics of conversation are often overlooked in middle schools and high schools. It wasn’t until I got to college that I consistently discussed the injustices in our society and the institutions that reinforce them. I believe that this discourse is vital for youth to grasp a greater understanding of our world and start to evaluate what roles they will play in the grander scheme of things. How will they be affected by these injustices and how will they be a part of facilitating change? Yet, I feel that all of this meaning and excitement have been overshadowed by strict timelines and lack of structure. Trying to get in contact with and plan with teachers hasn’t been an easy task. I wish that we had more time to plan, execute, and debrief our experiences of going into these schools and interacting with these teenagers. Since this is a pilot program we have not had a great deal of help from the directors of the program. If the directors had reached out to schools ahead of time and built relationships with those schools, we would have an easier time getting into schools to give the presentation. However, it has been difficult for students to get quick responses from teachers. I also feel like teachers and administrators would have been more enthusiastic about participating in the program if they had prior knowledge about the Miss Representation to Mass Representation program. To deal with these issues I decided to contact teachers and administrators that I already had relationships with. With this, they are more willing to participate because they know me, and it makes contacting them and setting dates just a little more easy-going. 

     However, I am thrilled about the school I have finally confirmed visiting, my alma mater, Brockton High School. Brockton High School is one of the largest urban high schools in the country and the student body is 49 percent male and 51 percent female, and the total minority enrollment is 74 percent. I am so excited to show the film to the Brockton High students. I am anticipating a lot of conversation because from what I remember, Brockton High students are very smart and opinionated. My greatest fear with the CESL option was that I would be on the receiving end of blank stares and deadly silence after the film screening. While that is still a possibility, I think that giving the presentation at this particular school has lowered the odds of that happening. So, being able to give this presentation at the high school that was my first choice has brought some of my enthusiasm back. I look forward to hearing the views of the girls, and particularly the young men. Many of these young men already internalized that the world is against them and it is a slight concern for me that the boys will feel attacked and underrepresented in the film. With a good portion of Brockton families living below the poverty line and high crime rates plaguing the city, young men have become targets of stereotypes and often feel victimized by the system, so to speak. But, I am hoping that they will still be able to provide meaningful insight to our discussion and hopefully one day become allies and more aware of media exploitation as a whole. 

Engaging With Media

By Maggie Cornelius 
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     The Miss Representation to Mass Representation project is an attempt to share clips from the documentary Miss Representation to middle and high school students and engage them in a discussion about media literacy and the way media presents itself. I had not set foot in a high school since my own graduation several years ago, however once we got started teaching the material it proved a fascinating and worthwhile experience. We spoke with two junior health classes at South Hadley High School who were incredibly responsive to the film clip and the questions we used to lead the discussion. Our main goal was to see how they felt about the way women are represented in media and hopefully give them tools to analyze media on a deeper level. In the end we ended up discussing a variety of things from gender stereotypes and sexism to women in power all circling back to the main subject of the media and its role. They had opinions on everything from the inbalance of women in politics to the way the media negatively affects our opinions and portrays women and men. The students seemed to have already been thinking and engaging with these problems before we came and presented the clip, they had a wealth of knowledge they used to back up their thoughts with many drawing on specific historical events as if they were common knowledge. 

     I was overwhelmed with how many students had a desire to discuss these issues, my own high school self was much more reserved and I know I was never actively engaging in this type of discussion about media. Visiting with these students and talking with them made me realize my own limited engagement early on in life and the importance of making this information available to everyone became blatantly clear. Sharing the Miss Representation clip with only two high school classes has already had an impact on my life and from what I saw several of the students in the classes as well. Hopefully, this project will be continued in the future because it has already sparked a huge interest among myself and the younger students we spoke to as well as my classmates.  

From College to the Community

By Natalie Grillo
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     When I first came to UMass Amherst, I just saw myself as a college student, a temporary member of the university. Then my junior year, I moved off campus and started to notice more of the town and the people. During the spring of 2013, I was in Professor Butler’s class and that was my first semester at See Hear Feel Film. It was during that time that I realized I am a member of the community for my four years at UMass. This means that just as I would somewhere else, I should volunteer in the community, try to make a difference. 

     At each session with the See Hear Feel Film program, the children watch 2 short animated films and have small discussions with Jake about the films. After this, the children split up into groups and are assigned to two volunteers. In the group, we teach the students about storyboarding. Then we are given a title (for example, My Life with a Lightning Bolt) and create a storyboard. Each student creates just one sentence of the story and draws a picture that goes along with the sentence. At the end, all of the groups present their stories to one another. 
     There are so many different things I notice each time I go to a session at the See Hear Feel Film program. One common theme though is that while many people may believe media may have some negative effects on children, it will always be present in their lives; therefore we should figure out ways to use it as a positive teaching tool and turn it into a meaningful experience. Coming from a small town in suburbia, I expected all of the children to be middle class, literate, the same way I was raised. After volunteering at different sessions, I was ashamed at how narrow-minded I was going into this entire experience. Sometimes when I go, I see students who live in shelters, students who are not able to read or write, and students who have grown up so much faster than they should. No matter what their literacy level or their background, my goal as a volunteer is to make this day special for them, hopefully teach them a few things, and more importantly help them to have fun. 

     Jake, who runs See Hear Feel Film, recently said that during these times with the students, he wants to make these children’s experiences with the movie theatre as great as possible. For a lot of these kids, this is their first time being at a movie theatre. Besides learning about movies and story-telling here, these children are learning how to collaborate with each other. Sometimes the students work great with each other, and other times it is really hard to say to a child, “You can’t tell the entire story, just a section of it.” However it is important for students to learn to respect each other and listen to their peers’ ideas. 

     As college students, we only go to volunteer a few times a semester. During the small amount of time there, I hope I am making a difference in at least one child’s life. For four years, college students are members of the community, and this is something I don’t think many of them realize. I have been lucky enough to volunteer within the community and it has been an amazing experience. Sometimes I sit in class and think, “I can’t relate to this” or “How will I ever apply this to my life?” By volunteering at See Hear Feel Films, it all clicks and makes sense. There is nothing more rewarding than learning things in class and actually being able to apply it by having a positive impact on a child’s life.  

Third Graders on their Way to Becoming Film Makers

Jenna Stathopoulos
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     I have gotten involved in Community Engagement by volunteering at the exceptional Amherst Cinema Program called See, Hear, Feel Film.  The participants of this unique program are third graders from local elementary schools, who learn to look at movies through the eyes of a film maker. This is not a typical field trip for students because they get to sit in a large theater with their teachers and watch several short animated films. They are instructed to think outside the box and focus on details such as camera shots, sounds, colors, music, setting, and symbols.  Interestingly, the program started only three years ago, but it has grown tremendously and is a popular place for volunteers of all ages. 

     My group and I are helping those in charge of the program by collecting data and feedback through interviews with students and teachers. We are planning to ask teachers a fewquestions about what they know about media literacy, what they think about the Amherst Cinema program, what they think of the films shown, and what they think their students are getting out of the program. For the students however, we will ask more simple but important questions such as “What did you do today?”, “Do you think you can be a film maker?” and “Is this movie like the movies you watch at school or the movie theater?” We have not asked these questions yet but we are hoping to get interesting answers from both teachers and students that we can analyze. Our goal is to help the instructors of Amherst Cinema to find ways to improve the program for the future. 

     So far I have only observed the third grade students from the Mosier School in South Hadley. I noticed that they already knew several things about films such as what a projectionist does, and what a plot twist does to a story. They watched two movies several times, and they easily remembered small details. In addition, when it was their turn to make a story for a film based on just a title, they came up with imaginative and creative ideas and drawings.  For my next visit, I am planning on interviewing the students and teachers of the Kelly school from Holyoke.. I am very curious to see how these students and teachers will answer our questions. More importantly I am interested to see how the Holyoke third graders will differ in their reactions to the films compared to the students from South Hadley.  Maybe there will be a different responses based on the past experiences and backgrounds of the children, or maybe they will me more alike than different.  I will find out soon!

Amherst Cinema’s See, Hear, Feel, Film Experience

David Young
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     After attending a few sessions at Amherst Cinema’s See, Hear, Feel, Film project I’ve got a fairly comfortable idea of how the program works, what some of the impacts are that the children receive, as well as how our community here in the Pioneer Valley has become involved.  Observing the interactions between the children and the facilitators allows me to provide a bit of research for the full time staff to fall back on to allow changes or improvements down the line to the overall approach of delivering this program to the children.  Most of my work so far has been observing how Jake and his staff operate this program as well as observing how these children react to their experiences while at the Cinema.  So far I’ve been able to gather and take some notes on what I witness while the movies are played as well as some of the group activities afterwards.  I’ve also was able to speak with one teacher in particular about her experiences with this program and how long she has been involved.  My plan throughout the next month or two will involve visiting some of the classrooms to see what the children think about the program after they have returned home from the Cinema.  Also I’ve been able to become involved in some short discussions with Jake and the volunteer help to talk about what went well that day and maybe some aspects of the program that need improvements for next time.  I feel that this carries a lot of weight in terms of hearing from everyone about their perspectives and how this can help Jake evolve this program.
      The sheer amount of volunteers for this program was one of the first things that I was exposed to and it’s amazing that a community can come together for projects like this and give as much time as they do.  The groups of volunteers that I’ve observed are mostly made up of retired teachers, some future educators, as well as parents of the children involved in that day’s session.  I have noticed that the abundance of help can sometimes create some issues amongst the volunteers in terms everyone’s teaching styles and ideas of facilitating these groups of children.  Whether or not all the facilitators present have the correct patients with this age group is something that I also observed and I feel as though it’s important to remind ourselves why we are all there.  Just as everyone learns differently, we all teach differently as well, and incorporating these different guiding/teaching styles into this program can cause frustration.  

     Although I’m not acting as a facilitator I have enjoyed watching the children and how they formulate their stories amongst their groups.  Watching the children create a sense of imagination when working together is fun to witness especially when it’s their turn to present to the rest of class.  Jake’s idea of letting the children use the microphone to present their pieces is a great way for them experience the floor time and most can’t wait to have their turn.  I see this program as a great way of encouraging a child to expand their imagination and to allow them to grasp the idea of what it means to create their own films and stories.   Relating the program to some things I’ve learned in class is also something to touch on.  It’s clearly evident what positive impacts media can have on children’s creativity as opposed to say, Disney’s model of pushing certain images and ideas onto today’s youth.  Overall this program seems to be a healthy creative learning experience for children and I’ll be excited to hear direct feedback from the kids themselves.  

My Experience with Amherst Cinema’s See Hear Feel Film Third Grade Education Program

Cameron Delay
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     As students of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, sometimes we are required to participate in the community by one of our classes for a portion of our grade. At the beginning of the semester I resentfully found out that I would have to for my Communications 338: Children Teens, and Media class. The option that I chose for this project was Amherst Cinema’s See Hear Feel Film Third Grade Education Program. This program teaches children how to gain visual literacy skills by using and creating media such as film. Before I was even able to sign up to be a volunteer, the positions were filled by other members of the community and a few of my classmates, which says a lot for the program. The director of the program, Jake, luckily allowed the remainder of us that did not get a spot volunteering to observe and conduct research during sessions. I was a little cynical going into the program due to my own feelings of children, but after attending a session I can say that this method of teaching media literacy is worth seeing. 

     Jake is an incredible teacher. In this program, he helps children learn how to identify multiple details in media, create media in a new format, and overall inspire creativity. My first attendance to See Hear Feel Film was to observe 3rd graders from the Lawrence School in Holyoke. These children are a part of the lowest ranking public schools in Massachusetts and (mentioned during our small discussion with the volunteers after the program concluded) come from different backgrounds where English is used as a second language in their homes.  When Jake started off this session he asked a few questions to get student participation. He first asked if they liked movies, which immediately every hand shot up. Then he asked if they liked listening to stories, which only half of the students raised their hands. For his final question he asked if they liked telling stories, which a reluctant third of the class slowly put their hands up The gradual decline in student participation for each question was sad to see. It was as if these students were just giving up on their and their peer’s creativity. Jake then went on to show two short films where the students had to try to pick up on different details using what they saw and heard. From the way that these children interacted with the film, their perceptions of what was happening in it and the details they picked up, you wouldn’t think that these were students from a low ranking public school. They seemed to be very engaged in the activity and comprehensive. The final portion of the program shifted into smaller groups with volunteers to create a storyboard for a movie. When observing this portion I noticed two things. Students seemed to connect with the task of creating storyboard, but many of these children really needed assistance from volunteers to develop a cohesive sentence for their portion of the story. After developing stories each group got to present their finished work. A good portion of the students had trouble reading what they had written down. Jake and the volunteers maintained a positive attitude though, trying to foster creativity and an ambition to write in the minds of these young children so they can develop into better students. 

     After going to this program and seeing how the Amherst community is trying to make a difference for these children, I am more excited for my continued involvement. For more information on Amherst Cinema’s See Hear Feel Film you can go to and find out how to volunteer. 

Education for Change

Chris Doherty
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     Miss Representation is a film that displays how women are portrayed in the media. From sitcom television to the big screen, the image of women that gets portrayed could be more harmful to the young girls of this generation than it may seem. While at the Education for Change weekend at UMass Dartmouth I was able to see the film for the first time and it really was crazy seeing how much is done in the media to expose women and warp the minds of young girls. It’s important that girls understand that there is no need to follow the image shown in the media. Equally important, however, is that children understand that they can help in the cause by not making their peers feel that the only way to be popular and liked in school is to look like the women on TV. 

     I feel it is important that adult males help in this program. Hearing a male’s voice could help make that clearer to teenage boys than maybe if it were just a female teacher or student. The reason I say that is because it seems that younger, teenage or pre-teen boys, keep themselves in a world of their own, the only opinion that matters is theirs. Maybe an older, but not much older, male voice could break through that barrier. I’m unsure if that is actually true, but it is an interest of mine going forward. All kids are different so it will be part of the learning experience seeing how they react to a topic like this coming from both a male and a female.

     I am looking forward to getting into the classroom and actually having a critical discussion with them about their reactions to what they saw in the film. I’m very intrigued to see how many of the kids will speak up and feel comfortable sharing their opinions with their peers and with a couple of strangers they have never met before. The other aspect that is intriguing is how passionate will some of these kids be? Some of these kids may already be having these thoughts that what they’re seeing is wrong, some may have never even thought about it before. That is where the critical, group discussion could be a big thing for the class.  

      This is a new experience for me and am anxious to get it going so I can actually see what it is like. I want to be able to share my opinion on this subject and hopefully these kids will be able to form their own educated opinion and maybe join the cause. 

Before Stepping Foot in a Classroom

by Melissa McClure
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     This semester I have the privilege to be a part of a project that is trying to make a difference in the way that a younger generation interacts with media literacy. Our focus: gender portrayal in today’s media, utilizing the lessons presented in the film Miss Representation to educate middle school and high school students in an accessible form. I am now a part of the state wide initiative From Miss Representation to Mass Representation: Educating for Change.

     It is my hope that college students coming in and presenting ideas of understanding media bias in terms of women and the resulting emotional manipulation, will make the kids intrigued to listen by putting information on their level in an accessible form. Women—especially today’s generation—need to be made aware that they don’t need to feel like there are certain guidelines and expectations they need to fit under; their personality is what they choose, and that is what’s most important. The same goes for men, and that they can also break the stereotypes that are given so often in today’s society. 

     I hope to be the person that can bring this message to them in a bigger way than ever. I hope to make them aware so that maybe one person can go home and make peace with themselves for the day, or even question what they are watching on TV- why they think in certain ways and/or who makes them think this way…All questions that are important to our lives that many don’t think to ask, but instead just consume.

     I haven’t stepped into a classroom yet but I feel like that will be the game changer.

     The opportunity for students, such as myself, to come in and talk to classes of the younger generation is one in which I believe every school should take advantage of. The lack of response I’ve been getting from schools as a whole has been a bit disappointing so far, as usually it’s only one teacher or so that has a real enthusiasm for the project. Even just having the opportunity to get this movie sent to them for free through the funding that Miss Representation is providing is a benefit to these schools. They can then continue using it as a learning tool through many more years of students to come. I fully believe that if this project is done right, that once we come into classrooms to teach ideas behind media literacy the first time that others will find this to be beneficial and add this activity into curriculums for years to come.

     However, being a part of this project has already taught me so much. I never personally had the thought of what destruction the media is doing to my generation, and those even younger than me, in their everyday lives. Yes, I struggled along every other middle schooler to make peace with my appearance (especially being a bit over weight at the time), but I never realized the reasons that could have driven me to this unhappiness. I’m proud to now be able to bring such an important topic into middle school and high school classrooms in order to promote media literacy from a younger age so that they may be made aware, and maybe even make a change in the ways that they experience media around them.

Miss Representation to Mass Representation

by Richard Wilson
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013

     My service learning is centered around how children are affected by the media and trying to increase their awareness and understanding of issues in the media. I take what I have learned into Middle and High Schools to show youth what the media is trying to accomplish and how to become more informed when they watch their favorite shows. More specifically, I am using the documentary Miss Representation which shows how the media hyper-sexualizes women. The film generates conversation about how the media plays a role in women’s role in politics and business, While the film focuses on women’s portrayal in the media, it creates an opportunity to discuss how other minority groups are represented in the media.  I feel like this opportunity to present to youth is very important because when I leave, I hope students have a better understanding of what media literacy is, who creates what is seen in the media, and what they can do to help improve the messages that are seen in the mass media. 

     When students understand why the media is set up in the way it is, they are more likely to want to make a change.  I recently went to a weekend workshop which was inspired by Miss Representation. As crazy as this may sound, I have to admit that it was the greatest weekend of my life because I learned so much. At the conference I learned about many situations where the media showed women in a negative way. For example, the news often portrays rape victims as ruining a man’s life or that the victim deserved being raped because of what they were wearing or how they were acting, not as victims themselves. In reality television, women dress provocatively, are objectified and are seen putting each other down and fighting over a rich man, implying that these women are gold diggers.  One of the other major themes of the conference was how women in politics have to face questions about their beauty (or lack thereof), how they are dressed, and how they will manage their house and family while in office. However, their male counterparts rarely get these same questions.  After attending this conference, I am excited to enter the classrooms to teach the Miss Representation curriculum and to also find out other ways to make sure minority messages are heard. If these issues are important to you, or you are inspired by this post, you can also get involved in this program. If you want to make a difference and become involved with this issue, you should get in contact with the Miss Representation to Mass Representation program to see how you can become a part of this movement.            

Community Education – From University to Community; Media Literacy & Socialization

by Daniel Krasner
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013
      The goal of the CESL project that I am participating in is to facilitate discussions about media literacy in public high school and middle schools in Western Massachusetts – in particular, focusing on the representation of women and with the help of clips from the documentary Miss Representation. This is additionally part of a larger effort to push for media literacy courses in public schools across the state of Massachusetts, so that our youth are trained at a younger age to be critical and see through the harmful subtexts that media texts broadcast.

      Thus far, I have learned about these efforts in going to the series of media literacy trainings and workshops at UMass Dartmouth the weekend of September 28th & 29th. I was shocked to find a broader community dedicated to such a unique and relevant cause. Popular culture and entertainment permeate the majority of our lives. What interests me about this field is the question that we ask as critical thinkers and active community members – how does the media educate us and socialize us? Media is not simply a harmless part of our world.

      The conference discussed how the media frames women. Oftentimes, stories are framed to blame women, be suspicious of them or focus on their image – which reinforces the cultural oversexualization of the woman. This is harmful because it reduces the woman to a sexual body .
Many of the workshops I went to focused on this issue of framing but also on the issue of representation. As Marie Wilson states in the documentary Miss Representation, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” meaning that the models and archetypes of women that are presented in the mass media are what young women have to draw from in order to develop their own identity as it pertains to womanhood. Everything down to television shows like Modern Family and Parenthood provide the behavioral models upon which youth draw to define themselves.

      One particular lecture that I went to discussed the idea of creating new media sources and having them directed by underrepresented and underprivileged youth. This way, it can serve as a form of empowerment that directly relates to invisibilized identities such as urban, working class families – particularly focusing on families and children of color and especially women. Not only is media therefore used as an instrument to give these communities a sense of control in a world that largely denies them the accessibility of any level or position of power, but it also creates a source written by, for, and about these communities, allowing them to have an outlet that attempts to combat the status quo.
Understanding that media texts are, in fact, an educative, socializing source is extremely important not just to the scholarly field of cultural studies but to understanding the broader scope of how our society functions, shaping how we interact with each other to what we perceive as truth. Media is often dismissed as “just entertainment.” This is obviously not true. We must hold our media authors accountable while simultaneously helping to create a larger mass of the public to be critical.

      Educating our peers was at the heart of the discussions and I believe that this is a crucial first step – engaging with others, reaching out to the masses so that not only a privileged, educated elite is working towards this deconstruction of harmful messages. This kind of community outreach will provide a more accessible basis for connecting what we learn in the classroom to the world outside the walls of universities and formalized higher education. This is about turning theory into practice.

      In terms of critiquing the conference, one thing I noticed about the conference is that it was focused primarily on white women. Women of color experience sexism in a much different way because identities are intersectional. Focusing only on white women perpetuates the invisibility women of color face every day – which is particularly important because most times, they are more overtly sexualized than white women.

      The conference also left out the role of men in this discussion. For example, in a lot of rape culture discourse, the focus is on telling girls to not dress a certain way – or, more recently to wear “anti-rape clothing.” The discourse should instead focus on teaching men not to rape as well as how they perpetuate and contribute to a culture through their behaviors and socialized beliefs that promote sexism. These are two points I wish to bring to the table in my media literacy work with this documentary.

Rewarding Volunteer Work at the local See-Hear-Feel-Film Program

by Robert West
Communication 338: Children, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013
      See-Hear-Feel-Film is a program at Amherst Cinema that helps raise media literacy and inspires creativity in 3rd grade children across the Pioneer Valley. The volunteers for this program work with small groups of 7 or 8 children to create their own frame by frame storyboard after Jake, (the man) who runs the program at the cinema, shows them two films and a storyboard to a film made by an 11-year-old boy. After breaking for popcorn and forming groups, the volunteers pick a random prewritten title and work with the kids to create a storyboard for that title with each child getting a frame of their own to write and draw. Once group work is done, the groups present their storyboards to the rest of those at the program that day. 
I have only been to the Cinema three times so far this semester, once for orientation and twice for volunteering. During those volunteer sessions I was able to apply many ideas we had learned in class while working with the children on their storyboards. With the first school I interacted with being from Northampton, and the second being the Sullivan School in Holyoke with many ELL (English Language Learner) students, it opened my eyes to see how from one town to the next, the education level for a third grader in western Massachusetts, if not the rest of the country, could be on such different levels of language skills and comprehension. With only a half-hour drive between the two school districts, it was eye-opening how different the school’s populace and academic level could be between the two. I have also been able to apply what we have learned about gender in class to working with the children. So far, in working with the children on their storyboards, boys seem to be much more eager to participate than girls and the girls need more coaxing to be vocal about their ideas on the projects. 
      Interacting with the children so far has been rewarding, especially helping some ELL kids who are not up to par with literacy in English as their classmates, which I experienced some of from the Holyoke school. With one boy I helped out, Yedrick, it was nice to have him see that he can make good contributions with a little help form someone else, and can communicate just as well through images as they can with their written word. In my opinion, he was the best artist in that group and told me how he likes to draw, so it was a rewarding experience to work with him.
This class, Children, Teens, and Media has taught me more about the importance of media education, how different media can affect children in their development across the spectrum of socioeconomic background, race, and gender, and how educating them on the several different media outlets that they interact with on a daily basis can be beneficial to their education. With Unit 1’s group activity and Jake’s interaction and lecturing of the children to take part in analyzing the films shown, I have noticed that most of the children are eager and excited to learn more about moviemaking and many of them come in with zero knowledge on the subject, while others know a lot about how a cinema is run and how a movie is made. It’s rewarding to help educate them on their ability to create and influence media; maybe someday one of them will be a grand filmmaker and have gotten their start from their storyboards in their See-Hear-Feel-Film journal. 

      This time of year, the See-Hear-Feel-Film program is in Unit 1 of their program, which takes the children through basic steps of how to interact with films and map out cinematic stories of their own through their storyboards and the journals they are able to take back to class or home after Unit 1. If anyone would like to volunteer for the other units through the Spring, this would be a great opportunity for anyone wanting to get involved with this great community program at Amherst Cinema and help kids learn about the magic of creativity, storytelling, and moviemaking. 

The Beginning and the Future: The Experience of the See Hear Feel Film Program

by Alden Kin-Hung Wong
Communications 338: Children, Teens & Media
Fall 2013

     As a senior at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, over the last years many people have told me of the vast and diverse community the valley has to offer. Sadly I have never engaged in any community involved activities; Amherst Cinema’s See-Hear-Feel-Film (SHFF) changed that. For a quick summary of what SHFF is; See-Hear-Feel-Film teaches children in the 3rd grade how films are moving stories. Children also learn that books and films have much in common, in respect that characters have different motivations and perspectives and that dialogue and descriptive detail makes the stories come alive. During these sessions, the students understand how conflict is created in a story when a character faces obstacles. By the end of the program, students would gain an understanding of the many tools filmmakers use to move ideas from their imaginations into the world. With this idea, students can see that their stories live inside each of us, and that they too can become powerful storytellers and writers. With all that being said, I was very eager to participate in this program especially because my field of specialty is how media affects society.

     The workshops generally are held on weekdays from 9:30am-12:30pm at Amherst Cinema in Amherst, MA. The first thing a person would notice would be seeing a group of 20-30 students entering the building with much enthusiasm and excitement to be in the workshop. When the program begins, Jake Meginsky, the Director of Education for the program, begins the session by discussing the elements of film. From here, this is where the children begin to shine. After watching various mini-films, the kids begin to share their analysis of what they thought about the films they’ve seen and begin to share other interesting thoughts that even some adults don’t catch while watching the same films. After watching these films, the children break into small groups where they begin to even create their own stories and share with everyone in the room. Most people would assume that the kids would create simplistic stories but these stories aren’t simplistic. Most of the stories these kids created are filled with so much excitement and such high detail that at some moments, I felt these could even be used in actual films today. Yes there may be some kids that are hard to handle due to their high energy. But the experience to see these kids shine in many ways is something inspiring to see. Overall, the experience is something that is worth experiencing yourself.

     Seeing these kids at such a young age engage in something in the scale they participated in makes you realize kids today are very smart and if society teaches them how to utilize media and modern technology more responsibly and efficiently, they can do many great things. In a world where some believe the technology and media we use today is harming the learning of the youth population, SHFF is a prime example in showing society how to utilize media to teach their students how to create and share a story/idea to the world. As a first experience to engage in a community program, I am glad that See-Hear-Feel-Film was my first volunteer work. If any person were to wish to volunteer for the See-Hear-Feel-Film program, they are accepting volunteer registrations in the coming months and if anyone is interested in looking at more information, visit their website at

Exploring visual literacy with See Hear Feel Film

by Catherine Sidor
Communications 338: Children, Teens & Media
Fall 2013
     At “See Hear Feel Film” the coordinator Jake is teaching visual literacy to third graders.  Every week Jake shows the third graders two short animated films.  He asks them questions about what they saw, and really makes sure that they are paying attention to detail and helps them analyze what they just saw.  Some examples of questions he asks them are, “Why did the filmmaker do that?” or “Who remembers what happened next?”  After analyzing the films with the children, they are separated into groups where volunteers from UMass and the community help them to create their own storyboard.  At the end of the session the children all share what they have created with each other.  In my opinion, there is so much more for the children at this program than just visual literacy. I see huge improvements in the third grader’s confidence from when they enter the building, to the time they leave.  The children who were quiet and reluctant to speak in the beginning are more eager to share their work, and are proud of it.  I notice that Jake says almost the same thing every week, but depending on the group of children, responses can be very different.  I worked with a group of mainly illiterate and Spanish speaking children, and found that they were not as quick to interact and answer questions as children who come from a literate classroom were.  Literacy has proven to be a huge confidence boost.  Even for those who are not literate, being able to participate in this program shows them that they still have skills, and I can see the children who were more shy becoming more involved and participation increasing at the end of their session.  
     I really feel that is important to include college students in this process because I have noticed that the children bond better with the college students than they do with the volunteers who are older.  I think that the children are not as eager to bond with the other volunteers simply because they are older.  They feel that they can connect better with someone younger and closer to their age.  Whenever I helped out in a group with a volunteer who was older, the kids always seemed to gravitate more towards me and seemed more comfortable asking me for help than my fellow volunteer.
     This program is school year round, and there are two sessions in Amherst Cinema, so I plan on returning in the Spring because I am enjoying myself so much.  Every session I leave feeling good about myself, and that I made a difference.  

Film Making 101 at Amherst Cinema

Katie Barron
Communications 338: Childrens, Teens, & Media
Fall 2013
     This semester I am observing and conducting research at Amherst Cinema with the See, Hear, Feel, Film program. It is a program that works with third graders from the surrounding Amherst area to teach them media literacy. The kids are shown two short films and asked questions about them, and then they are broken up into smaller groups where they get to create their own storyboards and then preform them to their peers. Even though I have only been to the cinema twice so far, the experience of working with the program has already taught me so much. 
     So far I have been able to observe and work with children from Mosier Elementary School in South Hadley, and then I began doing my research component by interviewing some students and their teachers about their thoughts on the program, from the Kelly School in Holyoke. Both groups were truly amazing. All the kids were so willing and eager to participate in the program. Also, all of kids that I was able to work with in the smaller group activities from both schools were really fun. They were all very outgoing and worked well with each other. There was not one kid out of both schools who was afraid to talk to me, and they all wanted me to help them with their storyboards.  It was also really rewarding to watch them all enjoy the program. I could see that they were learning new things about making films and drawing storyboards. In addition, conducting the interviews was a really gratifying and insightful. The teachers I spoke with were so passionate about the program, and told us about how great of a creative outlet it is for their kids, and how it really makes a difference to have their students participate in it. Interviewing the kids was really rewarding as well. Many of them were so inspired by what they had done, and told me how when they got home they wanted to create their own stories and storyboards, which is one of the main goals the program has. Just talking to them, and observing them warmed my heart. It really showed me how much they enjoyed their time at the cinema and how they had learned new creative skills such as storyboarding and creative writing. Moreover, this program has taught me more about media literacy, and the students so far have taught me not to forget the importance of imagination, and originality. 
     It is clear to me that this is a very special program. It really provides kids with a space where they can use their creativity and imagination to be filmmakers. The See, Hear, Feel, Film program is introducing kids to media in ways that they are usually not exposed to at home and in the class room. I am very excited to continue to learn from the program itself, and the students and teachers that participate in it. 

Children, Creativity, and Storytelling

by Cali Keene
Communication 338: Children, Teens and Media

    Working with the creative thoughts of third graders could not be more rewarding and helpful for both adults and children. This semester I am volunteering at Amherst Cinema on Amity Street as an educational facilitator to third grade students in the district. During one volunteering session, I helped a group of seven different third grade students from Ryan Road School in Northampton, MA create a descriptive storyline, and I found myself going back into time and experiencing this event on a similar level as them. One of the boys in my group asked me, “Where did you come from?” I stepped back and thought to myself, “Why would he ask me such a question?” I realized he was curious of my role in our activities because I did not look close to the age of his teachers and the other volunteers. I remember going on fieldtrips in elementary school, and how much of an impact these events leave on a person years later, and found myself really happy to know I am going to leave a positive impact on these children. Knowing that they were interested in my role, I felt I could really connect with them. I encouraged more detail and asked them questions about their long explanations on what should happen next in our story. This challenged the students because they were so advanced in vocabulary and spelling that one sentence was too short to encompass their entire vision.

     After the incredible collaboration from the children, they practiced reading their story in order to perform it for the rest of their classmates. Before each group performed their story, everyone said their first and last name. In the beginning of the morning, all of the students as a group raised their hand to talk into the microphone when the leader of the program, Jake asked for a volunteer; however, I noticed that on an individual level, students became shyer. Some children loudly pronounced their name, giggled at their name, or whispered their name. I noticed that mainly the boys in the class loudly pronounced and giggled at their name or their friend’s name. There were two specific girls who were next to each other in a group and they whispered their name into the microphone. They were very shy and nervous. I also noticed in my group that the four boys volunteered to add a part to the story before all of the three girls. It was interesting to learn that the boys were more excited and outgoing than the girls. Would this be the same case if I had a group of all girls? This is one of the many questions I have pondered on, and I look forward to volunteering more and to notice other or similar patterns.

Massachusetts Fair Housing

by Kathryn Elliott, Service-Learning Campus-Community Liaison

It always is an amazing feeling when a group of people comes together for the same cause.  Whether it be for a celebration, education, or political action it is very rewarding to know that there are others supporting the same things you are.  Last Thursday, I attended a public hearing with the Amherst Housing Authority on the issue of the low income housing crisis in Amherst.  Basically, Amherst can no longer fund it’s low income residents and is struggling to find a fair solution on how to handle the situation.  So far they have come up with two options, give everyone who receives section 8 vouchers less money or move some of the people currently receiving section 8 out of town.  Both of these options would be detrimental to the low-income community.
I went to this meeting not expecting many people show up and I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into a room with over 60 people all fighting to find a solution for Amherst.  The Housing Authority was kind enough to go around the room and let anyone who wished to speak have their voices heard on the issue.  I was again surprised at how many people volunteered to speak.  One person on the Housing Authority voiced that those who wished to speak need not say whether they were receiving section 8 or not.  The first woman who stood up to speak said that she was not ashamed to be receiving section 8, but was ashamed at how the town was planning on handling its budget cuts.
After most of the room had had their chance to speak the AHA decided to have another hearing, realizing how big of an impact their decision would have on peoples lives.  They were given many alternative solutions by those in the audience and realized they have a lot more research to do before finalizing anything.  This was very pleasing to me because I felt that since there were a large number of people at the meeting the AHA’s decision was swayed.  It goes to show that even when you feel like you as an individual don’t have much power, you can come together with others with the same beliefs and make a change.

Public Health in South Africa

by Hannah Weinronk

This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to spend two months doing research in South Africa as a Water, Society, and Health Scholar.  Students from across the country joined a collaboration between the University of Virginia and the University of Venda to address health issues related to water contamination.  The Limpopo province of South Africa where we were working has high rates of waterborne illness, which can lead to malnutrition and death, particularly in young children.

The project involved working with a women's pottery cooperative to produce ceramic water filters, and partnering with a local village to carry out a study on how the filters are used in households.  It was a different model of community engagement than I have been involved in at UMass through CESL.  Limpopo is one of the few areas of South Africa to still have a traditional leadership structure (this region is home to the Venda tribe), so everything we did had to be organized through the chief, and many of the people we worked with spoke no English.  However, while the culture was very different, I discovered that many of the underlying challenges facing the community are similar to those facing communities I have worked with here in Western Massachusetts.  It was amazing to create connections with people in the village as well as the students and faculty from the university and around the US who were a part of this collaboration.

This program was my first exposure to community-based research, and I have come to understand its importance in addressing health problems.  How can we find solutions if we don't first determine what the real issues are and take time to consider all the options?  How do we know that a solution works if it is not tried out and evaluated?  I have learned that sometimes, in order to effectively create change, it is necessary to first take a step back and make sure you are taking the right step forward instead of jumping in with the quickest or easiest answer.

Throughout the program, it was a challenge to figure out how to create true partnerships- and not just respectful relationships- between the different players (University of Virginia, University of Venda, the village, the pottery cooperative, and our research program).  We had to be aware of strong power dynamics related to race, money, and formal education that have historical precedents in South Africa and still influence society today.  I have learned so much about how difficult it is- as well as what amazing possibilities there are- to overcome these barriers.

This has been a truly incredible summer.  I have been exposed so much through the research, through living in Limpopo, and from everyone I have met along the way.  I have learned about resilience, about respect, about strength, and about what sustains us as people and as communities.  I am grateful to have had this opportunity of a lifetime, and I am excited to take everything I have learned forward with me as I return to my service site in Amherst in the fall, and continue on to work in the field of public health.

Service-Learning at Amherst Cinema

by Kayla Hoff    Comm 338: Children, Teens & Media  (Fall 2012)


Over the Fall semester, I had the opportunity through my Communication 338 course to volunteer my time at Amherst Cinema with the See, Hear, Feel, Film program. See, Hear, Feel, Film is a five unit educational program that works with third grade students to help them develop skills to critically think about moving images. This program transports local third grade classrooms from the Pioneer Valley to Amherst Cinema for two workshops throughout the year. The workshop includes the viewing of two short films and a conversation following that discusses the visual messages that were portrayed. Then the classes are broken up into smaller groups led by volunteers, who help the students to create their own film outline. Students each create a part of their story and use visualization tools and corroboration to create what their story would look like in a finished film.

See, Hear, Feel, Filmgives children the opportunity to use their imagination, put mental images to paper, and present their finished product in front of an audience. It is amazing to see how demographically different these third graders are from one another. My favorite day thus far was when I worked with a combined group of typical academic level third graders and special education third grade students. These children had never worked together before but still encouraged each other to incorporate ideas to make their storyboard come to life. During the presentation, the more advanced students helped the struggling students read their part. One teacher told the volunteers that she had never seen her students get so excited to work with each other. Working with the See, Hear, Feel, Film program has given me amazing hands-on experience that I can use in my future classroom as an educator. Although I know I am giving these students tools that they can use for years to come, I feel as though their impact on me is even greater.

Student Bridges Learning Through Community Engagement

Student Bridges UMass Amherst Community Engagement
Chandler having fun with one of the participants.

Service-Learning in Springfield, Mass

by Chandler Kaplan  SRVCLRNG 293 (Fall 2012)  

           "Is it really worth getting out of bed just to attend a large lecture class when in reality, no one will really care if I am missing?” This has been my motto—until this semester. Thank you to the founders of Student Bridges, because you have finally provided me with a feeling of purpose on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

            Being a part of Student Bridges has granted me an amazing opportunity to learn, discuss, and implement change. On every Monday and Wednesday this past semester, five other UMass students and I traveled to work with the South End Community Center in Springfield in collaboration with the 4-H STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Program. We are a college-positive group that works with middle school students after school to help them complete their daily homework assignments and complete a science related experiment.

            I think all the tutors and I would agree that it has turned into so much more. Through hard work, understanding and patience, we have built strong connections that are hard to come around. It started out as an enrollment acceptance on SPIRE, and has turned into experiences I will carry with me forever.

            But don’t get me wrong- it wasn’t an easy task. At the beginning of the semester, we spent a great deal of time talking about what it means to be a “successful tutor/mentor.” However, in typical fashion, I spent the night before our first session stressing over how I could reach perfection. In my own Utopian mind, I wanted to be the “perfect tutor/mentor.” But how could I apply this wish to reality? Should I know every homework answer without any hesitation? Should I come to site with an excessively positive attitude and smile at whatever came my way? Well… it turns out I am no robot. Every tutor/mentor, every teacher, and even the President of the United States have imperfections. But the truth is, success sometimes involves being clueless. It involves having to come up with a new plan because all your prior thoughts didn’t work. Through this program I have learned to adapt. I have learned to never give up, even if it’s all I want to do.

            At site and in our Student Bridges CSL seminar on Tuesday nights, we have developed a very accepting environment. We hold one of our rules “Don’t be judgmental” in a very high level of importance. On the first day of tutoring, we went around with all of the kids and tutors and made a list of rules we wanted to implement in order to set up a comfortable, respectful environment. The first things that came out of the kids’ mouths were rules involving respect between the directors, tutors and their peers. Students were eager to write “don’t interrupt”, “don’t push”, “don’t take”, “accept everyone” and “have patience.” We all discussed how we could apply these rules to reality, and made sure to tell them the consequences if that did not happen.

            I think our site does a very good job at providing a comfortable, respectful environment and if it ever feels like it’s not, I will not be hesitant to step in (and this was not true from the start! I have always been known as too passive). The same holds true during our class. I have never before walked into a class and felt myself in a friendly and open environment (and I mean never—I usually walk into lecture and sit in my own section and don’t talk to many people). In this class I feel as though people care, like what I say really matters. It’s a great feeling!

             Holding a comfortable, safe environment took patience and persistence. Respect was essential. The rule holds true, “Treat others how you want to be treated.” It was never fun to be the bad guy, but on occasion we had to step out of our comfort zone and punish what was deserved. We had to find a balance between being our mentees’ friends and being tutor/mentors with authority. It was hard telling them we had other plans every weekend when they would ask us to hang out outside of tutoring, but we had to be brave and do what was right. The students would sometimes try to trick us to get out of doing their homework, but with persistence we were able to get most of them on track.

            I believe that every child has the potential for excellence, some just need a little more assistance getting there than others. Whether it was struggling through a multiplication problem or spelling out a historical term, I tried to encourage each student to always try his or her best. The tutors and I wanted to teach them academic skills they could bring outside the program and apply to their every day life.

            Well, the story doesn’t end there. We are all so grateful we get to return to our site in January. I can’t wait to see the students smiling faces as they run up to us and we are waiting to greet them with big smiles. We have the chance to take everything we have done and expand on it for another semester. These children have taught me so much as a tutor/mentor, but also as a person—and for that, I will always be grateful.




Learning About the World and My Place in It

by Jennie Abdallah, Campus- Community Liaison    April 2013


As a senior, I have been dealing with the realization that my undergrad career is coming to an end and as any depressed senior would, I have been looking back on my time here at UMass Amherst and wondering what I have learned and how I have grown as a person.

When I look back, I see some interesting classes and some gen eds I definitely could have done without. But the best times I have had in regards to academics have been the moments I have spent at my service sites. In hopes of not sounding cliché, taking the course Multicultural Education 377 was one of the best decisions I have made here.  This class opened the doors to service-learning for me because as a sophomore I had no idea what service learning even was. I was sent to the Kelly Middle School Connections program in Holyoke, MA for my service and I have been going there every semester since.

Getting outside of campus boundaries has allowed me to remember that I am not just a student here to learn from books and teachers but that I am here in college to broaden my understanding of the world and my place in it. Service-learning to me is a way of connecting with others and learning from them. My advice to any future service learners would be to open yourselves up to the learning aspect of such courses because it is not just about helping other people. My moments spent at a service site have been energy boosters for me as a person, encouraging me to work harder and brightening my day when I am stressed out.

Last week, I found out the future job I thought I had may not be in the cards anymore so I arrived in Holyoke not too pleased just wanting to get back to check my emails. Instead, I ended up being challenged to a basketball game by a few middle school boys. They kicked my butt but at the end I thanked them for getting my mind off things and they told me “Miss, sometimes you got to stop and play some basketball, but you should probably practice.” Small moments like that have brought me back down to earth when I’m getting stuck in my own head.

Then, there are times when these sites provide insight to some of the negative things going on in our communities as well and injustice happening daily all around us. It makes me angry but also motivates me to look past my bubble that is UMass and want to do something. Overall, service-learning hasn’t always been a feel good experience. There is some tough stuff going on out there that if you never leave campus you’ll never experience. But those experiences, and the moments of pure fun I have had at Connections have definitely shaped my college education into a much more worthwhile endeavor and will come along with me to where ever I end up in the future. 

I advise all underclassman or upperclassman, anyone, to take a course in service-learning or just get out there and get involved. I will be representing Multicultural Education 377 at the Spring Open House & Celebration on Wednesday April 10th at 6:00 pm in the Student Union Cape Cod Room. Many other organizations will be there as well and it is the perfect place to start. See you there!


Jessica Gibbon -  Communication 426

            This year I became involved with the See Hear Feel Film Program at Amherst Cinema and it has proven to be a more positive experience than I ever imagined possible.  Each week upon arrival I sit in the theater with a group of volunteers including both UMass students and volunteers from the town of Amherst.  Jake leads the group by introducing short films for the day as well as the themes that he hopes the children take from the lesson.  The way that Jake is able to engage the young students never ceases to amaze me.  He approaches each third grade class without preconceived notions of their abilities and always seems as energized as the first visit.  Jake easily rolls with the punches of each day and inspires the ever-expanding group of volunteers to proceed with an equally enthusiastic attitude. 

When we break up into smaller groups, I can see that each volunteer tries to emulate Jake’s methods of working with the kids and teaching them about film, storytelling, and creative expression.  Guiding the eager kids through the creation of their very own storyboard sparks a sense of accomplishment in everyone involved.  The students leave the cinema having written and performed a sequel to a film that they first viewed only a few months prior in that very same theater.  The other volunteers and I take away a feeling of satisfaction after a day full of both teaching and learning from kids in the third grade.  Everyone is continuously educating one another while simultaneously having a great time.  From the short films and popcorn to the writing, creating and performing, the See-Hear-Feel-Film program is a complete success.

Students Create Ableism PSA

Courtney Dunham, describes her group’s video project:
When we began our project, we had decided to create a PSA aimed at emphasizing person-first language because while we had seen a number of movements aimed at ending the "R" word, we still heard a lot of language which unintentionally dehumanized people with disabilities by introducing their disability first. When we began our unit on ableism we were shocked to learn how recent the major movements in ableism activism were. The Americans with Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation aimed at improving the lives of Americans with disabilities, wasn't passed until 1990 and that was only the beginning of improvements, as you can see just walking around campus that we still don't live in a society that is completely accessible for people with disabilities. It's incredible that this is still a fairly new topic of discussion, though people with disabilities have always existed. We were very happy with the final product of our video and hope that we can spread the message that people are much more than their disabilities.

You can view the 1 minute PSA at:

Instructor, Maru Gonzale shares about the course:
Social Diversity in Education, more commonly referred to as Education 210, focuses on issues of social identity, social and cultural diversity, and societal manifestations of oppression. Established around the premise of a learning community, students are encouraged to teach and learn from one another, engage in collaborative social justice action, and extend their learning beyond the classroom. The following video and blog post illustrate the "action" taken by one group of students to create awareness about ableism in educational settings.

Media Literacy for Third Graders!

by Stephanie Flynn

Amherst Cinema SHFF Program & Its Impact on our Community’s Children

            This semester for community engagement purposes within my Children, Teens and Media communications class (Communication 388) I was given the opportunity to participate in an incredibly rewarding program called See Hear Feel Film.  The site for this media literacy engagement with third graders from all over the Pioneer Valley takes place at Amherst Cinema.  Volunteers/educational facilitators work directly with these bright children who have come from all different walks of life to understand their reactions of short films made for and by children.  The real fascinating interactions come about when volunteers are able to work with smaller groups of the third graders in the cinema to make interesting and creative storyboards of their own.  The children are handed a title and are asked to depict a beginning, middle and end that relates to the main idea they were given.  The inspiration the students feel after watching movies made by young people is so profound, it is what propels them to feel powerful, creative, and able to construct a story of their own that never existed in the world before their field trip.  By observing these children’s reactions it makes the texts that I have read in class come to life in terms of the way children are so heavily impacted by mass media.  Whether it is by the movies they watch during the program or when the children release details to me regarding the way media has affected them in their personal lives, it is definite that these children are highly entertained by media entertainment.

            While working with these children, I notice that while they may not have all of the “correct” answers when it comes to creating their stories, what they do have is a close knit community within their classroom.  The SHFF program shows that these classrooms are built of a network of students willing to help one another with problems each other may face while using creativity to make a part of their group’s story.  Obstacles these children have overcome include language barriers and difficulties with story tracking.  When these kids leave Amherst Cinema I know that they have left with a sense of empowerment, the ability to pinpoint details within a story, and have a better understanding of how to construct a beginning, middle and end of a story.  These children are transforming from being innocent media viewers, to being able to observe details and become inspired to create art of their own.  The See Hear Feel Film program at Amherst Cinema continues to grow each year it is in session which means more and more volunteers are needed as time progresses.  Choosing to volunteer during the program’s spring semester session is a great way to get involved with our community’s children and it provides the opportunity to work on the improvement of media literacy education.  Visit learn more about this essential program.

A Word from Francis-Protus Ambe - Student Bridges


My name is Francis-Protus Ambe and I am the Public Relations Coordinator for Student Bridges! I also recently interned as an AmeriCorps Vista Summer Associate in collaboration with the Student Bridges summer staff. Student Bridges is an organization which partners with local schools and community organizations to provide advocacy, college awareness, and preparation activities in order to increase access to higher education for underrepresented students.

My involvement in this organization has been a life changing one. I have formed relationships with many bright and intelligent students and have learned a lot from them. Many of these students face daily struggles which their teachers and sometimes parents are not able to relate to. Some of these students spend most of their time taking care of their younger siblings. Because of these obligations they are often late for school or do not have enough time to complete their homework. Others go days at a time without getting a full meal. I have also met students who internalize the idea that they are “weird” or “different” because their teachers constantly tell them they have a learning disability or that they are incapable of succeeding.

And because they do not have someone willing to take the time out to talk to them or advocate for them, they find different ways to cope with these daily struggles by acting out in class, getting involved with the “wrong” group of kids, or secluding themselves from the rest of their classmates. Working side by side with these students has opened my eyes to the many injustices and hardships which hinder many children across this country from pursuing higher education.

Other aspects such as space for afterschool programs, equipment for science and technology classes and parents not being aware of available resources and ways to support their student because of lack of educationand time or language barriers, are all examples of inequalities these kids face which are often overlooked by our education and legal system. I, along with other staff members, volunteers and supporters of Student Bridges work towards organizing college prep workshops, college positive events, tours and mentor-mentee relationships in order to provide students with these resources and the support they need in order to further their education.

Last semester I had the privilege of mentoring a group of wonderful students at an after school program at Milton Bradley Elementary School located in Springfield, MA. This was in partnership with the 4H Youth Development Program. I formed strong relationships with a few of the students there and still try to find time to visit them. I watched them grow and step out of their comfort zones.

It is such a great feeling to get to see a student become a more confident individual and achieve goals which they would never have even set for themselves before. If I had not joined Student Bridges I don’t think I would have ever gotten such an opportunity. I am happy that I joined this great organization and hope that through our work, we inspire others to do the same.

Amherst Cinema: See-Hear-Feel-Film


a Service-Learning Reflection by Kim DeMattia

 I am currently participating in a Civic Engagement and Service Learning program at Amherst Cinema. As a part of my Children Teens, and Media class course with Professor Allison Butler I was offered the unique opportunity to participate in the “See –Hear-Feel Film” program which allows children to experience the art of film making in a new light. This is a program designed to give 3rd graders throughout the Pioneer Valley an opportunity to become film makers. The students work collectively to create their own movie storyboards, giving them the opportunity to become the next Steven Spielberg. What “See-Hear-Feel Film” didn’t promote was the incredible experiences the volunteers would obtain.

            During my first workshop I had the opportunity to work with 3rd graders from Chicopee.  Many of these children come from lower income households, and are faced with struggles that I could have never imagined at their age. On this day I was fortunate to have a boy named “Jeremy” in my group. In an attempt to spark discussion with my group, I asked if anyone had anything they would like to say about the films, Jeremy raised his hand and exclaimed “I never knew before today that kids could make movies, I want to be the next director.” The smile on his face was infectious, in his eyes were beaming with excitement.  This instance brought me back to a world where anything was possible. As a child I believed that I could be anything I wanted, but through the process of growing up I lost my innocence, I lost my unwavering hope for a better tomorrow.  I have become consumed in my everyday “troubles” but Jeremy did something incredible for me that day. He reminded of my own childhood innocence, and my own hopes and dreams for myself. He brought me back to a place I haven’t visited in years. These children ignited my own creativity.

            As the group activity continued the children were immersed in the world of film. They created an incredible storyboard about the “their life in the enchanted forest” which included, animals, thousands of trees and cavemen. They worked together and created a wonderful, beautiful storyboard. Their excitement was pure desire to help each other was contagious. Working in part with the “See-Hear-Feel-Film” program has given me the opportunity to feel this pure unaltered joy once again each week on Wednesday. These precious moments are truly invaluable, despite the cliché; Amherst Cinema has given me the chance to be a role model to 3rd graders across the Pioneer Valley. I take this opportunity seriously, and hope that I am inspiring some of them to go to college and follow their dreams, yet at the same time the children are inspiring me.  I have learned that it takes very little time to make a powerful impression on someone.  As the first workshop at Amherst Cinema concluded Jeremy walked over to me, and gave me an enormous hug with a simple “thank you.” I had only spent 1 hour with him in our small groups.  What Jeremy didn’t realize as he was thanking me that morning, was that I needed him to thank him too. Jeremy and his classmates reminded me what is really important in life, and that a little love really does go a long way.  I have wondered since if Jeremy will remember me, and if I did make a lasting impression on him. The truth is I don’t know, but what I do know for certain is Jeremy definitely made a lasting impression on me.

UMass's Community Journalism course partners with Commerce High in Springfield


My name is Harmonie Charland and I am an AmeriCorps Student Leader in Service (SLIS)  in Professor Nicholas McBride’s Community Journalism course. Community Journalism is course that partners students at The High School of Commerce in Springfield, Massachusetts and UMass journalism students. My classmates and I work to teach the high school students elements of journalism through a social justice lens.  One of my key responsibilities in the course is providing mentorship to the high school students. By sharing my own personal educational experiences I am able to help guide students through their own academic challenges and choices.

One of the main goals of Community Journalism this semester is assisting the Commerce students in successfully developing a student run newspaper and website. Through writing and reporting the students have the opportunity to focus on issues that are important to them and have their voices heard. The journalism industry is vast with many ways for individuals to tell stories including video, audio, and photography. The community journalism course provides the commerce students access to the necessary equipment needed to tell their stories trough all platforms. Learning how to operate cameras and other multimedia programs provides the Commerce students valuable skills they can use when they enter the job market.

Many of the high school students in the course are seniors preparing to apply to colleges and take their SAT’s. I’ve been able to direct these students to the proper resources that could help them navigate this part of their life much easier. Many of the students I work with have decided to go to college because of the relationships the have built with the UMass students. Knowing that my dedication to service has helped these students realize their own potential and pursue a college education is truly an amazing feeling. 

IMPACT! Freshman RAP - Off to Great Beginning

by Emily Belko, AmeriCorps Student Leader in Service with IMPACT!

IMPACT! is a service-learning and social justice RAP (Residential Academic Program) for first year students. We bring together a balance of service-learning, education about social justice theory and contemplative practices. Now at the halfway point of the semester, we are covering Classism concurrently with student group presentations and the incorporation of personal experiences at our service sites.  The biweekly seminar, hosted along with the weekly Monday class, helps to bring a very real perspective to the theory driven course, with discussion of the Presidential debates, health care and immigration. This is a very integrative experience. The students work together in class and live together in the same community. The goal of the program is to allow each student to learn, grow, struggle and support one another through the very personal and sometimes difficult issues of social justice and emerge aware and empowered.

Busy Start for the Citizen Scholars Program

by Kyle Angstadt, AmeriCoprs Student Leader in Servcie with CSP

Hello, hello!

We are excited to introduce ourselves as the two Student Leaders in Service (SLIS) interns:   Kyle Angstadt and Ian Whalen!

I (Kyle) am a senior management major and am part of cohort 13 in the CSP program. I do most of my service-learning at the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) and the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP). Chris is a sophomore psychology major and is part of cohort 14 in the CSP program. He also does service-learning at SLAP, but is additionally a member of the Student Action RSO.

The program has had a busy couple of weeks; we had our first evening gathering Wednesday the 10th, the 14’s have been learning about sustainable communities and went hiking on Thursday the 11th, and the 13’s started their public policy capstones and took a trip to the State House on Tuesday the 15th.

At the evening gathering, we chowed down on some burritos, and then we discussed the November 6th state-wide ballot questions. For those of you who don’t know, there will be three: one concerning the prescription of drugs to end life, one about legalizing medical marijuana, and one about the transparency of motor vehicle repair information. We broke into four working groups to address legalizing medical marijuana and prescribing drugs to end life. After much group discussion, we presented our thoughts to the rest of the group to further our understanding of these topics. The point wasn’t to debate a side, but to get a more holistic understanding of the issues. At the end, I think we all walked away with a greater appreciation for the depth of these issues.

The next day, the 14’s went hiking at Mt. Sugarloaf instead of class, which has become a bit of a CSP tradition. In our own adaptation of “Mountain Day”, a holiday held by some of the five colleges where the chancellor gets to cancel classes due to “nice weather”, the 14’s decided to use their class time to do something together outside the classroom. At the summit, they broke out hot apple cider and cider donuts from Atkins Farm while they enjoyed the view of the valley below.

In class, “the Good Society” the 14’s have been learning about different forms of utopias in order to get a better understanding of their own values. They are currently discussing forms of sustainable societies while reading “Gaviotas”, which is about a completely sustainable ecovillage in Colombia.

The 13’s visited the State House on Tuesday the 11th to visit Amherst’s State Representative Ellen Story and State Senator Stan Rosenberg. Rep. Story shared what daily life looked like in the State House and talked about current events and campaigns. Students asked questions about what it was like being a woman in the State House, which was primarily dominated by men and what Governor Romney was like as a person. Afterwards, the 13’s were given a tour and took pictures with Sen. Rosenberg, who then invited them to sit in on an awards ceremony for students in the STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and math). Before they left, they met back up with Rep. Story and a lobbyist to talk about how to bring public issues to the State House.

In class, the 13’s recently submitted the first draft of their public policy papers, which will end up supplementing their final capstone project. The focus of the papers is to address a public policy issue that needs to be mitigated and present evidence for why it is a problem. The next steps will be looking at dissenting opinions, offering alternative solutions and presenting the finished product.

As busy as things may seem, we don’t want to give the impression that we are overloaded with work. We know that our efforts are part of something larger than ourselves, and not just a means to an end. What we do is challenging, yes, but it is equally rewarding. The program really encourages us to build a community together, so we have a great support system when things get tough. Mostly, we just have a lot of fun. 

Boltwood Project Update

Katja Hahn D'Errico led a workshop on Ableism for Boltwood students
Katja Hahn D'Errico led a workshop on Ableism for Boltwood students

by Stephanie Ozahowski, Boltwood Coordinator

The BOLTWOOD Project gathered on Saturday, October 13th, for the first of three seminars.  Our 85 student-volunteers gathered for a day of discussion and learning around service and ableism. The day started out with guest speaker Katja Hahn D'Errico, faculty with UMass CESL's Citizen Scholar Program and Faculty Director of the freshmen IMPACT!  Program. Katja spoke about her own personal experience with disability and asked students to consider and share with each other about their life experiences with ableism and what draws them to do this work.  Next, Cassandra Martin, Recreation Therapist from the Farren, one of  BOLTWOOD?s partner sites, spoke to students about client privacy and HIPPA regulations, as well as the impact BOLTWOOD students can have at programs such as the Farren. The day closed with a presentation and discussion about Belchertown State School and the deinstitutionalization movement. It was a day full of service-learning, and we cannot wait for our next seminar on November 17th!

Reflections on a Classroom – Nuestras Raices Fall Practicum

Class member Mo Bagjot serves food at the Harvest Festival, celebrating 20 years of Nuestras history! 
Class member Mo Bagjot serves food at the Harvest Festival, celebrating 20 years of Nuestras history!

by Jared Schy, Undergrad Course Coordinator

The experience of facilitating a course as an undergrad has been singular.  Just figuring out  course registration for Five College students gives me tons of appreciation for even the nittiest, grittiest things our professors do, let alone develop curriculum, facilitate discussions, and build individual relationships with each student.  

Our class is amazing!  Since it is a 2-credit practicum class, we've attracted folks from all sorts of majors.  In addition to the handful of folks from Food & Sustainable Agriculture, we have folks in UACT, Public Health, Psychology, Accounting, Political Science, to name a few in addition to a several Hampshire students with their own unique self-designed programs.  This makes for rich discussion and a wide variety of perspectives.  In addition, we have transfer students who have just arrived and others who have been here for a few years.  Our students also run the gamut in terms of year and we have everything from first years to fourth years represented.  Our multi-racial, mixed gender, multi-class, international, queer & straight  classroom space makes for a fascinating conglomeration of identities and experiences represented.  

Workdays have provided our class with important opportunities that traditional classes do not get: the time to make friends and build strong community with peers in the classroom.  It's been amazing to see how even just after our first workday (6 hours on the farm at Nuestras) our class became visibly and energetically closer the next time we met;  I felt closer to everyone too.  I have often felt that professors too often discount the importance of building communities among their students and seeing how rich our community has become has driven this lesson home again.  It makes me wonder how I can ever be in a classroom space where this kind of community isn't built.  

Navigating the complexities of co-developing a course has been fraught with challenges and rewards.  Until a few weeks ago, it felt like the class had an endless array of moving parts but as we've finally had more time and space to reflect on our praxis as teachers/facilitators and to workshop our ideas as co-facilitators together, our class has become smoother and smoother.  And lest I leave out what perhaps has been most rewarding of all--developing a much stronger relationship with my comrade and co-facilitator Hannah!  I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to see her more brilliantly in her own light with her young but wise energy which shines through each exchange she creates in the classroom!  Thank you Hannah!  

I know both of us look forward to the opportunity to reflect back on our semester together and established what worked, what needs to be changed, and how we can improve this course for its next time around.  We are endlessly grateful to the opportunity Carol Soules, Molly Totman, John Gerber and Nuestras's staff (Diego, Cynthia, Debra and Tom) have given us to collaborate together to create this incredible course.  Thank you all! 

Jonathan Kozol Visits Pioneer Valley

This week Jonathan Kozol visited 2 locations in the Pioneer Valley:  Holyoke Community College and Amherst College, talking about equity in education and his new book.  

Michelle Medeiros, AmeriCoprsVISTA with UMass CESL this year, was one of the many UMass people who attended. She shared with us-

Hearing Jonathon Kozol speak was truly a remarkable experience. He was funnier than I expected him to be and I also left more inspired than I originally had anticipated to be. Kozol talked about his new book "Fire in the Ashes" and he told a story of a young woman named Pineapple whom he had met when she was around eight or nine years old. Fortunately, Pineapple surpassed the statistics of her neighborhood and this Fall she entered her senior year of college. Kozol did however talk about the children he had met whom had passed away. Kozol spoke a lot about injustices that exist within our society, but the one thing he left me with was a statement that is very important..."Charity does not compensate justice."

Nuestras Raices Practicum Course Off to Great Start!

One of the new Service-Learning offerings at UMass this Fall is a Stockbridge School practicum - Nuestras Raices: Community Gardening and Food Security (STOCKSCH 297NR-01).  The course was created by UMass CESL VISTA member Molly Totman, along with Professor John Gerber and Carol Soules, Associate Director of UMass CESL. 

Last academic year, Molly's work was focused on building partnership capacity between UMass and Nuestras with the goal of creating pathways for more student engagement at Nuestras.  As she and Carol were considering how best to connect a SL course with the goals and needs of Nuestras the idea of this somewhat unusual course came to mind. They explored the idea with John Gerber, who agreed to sponsor it through Stockbridge School of Agriculture and the course was born.

What makes this practicum course unusual, you ask?  Several things: (1) the idea for the course originated in the community, with the community partner and a VISTA volunteer.  (2) the seminar sessions meet once, every other week, in the evenings, allowing people from a variety of majors and with different schedules to join in. (3) the seminar sessions consist of speakers with expertise in areas related to the course and class discussions, planned and facilitated by 2 UMass students, Hannah Weinronk and Jared Schy and (4) the service hours at Nuestras are being completed during 4, several hours long, Saturday workdays, to best meet the needs and capacity of the community partner.

Over the summer Jared, Hannah, Molly spent a lot of time planning the syllabus and contacting speakers. Then, the Fall semester was here and the class became a reality. At the seminar session this week three speakers joined together to create an orientation for the class. Maria Cartegena, the Five Colleges Partnership Coordinator for Holyoke & Springfield provided an intro to and history of Holyoke.  Carol Soules, Associate Director of CESL shared about Service-Learning pedagogy and approach to service, and Molly Totman came to talk about her work with Nuestras last year and the development of the course.

All reports are that the class is off to a great start!  The first workday is this Saturday.  We look forward to hearing updates form the class and maybe even having a few pictures to share!

Bus to Holoke After School Sites

Beginning Monday Sept 24 there will be a UMass bus headed to Holyoke 5 community partner sites.  The bus will leave Haigis Mall at 2:25 and will run Monday through Thursday until Dec 6.

UMass & Five Colleges students - love technology?

UMass & Five Colleges students- love technology? Connect with a local youth and fan the flames of their interest! Check out Educ 377!

UMass students - interested in education?

UMass students - interested in education? Like the idea of making a difference in the life of local youth? There's space available in Educ 377, Intro to Multicultural Education, which includes tutor /mentor service-learning with awesome community partners. Check it out. Spread the word.

Jonathan Kozol has a new book out, Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among th...

Jonathan Kozol has a new book out, Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America and his book tour will bring him to the Valley for 2 days in SeptemberJonathan Kozol to be here on book tour! | Office of Community Engagement and Service Learningcesl.umass.eduJonathan Kozol to be here on book tour! News from the Rethinking Schools editors and staff- Jonathan Kozol has a new book out, which we want to draw your attention to: Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America (Crown Book...

"Like" Kelly School in Holyoke and they get school supplies...

"Like" Kelly School in Holyoke and they get school supplies...literally...every single "like" counts. Kelly School is a k-8 school and a partner of UMass CESL.

Dr Marcella R Kelly Elem Sch
This school can receive up to $10,000 in Target GiftCards® for any supplies it needs. You can help. Vote now!

Boltwood Project connects UMass students with local community organizations that...

Boltwood Project connects UMass students with local community organizations that work with people with disabilities. Interested? Recruitment nights are: Sept 10, 11, 12 68 in Campus Ctr...arrive early! More info here to enroll in The Boltwood Project | Office of Community Engagement and Service Learningcesl.umass.eduHow to enroll in The Boltwood Project Boltwood Project Info & Interview sessions are September 10,11 &12, 6-8 PM in the Campus Center Auditorium. This is the ONLY way to be enrolled in the Boltwood course. So, arrive early and come prepared to let the stu...

Great things going on with the Sustainable Knowledge Corridor!

Great things going on with the Sustainable Knowledge Corridor!New England's Sustainable Knowledge Corridorwww.sustainableknowledgecorridor.orgGet the facts and figures as we measure our progress on achieving regional sustainability goals. The CRCOG and PVPC team, in consultation with the Knowledge Corridor Consortium, have developed an interactive set of data indicators that will help you see how we're doing on a variety of measures of s...

ATTN UMASS SENIORS - 2 full-year, community-based capstones, have openings! Chec...

ATTN UMASS SENIORS - 2 full-year, community-based capstones, have openings! Check Spire for details. Dialogue, Discourse, Identity and Community. COMM 499 CI 8 credits (4/semester), and Information Technology Capstone Honors 499C-03 2 semesters, 6 credits (3/semester),

Interested in a student-led Practicum course focused on community farming? Chec...

Interested in a student-led Practicum course focused on community farming? Check out Nuestras Raices: Community Farming & Food Security STOCKSCH 297 (2-credit, 7 class sessions and 4 Saturday work days on the farm)

Mark your calendar for NSO Service Projects - Sept 3, Labor Day..Stuff the Bus.....

Mark your calendar for NSO Service Projects - Sept 3, Labor Day..Stuff the Bus..Permaculutre plus more....UMass Amherst: New Students Orientation - Fall Orientation Service

14 more "likes" and we'll be at 200!

14 more "likes" and we'll be at 200! Help us spread the word about all the sweet things going on here!

Here's a new way to support Holyoke from wherever you are!

Here's a new way to support Holyoke from wherever you are! Library 451 Library 451: Wish List Universal Wishlist for Library 451.

Great story about a mobile grocery store. This community project was recently la...

Great story about a mobile grocery store. This community project was recently launched by students at Portland State University.Pop-up mobile grocery hits the streetswww.kgw.comFormer PSU students start a mobile grocery business to help under-served areas of Portland.

Super meeting today with Amherst Schools and UMass folks...a beginning conversat...

Super meeting today with Amherst Schools and UMass folks...a beginning conversation about the potential for dialogue work.

Great example of the dreams of a teenager becoming reality AND...proof, that yo...

Great example of the dreams of a teenager becoming reality AND...proof, that you don't have to be over 30 to change your world!Mayor of Holyoke tries to balance youthful enthusiam with leadership - The Boston Globewww.bostonglobe.comIt was one of the first instructions 23-year-old Mayor Alex Morse gave to his new secretary. Before arriving at events, he must always know which door to enter. The directive is part practicality — when he attends four, five, six events in one evening, dashing between them for 15-minute stints, he c...

UMass students - Afterschool GenEd course partnership

UMass students - Are you interested in a GenEd Course that partners with awesome after school programs in Holyoke to do tutoring and mentoring? Educ 377- Multicultural Education - has openings!! Spread the word...

Great video clip of UMass football players with Holyoke Boys and Girls Club

Great video clip of UMass football players with Holyoke Boys and Girls Club youth, on Channel 40 News!!

UMass Football Players Help Area Youth
[storyvideo mediaid="3624130"] Several UMass Football players have spent the last six weeks helping out at the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club, mentoring a few dozen young kids, throughout the summer.

UMass "Athletes as Mentors" course is in the news!

UMass "Athletes as Mentors" course is in the news!

UMass football players making an impact at Holyoke Boys and Girls Club

UMass CESL is joining UMass Student Affairs and Campus Life (SACL) in the Backpack Project

UMass CESL is joining UMass Student Affairs and Campus Life (SACL) in the Backpack Project. We are collecting school supplies for low income youth in communities where we have active partnerships including Amherst, Hadley and Holyoke. You can participate by bringing supplies to our office (or several other drop off sites on campus) AND by participating in a campus event to organize and distribute the materials. Sign up for the Organizing day here:

Student Affairs and Campus Life Project Backpack
Happy summer colleagues! As the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life (SACL) works to build a co-curricular community service and civic engagement program for our students, it makes sense to appropriately role model this civic engagement. Your Student Affairs Leadership Team (SALT) has de...

Holyoke's electricity producing dam isn't the only thing that makes it green!

Holyoke's electricity producing dam isn't the only thing that makes it green!

Holyoke second only to Boston in solar-energy capacity in Massachusetts, study says
The state has 64,000 clean-energy workers, a 6 percent increase from the year before, according to the study by Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center.

UMass CESL was awarded 10 AmeriCorps Student Leaders in Service Awards this year...

UMass CESL was awarded 10 AmeriCorps Student Leaders in Service Awards this year! SLIS provides an education award to undergraduates for 300 hours of service. SLIS recipients will be in leadership roles in academic Service-Learning programs across the campus, including: Boltwood Project, Community Journalism, Citizen Scholars Program, Impact! and TEAMS.

Awesome video made by the Western Mass MACC VISTAS

Awesome video made by the Western Mass MACC VISTAS about the Campus-Community work going on in and around the Valley!

MACC VISTA Impact VIdeo Western Mass
Impact of MACC VISTAs in the western Mass region

UMass CESL will be participating in the collection of school supplies for low in...

UMass CESL will be participating in the collection of school supplies for low income youth served by our community partners. There's a box at the office where you can drop items off. If you would like to know what is needed, besides the obvious, give us a call or shoot us an email.

Hello CESL alumni! (and alums of other civic engagement service-learning offices...

Hello CESL alumni! (and alums of other civic engagement service-learning offices and programs at UMass Amherst), please join our new LinkedIn Alumni Page! Amherst Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Alumni | LinkedInwww.linkedin.comThis group is for anyone who has connected with UMass Amherst Civic Engagement and Service-Learning (CESL) or previous service-learning offices/programs at UMass Amherst....

Just heard..the state (totally unexepectedly) cut Holyoke Adult Ed by 40% effect...

Just heard..the state (totally unexepectedly) cut Holyoke Adult Ed by 40% effective July 1 (next week). Stay tuned!

Holyoke youth toured campus with UMass football players this week

Holyoke youth toured campus with UMass football players this week