Stories and Lesson Plans that compel us to strengthen our relationships with each other and our world.
Humans, despite our flaws, are a beautiful species. We craft social structures with the potential to expand our frontiers beyond even our planet, and like many of our animal brethren, we have the ability to connect with each other. We hear others’ stories, and it inspires us to be better, to think differently, and to expose ourselves to our potential. The Global Oneness Project aims to leverage our ability to connect through stories by publishing multi-media stories from all over the world, such as films, photo essays, and articles. The project also publishes companion lesson plans and discussion guides to help direct the conversation and learning in a positive, effective manner. The site makes its resources available ad-free and without a subscription, encouraging the free movement of stories throughout communities. The Global Oneness Project’s films and lessons have been featured on National Geographic, PBS, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, TED Ed, and the Smithsonian, among others, and reflect a communion of community and the self.
What I believe makes this site such a powerful tool for both classrooms and independent study is its invitation to take part in something beyond the scope of one’s typical life. We don’t normally associate ourselves with being connected to the world, as having impacts that can be felt far and wide, but the site eclipses that feeling of infinitesimal existence and introduces us to our infinite potential. We are inspired to look back at how others have overcome obstacles; we are inspired to look forward and pre-empt challenges to the health and well-being of our planet; we are inspired to be more. That is what makes the Global Oneness Project such a useful tool for climate action, for international development, for humanitarian literacy, and for so much more - not just because it connects us to these problems, but because it inspires us to solve them.
Below you can find a small selection of their resources to gain insight into what exactly the Global Oneness Project does. Included in each lesson plan on the site are the relevant accompanying national education standards.
- Classroom/Self-Study Project -
How does the Earthrise photograph challenge us to consider our relationship to the Earth and provide a context for what it means to be a global citizen? In this project we are invited to examine the famous Earthrise photograph taken by astronaut Bill Anders during his crew's flight beyond our atmosphere into orbit around the moon. When the public first got a glimpse of this photo it was as if they had been teleported into space, and their breath had left their body. It was an iconic moment in history, and a defining moment in how we would grow to look at our planet in the coming century.
The first activity is a thirty minute film by filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee discussing the context and history of Earthrise, and then breaking down the photo's impact on the public. The full curriculum guide (available here on the website and lesson plan available here) then leads a discussion on the issue through the dissection of four themes: the power of perspective, bearing witness, exploration, and reverence for the environment. Understanding how framing can change not just how we question reality, but our understanding of it, is an incredibly important ethical topic for environmental action, because it underpins how we go about climate action. Our responsibility, or our ability, be they two sides of the same coin, are a relic of our situation on this planet - we cannot remove ourselves form the equation without forsaking ourselves.
The project continues by asking us to select one of the following questions (but by all means feel free to address all four!):
What is your relationship to our planet?
How are we all interconnected?
In what way is your community protecting the environment?
How can we change our perspective to see our planet as one home?
The response should be in the form of a photo, where the subject can be anything that reflects your relationship to the world within the context of the selected question. Afterwards, reflect on why you chose to respond the way you did. Fostering the self-awareness behind your appreciation can help you on your way to living a more socially conscious life, and take part in a movement to appreciate our planet.
Feel free to print your photograph and hang it up in your house, classroom, or office, and let it be not only a reminder to you of your connection with the planet, but a conversation starter to spark others' curiosity regarding their own relationships with the planet. You can also submit your photo to the Global Oneness Project, or post it on social media with the hashtag #RememberEarth.
- Film -
Language is a topic we often take for granted, forgoing the much more nuanced understanding of its power over our perspectives for the much simpler idea that it is merely a medium for the exchange of ideas. Many of us often see language simply as a way to describe things, to communicate, that it is the tool with which we express ideas, but not the ideas themselves. The Sapir-Wharf Hypothesis is a theory in the social sciences that posits that the language used to describe something changes the frame of reference for how that idea is understood. For example, Cantonese (a language spoken in China and by many Asian communities) does not have a distinction between the present tense and the future tense, which may help explain why many whose first language is Cantonese think in a fundamentally different way about time than do others. The Inuit have 37 names for various types of snow, yet in English there is only the few: snow, hail, sleet being the common ones.
Understanding this introduces new and profound implications for languages. Like us, they are alive, and they can die, taking their perspectives along with them. Preserving languages therefore is an important task if our aim is to develop ourselves, because new perspectives often hold the keys to challenges that customary positions often obscure. The film focuses on Marie Wilcox, a Native American woman, and the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language. The story of the language is as much a story about the way that the community communicated as it is the story of how that community has withered through the ages. 20,000 strong before European contact, there are now fewer than 200 Wukchumni left, and as the language is threatened by its likely extinction, questions surface regarding the implications for both the Wukchumni and ourselves.
Marie's effort to create a dictionary which encompasses the language in its full glory is not just the story of documenting words and terminology, but a breath of fresh air for a language on its dying breath. Is the language the glue that holds the Wukchumni together, or is it the community itself? Existential thoughts line the discussion as prompts walk groups and individuals through challenging questions:
A historical and cultural museum is creating an exhibit called "Vanishing Languages." If you had to convince the museum to feature the Wukchumni language as part of its exhibit, what would you include in your proposal? Why do you think her work should be recognized in the museum? How might Marie's actions impact the future of the Wukchumni language? How could her actions provide a historical context of her people? (C3.D2.His.3.9-12)
In the film, we see how Donovan is learning and embracing the Wukchumni language by speaking with his great-grandmother Marie. How can youth become active participants in preserving endangered languages? In New Zealand, Maori-speakers created language nests where grandparents would teach toddlers in their native tongues. In Australia, the dying Kamilaroi language was used in a pop song that teenagers loved. What could be another innovative solution? (NGSS.HS-LS2-8)
Filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee said that Marie's story is important to document. "In America, there are many cultures, like the Wukchumni, whose stories, histories and families are connected through that language," said Vaughan-Lee. As these languages become extinct, people can lose these connections. Why do you think it is important to preserve languages? What connections do you think could be lost when a language, like Wukchumni, goes extinct? (CCSS.ELA.SL.9-10.1 and SL.11-12.1)
As both domestic and foreign First Nations grapple with policy decisions by governments the world over, the sovereignty of these people and their right to exist hang in the balance. Time is of the essence in how we address these issues, focusing on both the policy decision which affect their roles in society, as well as policy decisions which shape their access to their own existence, such as threats from environmental disasters on their sovereign land. These issues are very much at the heart of the Indigenous Rights movements, as well as the environmental protection movement.
- Citizen Photojournalism Essay -
Poverty plagues every country in the world, it is a universal challenge that we as humans must find a way to overcome. The United Nations even listed "No Poverty" as number 1 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of its 2030 Agenda. Despite being a ubiquitous problem, affecting 12.3% of the United States population (defined as living on less than $33.26/day in the US), many people have distorted perceptions of what poverty looks like. Some ideas hold us back, they remove us from our connection to those living on the other side of the poverty line, when i reality it is only that line which divides us. Photographer Matt Black challenges these ideas with his photo essay The Geography of Poverty, in which he documents his travels and the relevant poverty statistics from the locations he visits in an effort to help us confront these misconceptions we may hold, and which may prevent us from being able to connect with these people.
The lesson plan goes the extra mile to challenge us to think about how we view the world around us. It asks us to redefine how we see social media, not as a tool for entertainment, but as a tool for change and education, for connecting with people for more than our own benefit but for the benefit of others and our communities.