Bansilalpet: Crime Investigation Bansilalpet Unit

When I proposed the idea of doing a fiction film to the students of Bansilalpet High School, they were unanimously excited to begin screen writing, story-boarding, and preparing for their parts in the movie.

We chose to do a crime show to further utilize and explore the problems of pollution in Hyderabad. They were very familiar with the crime show trope, and were eager to play the roles of police officers, criminals, and victims, especially in the context of very real problems in their communities.

This project began with the question: “What is a problem in your community?” We discussed noise pollution, water pollution, drinking and smoking, and lack of jobs. Then we decided to look at the ones that were most common. Everyone in the class agreed that plastic pollution was the most rampant problem where they lived, and that the lack of dust bins (trash cans) and awareness were large contributing factors to this issue.

The students wanted to create this short crime piece to raise more awareness about plastic pollution.

Stay tuned for the third project, where they show and explain how to recycling your plastics into useful everyday items!

Mosquito Borne Diseases: Prevention is Better than a Cure

Sometimes, when negotiating make-up days for missed classes or lobbying for use of a computer , fellows are called upon to defend the TMS program. From curious teachers, to expectant headmistresses, to students who wander into the classroom, people often ask us to explain exactly what the TMS curriculum is and how it’s as beneficial to students as the English class or elective period or computer time it’s cutting into. I can’t think of a better defense than what I saw in the classroom I shared with Karis and our Teach for India partner Ramesh.

At Monarch, our TFI school, Karis and I had a really great opportunity to fold the TMS curriculum into what the students were already learning. Before our first class, we sat down with Ramesh over Osmania biscuits and talked about how to build digital storytelling into the curriculum Ramesh already had in place. When Ramesh told us he was working through a science unit on mosquito borne illnesses, we figured that would be the perfect place. Instead of just taking notes about mosquito facts and getting quizzed on disease prevention techniques, the students got to write narratives about mosquito borne illnesses and come up with ways to visually communicate the facts they learned.

Working at Monarch wasn’t always easy. The students there were a few years younger than students at the other schools where we teach, so we learned a lot about adapting the material to a younger audience. For example: having 12 and 13-year olds film mini stories around campus? Pretty solid way to let them practice their camera angles. Having 9 and 10-year olds do the same activity? Pretty solid way to end up with a group of children running around school and occasionally filming a few seconds of it. But Ramesh came ready with a handful of classroom management techniques that we ended up even bringing into our other classes.

One of the best things about the TFI partnership was seeing how the curriculum leads so well into students taking action. The students took the project outside the classroom and into the community, spreading their knowledge of mosquito borne illness prevention around their neighborhood. Watch the video to see how the students used their TMS skills to apply what they learned about mosquitos.

The Modern Story and Teach For India partner up!




This year, for the first time ever, TMS teamed up with Teach for India to expand TMS curriculum into three more schools in Hyderabad.

The partnership between TMS and TFI paired a TMS fellow with a TFI teacher for six weeks. Together, the TMS and TFI fellows co-created curriculum, brainstormed story ideas — essentially doing a mini TMS workshop in a new school.

One of TMS’ perpetual goals is to make our work sustainable. That happens by training local teachers in digital skills. Previously that has mostly come through a day of training with Adobe Youth Voices, where we invite teachers from our school to learn a bit more about digital storytelling techniques. The TFI partnership was an opportunity to go a bit deeper with training local teachers, but also the chance for TMS fellows to learn classroom management and teaching techniques from TFI fellows.

TFI is big on project based, creative learning which is something TMS strives for in its own classrooms, so already we were on the same page with our fellow teachers. From there, each partnership did things a little bit differently. Some of us aligned our projects with ongoing curriculum in their classrooms (such as a project on mosquito borne diseases), while some of us focused on bringing TMS-type projects to students who wouldn’t have usually gotten to make movies or take photos.

Overall, it was great to meet more local teachers, work in a new school, and partner with a new organization. Check back as we post the projects from our TFI/TMS partnership.

What is school like in Thailand?

Though the bulk of our work is in India, The Modern Story is truly a global organization– and that has led to classroom exchanges around the world. Previously I posted about an exchange between Seetaphalmandi and Anuban Ranong in Thailand, and we have continued to share ideas and videos since. Curious to know a little more about school in Thailand? Here is a brief introduction to their school from Kristin Walker, a teacher at Anuban Ranong, and my partner for the Seetaphalmandi/Ranong classroom exchange. Stay tuned for more!

Anuban Ranong is a government district located in Ranong town in the Ranong Province of Thailand. At the school we have grades Kindergarten through sixth. There are over 1,500 students at our school and we have over 80 teachers. Our school is a world-class school with very high national test scores. There are two special programs at our school: the Math and Science Program and the English Program. The Math and Science Program has a curriculum that focuses on excelling the students in math and science, while the English Program is taught by native English speakers and has math, science, English, and health all taught in the English language. We are all very thankful to be at our school and we love our school very much!

Students at Anuban Ranong

Students at Anuban Ranong

Students at Anuban Ranong

Students at Anuban Ranong

MGM Voices

In addition to making these wonderful movies, the students of MGM also elected one of their crew to write a short essay about the topic of their movie. Below you will find out about two of the topics in their own words.

Stop Power Cuts

In our school, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Girls Government High School (MGMGGHS) we did a movie on power cuts. In the power cut film, there are many characters. We did this film shoot because now a days so many times the power goes out and during that time we can’t do any work. In this film, the children also go to school, and in their class the teacher is teaching a lesson. When she is teaching the lesson, the power goes out and the teacher cannot tell the lesson to students. So many times the power is going out like this, that’s why we can’t do our work successfully. Power is very important to human beings. When we can’t have power, that means in our home, school, etc, we will not have fan, light, computer, etc. We can’t use any of these things. That is why power is very important to us, and that is what this film means. Power cuts means we can’t do any work successfully. Power is very important to us. The power cut film tells this message.

Written by Akhila

(The power cut group includes: Maheshwari, Kavitha, Anusha, Varaikshmi, Sirisha, Sandhya, and Akhila)


Get Rid of Rubbish

Good morning everybody.

We are from MGM Government Girls High School Nampally, Hyderabad, of 8th class.

Our title is Rubbish/Garbage. We did a movie on this because we want to protect our world. It is especially important because of the Swachh Bharat campaign that was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. We want to explain to our world: don’t throw garbage anywhere, throw it in dustbins. Because from garbage we get illness, and from garbage mosquito and small insects will grow and bite people. From garbage we get diseases like poliovirus, infections, and malaria (etc). We want to tell the Municipal Corporation they should clean the road every day but they are not cleaning everyday. With garbage, children are getting illness and that is why they are not going to school– they are irregular to school and they are not getting education. Garbage is very dangerous to our life. In our surrounding areas we are not safe, so I want to tell our world: don’t throw garbage anywhere, throw it in dustbins.

We want to protect ourselves, so we tell our mothers to protect children and family, and our friends help us do the movie on Rubbish/Garbage. We are following Mahatma Gandhi’s rules and Narendra Modi, who is the prime minister of our country. He was sweeping 1 kilometer, that is why we should clean our house, surrounding area, schools, temple, mosque, churches, etc.

Thank you faithfully.

Written by Amreen Fatima

(The rubbish group includes: B. Savitha, Asra Begum, Qareena Begum, K. Bhargavi, Zabunnisa, Afreen Begum, K. Priya Singh, and Amreen Fatima.)

Introducing #TMSFreedomIs



What does freedom mean to you?

What does freedom look like?

What does it sound like?

Smell like?

Taste like?

These are the questions my students at MGM and Seetaphalmandi are grappling with right now as they both head into making their final projects about the idea of freedom. Though you can look forward to some very interesting videos from them, in order to complete these projects we need YOUR help!

If you have instagram, think about the above questions and then take a photo that represents your vision of freedom. Tag it with the hashtag #TMSFreedomIs (and @themodernstory –> PS follow us! #shamelessplug) and your instagram may end up in one of the students’ documentaries!

The goal is to source opinions on this topic from all over the world. Though we know what freedom means to us, what does that mean when it is translated to the US or Thailand? What is universal about freedom and what is different for each person?

Feel free to be as creative as literal as you want, and the campaign is certainly not limited to students. Anyone can (and is encouraged to) participate! We’ll be collecting posts throughout the next two weeks. If you need some inspiration, check out the #TMSFreedomIs tag on Instagram– students have already begun posting their thoughts!

Thank you in advance. Now get ‘gramming!

Anilady: Our Town

Heading to Anilady was like driving into a dream: while sounds of soothing Tamil pop played over the car stereo, we drove past acres of palm trees, rice paddies, peanut farms, and quietly grazing cows. 40 minutes into this drive into rural Tamil Nadu we arrived at Sacred Heart School– a massive yellow cathedral in the midst of one story houses and palm frond-roof stables.

Drive to Anilady

Drive to Anilady

We were in Anilady in early October through a partnership with Communities Rising, an organization that brings after school programs to rural villages in Tamil Nadu and one TMS has worked with for several years. We didn’t know exactly what to expect aside from that the students spoke Tamil and were coming in over their school break to learn about movie making. Videos in the past have ranged from music videos to features on cleanliness. Regardless, the drive made one thing clear: we were not in Hyderabad anymore.

And these were certainly not Hyderabad students. Though they shared common traits of being very enthusiastic about getting their hands on the camera, making up stories, and showing off their dance, mehendi, and biking skills to us, their skill levels were different from students we have in the city. The students had previously been trained on computers through CR and had extra time after school to play around with programs like Photoshop, so the simpler tasks that have become a headache to teach at Hyderabad’s schools (like clicking and dragging, creating a folder, right clicking, saving) were something we could pass right over. It was clear that the extra help and individual attention they received at these schools was key to them getting to the next level of working with cameras and video editing. But their English skills were not as advanced as our Hyderabad students, likely because there were not as many opportunities to practice. But that being said, we had incredible support from the CR and Sacred Heart staff (and extended group of friends). Nelson, Agni, Siva, Mario, and Seenu were absolutely crucial to making this project work. They translated and joked around with the students to make them feel more comfortable with the new subject matter and teachers. I think this was a major contribution to our final project– you quickly see how willing the students were to be open about tough subjects and welcome us into their village home.

After a day of brainstorming we came up with four things that the students noticed about their village. First, they loved the food

Tearing banana leaves for plates

Tearing banana leaves for plates

and festivals. Dosas, peanuts, and (the festival) Pongal were all brought up right away. But they also knew there were things in the village they wanted to improve, like alcohol abuse which has affected families, and power cuts which have affected farming and other industries. With this nuanced look at their community, we decided to tackle all four issues over the next week.

The week was a whirlwind of filming around the entire village. Rachel’s group, which worked on food, ventured to peanut fields and showed how to make a homemade dosa. Dara’s group followed the effect of power cuts from the home to the farm to the local spice factory. Nandini’s group recreated the Pongal celebration (which included bringing a cow on school grounds). My group

Anilady portraits

Post-mehendi portraits

created a fiction film about a man who is an alcoholic, but changes and becomes a better father, husband, and worker. While in Hyderabad we are mainly confined to school grounds, here we could make the whole village our movie set, and due to that you can really get a feel of what life is like in Anilady.

Overall, we had so much fun with the Anilady students and were very pleased with the movie they filmed and edited. A huge thanks to the Communities Rising organization for making this happen. It was easily one of the most memorable weeks of our fellowship.

Stay tuned for the video from our other school, Vikravandi!


Anilady group picture

Anilady group picture

West Marredpally: Harmful Alcohol

When you’re pushing to get a project done, sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of why you’re making the project in the first place. This was definitely the case with my class at West Marredpally as we worked to complete our video on alcohol. In my rush to move through the process of choosing a topic and writing a script, we ended up with a story that felt a little disconnected from the students’ actual experiences with alcohol in their communities. So, instead of moving on to the next steps of pre-production, we took a day to just step back and discuss the message we wanted our video to send. We talked through reasons why people choose to drink, researched the long-term and short-term effects of alcohol abuse, shared personal experiences of peer pressure, and in the end rewrote the script to be something the students would want to show their friends to encourage them to make smart choices about alcohol. From there, we plunged back into pre-production with renewed excitement. The girls put their all into writing a shotlist, rehearsing the dialogue, and decorating the set. As an added bonus, we filmed the birthday party scene on the date of my actual birthday. The students made me wear a sari (which they had to retie when I arrived at school) and once we finished filming, they turned the set into a party for me. This was definitely one of my most memorable birthdays, and that’s due a lot to it capping off a project that meant so much to the students. It wasn’t a celebration for me as much as it was congratulating ourselves for our hard work.

Here I am cutting the prop cake (not super tasty after three days of sitting on set).

Here I am cutting the prop cake (not super tasty after three days of sitting on set).

MGM: Freedom For Girls

Constant talk of marriage, lack of parent support, street harassment, and cyber bullying: just a day in the life of a teenage girl? That’s what students at MGM Girls Government High School say in this short film about a girl named Zoha. Though Zoha wants to go to school (and has her brother’s support), her family wants her to get married and stay inside. But what would happen if she had her parent’s support? This movie explores both options.

The film also touches on issues that modern girls face, like harassment, bullying, and blackmail through cell phones. In India, where mobile phones are more widely available than ever before, this has become another tool for making girls’ lives harder.

Proud of these students for thinking of this idea, writing the script, filming, and editing on their own! Stay tuned for what MGM has coming next.

MGM: Stop Power Cuts!

Ever since Telangana split off from Andhra Pradesh in June, power cuts have increased dramatically in Telangana because Andhrah is where most of the region’s power originates. The Hindu newspaper reported that people in Telangana are facing power cuts between four to 18 hours per day. Students at MGM Government Girls High School in Nampally have taken notice– in the middle of the day there will be no light for a classroom and we can’t use computers. At night, they sometimes have to do homework by candlelight or flashlight– or not do it at all. This PSA shows how power cuts affect three students’ lives in order to shed light on this problem. The idea, filming, and editing was done almost entirely independently by this group, which is quite a feat given this is their first movie ever. Proud of their work!

This video is one of a series of three short movies that the students produced focused on spreading a message about an issue in their community. The students came up with the concepts, scripts, and shots on their own, in addition to doing all the filming and most of the editing.  Given these are their first movies, I am really impressed at the outcome!