girls education

TMS students take on ‘freedom’ in final projects

Azadi. Swecha. Freedom.

No matter the language or dialect, freedom (or lack thereof) is an idea that humans around the world grapple with everyday. For students at Seetaphalmandi Government High School in Secunderabad, Hyderabad, and MGM Girls Government High School in Nampally, Hyderabad, this idea lent inspiration for their final projects.

Students at both the schools participated in a social media campaign called #TMSFreedomIs. Using this hashtag, students reflected on what freedom means to them, took photos representing this idea, and shared their thoughts on Instagram. This allowed their ideas to extend to a wider and more interactive network of people. We also talked about what it means to be responsible on social media, an important lesson as kids start to use social networks at a younger age than ever before. The campaign lasted about three weeks and we saw responses from people in Delhi, South Africa, Minnesota, and Boston. It was a great lesson in how to use social media to create productive conversation.

Then students reflected on how they wanted to share their ideas of freedom with the world, which is where the two schools differed.

MGM: Freedom for girls has always been a point of lengthy discussion at this all-girls school. As we talked more and more about what freedom means to us, it became clear that freedom for girls is an issue that the class cared deeply about. Due to this, students at MGM split into various groups and completed interviews, research, and creative interpretations of freedom in order to create a varied look at freedom from a girls’ perspective. Though there is a ways to go, the girls agreed that talking about the issues is a very important first step, especially since issues like child marriage and the ability to go outside the home stem from family. The girls created a print magazine to accompany the documentary in order to show their families and community to start the discussion about freedom for girls at a local level. Check out their ambitious film here:


Seetaphalmandi: Since the students devoted a few weeks to a classroom exchange with a school in Thailand (and had already done a documentary project), we focused more on letting the kids dictate what they wanted to see from the project. In their video, you will see their social media contributions, a poster project, and interpretations of what freedom means to them. Students at Seetaphalmandi are always enthusiastic about using the cameras and creating stories, which definitely shines through in this final project:


Overall, these students took on a very tough subject and were able to express some very nuanced ideas. I am proud of their work and I know that this discussion will continue as they grow in their education and lives. Interested in seeing more? Check out the hashtag #TMSFreedomIs on Instagram.

Sultan Bazaar School Final Videos

Twenty-four hours and several Bollywood films after leaving Hyderabad, Ilana and I landed safely at JFK airport in New York City today. We still have lots to write about our final weeks in India, though, so you’ll keep hearing from us here. One important thing we have to share are our students’ wonderful final projects! The first batch comes from our pilot program at Sultan Bazaar Government Girls High School, in collaboration with the American India Foundation.

Our class at Sultan Bazaar involved small groups of teachers and students working together to learn digital technology skills and create multimedia projects that could enhance their learning/teaching experiences in regular curriculum subjects. As you will see in the videos below, this format proved to be an effective and accessible way to introduce such digital tools to participants unfamiliar with cameras or computers.

Ilana and I are excited to have been part of developing this model in TMS’s work and truly looking forward to see how TMS builds on our work in the next year. For now, enjoy this first series of curriculum-focused projects created by TMS students!

Cotton Project from The Modern Story on Vimeo.


Natural Resources Project from The Modern Story on Vimeo.


Triangle Project from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

Aliens, Fear, and a Goodbye Poem

Thursday afternoon I arrived at the Railway school feeling tired. Ilana and I had trekked to Nalgonda for the last time Wednesday before and Thursday morning held an unexpected session at Sultan Bazaar, after finding out at 9:30 am that Friday’s scheduled class would not be possible.

When we began the class, Ilana and Asma each had a group of 7 girls editing videos (two computers for thirty girls makes a “stations” approach necessary), while Neha and I took the rest of the students outside for more time using the video camera. At first they were going to interview some of the tenth class students. In recent weeks our girls have conducted several teacher interviews for their final project about choices and decision-making, as well as two fantastic interviews with Google staff members during our recent field trip. (Have you watched Monika’s interview on Vimeo yet??) But after the first interview Thursday I could tell that the eighth class girls needed a change of pace.

So Neha and I divided our students into groups of five and instructed them to create one-minute silent skits of the following scenario: they are in a village and an alien lands there. (Thank you to Mira Dabit, a Palestinian storyteller who shared this idea in my children’s art class in Nablus.)

Amidst giggles and a few “Really, no words??” responses, the girls set to work planning their dramas with little need for guidance. When they were ready, each group performed their skits for the others, with one or two girls filming. All three groups portrayed a scary creature arriving to break up a group of girls working or playing. The actresses reacted to the alien with fear and violence. Here’s an example:

Alien Landing! from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

After watching all of the performances, we applauded all the groups, and I asked the students to separate into their acting groups again.

“Okay!” I declared, “I want you to make a skit that starts the same way: you’re playing in a village, and an alien lands there. But this time, I want you to pretend that the alien is friendly. Show us what happens.”

Looking a bit more pensive but nevertheless full of ideas the girls got back to planning and rehearsing. Again the groups performed with students filming. Here’s the second skit from the same group as above:

The Friendly Alien from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

Coming together for a wrap-up, I asked the girls what emotions we saw in the two sets of scenes. For the first set, they identified happiness in the village, fear when the alien arrived, and anger directed toward the alien. In the latter scenes, the girls identified happiness, friendliness, sympathy, and sadness (when the alien left).

“That’s great,” I told them. “You demonstrated a wide range of feelings in your scenes. So now tell me something…Why are you afraid of aliens?!” The girls burst out laughing and shouted things about aliens being gross or mean or harmful. I asked if they knew any aliens. “In movies!” they replied.

“Sometimes things we don’t know are scary,” I said. “You didn’t know me six months ago…Were you afraid of our class?” Some of the girls ardently shook their heads, while others raised their hands with wide eyes, clearly recognizing the difference between how they felt in August and how they feel about TMS class now. I said something teacher-ish about how much we’d learned and shared with each other, and how even though some things we don’t know are scary, they can be really exciting, too. The girls were silent for a rare moment, looking at me with smiles.

After that we watched the videos they’d just shot and joined the rest of the students in the science lab, where some other girls recited a poem they’d written for me, Ilana, Asma, and Neha:

Railway Girls Goodbye Poem from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

As I listened to our students’ effusive goodbye, I reflected on my own feelings about our class, and how the lessons I really loved teaching were the ones where digital media skills were not the end goal, but the means through which we encouraged the girls to explore their world, to expand their imaginations, and importantly, to express themselves freely. The success we’ve had in those pursuits showed clearly to me during the alien skit exercise. When I left Railway Thursday afternoon I was no longer tired; I was inspired.

Works in Progress: Sultan Bazaar

It’s hard to believe Ilana and I have already had six classes at our Sultan Bazaar workshop! The teachers and students have made quick progress. Last week they completed storyboards, production plans and scripts.

Sultan Bazaar Government Girls School

Class storyboard practice (Photo by Kara)

Sultan Bazaar Government Girls School

The natural resources group hashes out a production plan based on their storyboard (Photo by Kara)

After two 1.5-hour production sessions this week, the groups are nearly finished filming and photographing for their curriculum-based multimedia projects. This workshop is operating on a low-budget model using two Canon Powershot cameras, one Flip HD video camera, and a tripod. Below are some highlighted photos by each of the groups. Click on the project title to view the rest of their photos in TMS’s Flickr photostream.


Cotton Plant

Cotton Plant

Sari Shop


Visualizing Triangles

Visualizing Triangles

Visualizing Triangles

Natural Resources

Natural Resources

Natural Resources

Natural Resources

Now that they have their project content, it’s time to teach editing skills. We’ll use Windows Live Movie Maker in the Digital Equalizer computer lab that AIF installed at the school. I’ve already been impressed with the girls adeptness at uploading photos and video, so I have high hopes for the strength of their final projects!