Could a series of short films linked around a charismatic and endangered animal using music, dance, poetry and evocative visuals get more people talking about our relationship to other species and one another?
We all know that what students are taught in school can have a huge impact on the attitudes and behaviors they bring to the world as adults. The motivation to create a trans-species empathy curriculum for middle school and high school students using the emotive and rich modalities of the arts – dance, poetry, theater, music, film – stems from the sobering reality of rapid species loss and need for global unity in facing climate change. But more importantly, The Elephant Project is being developed with a great sense of optimism that our educational priorities can shift to embrace a new mindset that makes being a human being one of global steward as opposed to what is implicated by so many messages within our consumer-driven culture. Humans are so much more than just “consumers.”
The format of the project is being developed with curriculum advisors and education experts to make it a usable online curriculum that can be used across disciplines within both public and private schools, yet it is ultimately a curriculum which speaks the education system of the future in which cooperation, playfulness and creativity in all forms, holistic learning and out-of-the box thinking is encouraged.
The structure of the curriculum as it is being created is a series twenty short films viewable online which use the Asian elephant as a gateway to questions for discussion about the situation in the film, with readings putting the footage in context, and then asking the students to respond as homework in an artistic form to the material in the films. Their project – whether a video, dance piece, poem, song, painting – is then uploaded to the website. The curriculum is unique in promoting the arts as a crucial means of problem-solving and nurturing the emotional connection to the other species on the planet as a way to shift human behavior over the long and short term. The ultimate goal is to empower the students to be part of an action-oriented group which then is more empathic not only towards other species including elephants, but to one another. The Elephant Project uses the wisdom and sensitivity of the human heart to expand our role as global stewards through the lens of the human/non-human animal bond.
“This is brilliant and needs to be shared worldwide.” Robin Farrin, ImageGazer Production, Ellsworth, ME
Please make a tax-deductible donation to help this project move forward with a pilot project between schools in the Boston area and schools in India, Sir Lanka, and Thailand using the interface already used by schools internationally called Voice Thread. Models for connecting schools are: Global Nomads which uses video technology to connect classrooms as well as Creative Connections which empowers students through art.
This software will be used to connect students across the globe who will watch the films and respond using an artistic form to start dialogue and brainstorm solutions.