Made in Europe


March 21, 2019 — March 21, 2019 – On this UN day against racism, Karen Polak, project coordinator of Stories that Move, talks about the free online tool developed by the Anne Frank House to help learners discuss antisemitism, racism, and other forms of discrimination.

Launched in June 2018, it has already won an education award and hundreds of teachers have signed up to use it.

Stories that Move

Stories that Move uses the personal stories of young people in different countries around Europe to challenge learners today to reflect on the choices they make when faced with inequality and hate.

Meeting and engaging with young people in an intense ongoing conversation has been immensely inspiring for me and my team. Nued, who was part of the first Stories that Move youth conference in 2013, and Daniel, who was only 14 when he joined the project, were both present at the launch of the toolbox last year – two articulate voices in challenging times. 

Treasure trove

The toolbox is a treasure trove of images, film clips and lesson materials in seven languages – the result of two years of research and three of development and testing, involving nine partner organisations in seven countries. It grew from discussions in countless classrooms and blizzards of emails in many languages. We began with a youth conference and pieces of paper spread over the floor, pored over by educationalists, young people and web designers working side by side. There was much good will and laughter – I’ll never forget us all lying flat on the carpet, making shapes for the illustrations. That toolbox with its colourful pages is now attracting the attention of schools across Europe and beyond, and the young people who helped create it should be proud.

Diversity of opinions

Working with an international team of educators, which met six times in three years, was a wonderful educational experience in itself. Discussions were lively, as you can imagine. I soon found out that there were quite a few things we were not all going to agree on. So, dealing with a diversity of opinions became an integrated part of how the tool works.

Linking past and present

According to a recent survey, more than a third of teens report being bullied online. “Parents are worried about time spent online and how social media is affecting their children,” said one of our expert advisers, Michael McGlade, the director of educational technology at the International School of Amsterdam (ISA). So, we asked ourselves, what if we could find a way to address discrimination at the root level – between people –  with the use of technology?

Many ISA students helped test the prototypes, but Sietske, 13, speaking during a one-day training session for teachers, put his finger on the problem for students everywhere. “Often in class I’m a quite bored, I get the work done as fast as I can. Stories that Move really made me think. I enjoyed that.”

So, the online tool consists of five “boredom-busting” learning paths packed with information, assignments, and engaging life stories, linking past and present. There is a story about a young Pole, Stefan Kosinski, who met his Austrian lover in 1944, and others about young people in Europe today such as Csaba from Hungary or Anna from Denmark – still facing prejudice and wrestling with identity. In a structured way, students can choose for themselves which stories they want to explore. And in talking about the past, the present finds new focus – or the other way round.

Personal stories destroy stereotypes

A Polish teacher told me: “Stefan Kosinski made the greatest impression on my pupils – including the boys! At the end, many said they had changed their point of view about things that had seemed obvious before, and they had learned something about themselves. Otherness, foreignness, being a stranger – these categories had been given faces.”

Another teacher, in Ukraine, contacted Stories that Move after finding it by googling ‘teaching about discrimination’. Her pupils initially did not believe that the young people in the clips were real, she told us. “They said: ‘Why aren’t they shy to share such personal stories?’ I said: ‘They are open; they have something to say. We have to hear them and think about what they are saying.’ It encouraged my students to share their own stories and be supportive. My aim was to develop tolerance. Hopefully it worked.”

What next?

From its inception, Stories that Move has been a collaborative project, bringing together young people and experts. It was designed for secondary school students aged 14 to 17. However, feedback from educators shows that it is being used far more widely, from museums and universities to a Roma settlement, for history lessons, civic and religious education, and even language teaching.

The aim of the toolbox is not prescriptive but simply to provide educators with materials to encourage young people to discuss diversity and discrimination, to reflect on their own choices by hearing the personal stories of their peers, and to become socially active.  

During professional development seminars teachers get the chance to get to know both the content and the methodology of the toolbox.

Perhaps the last word should go to one of the pupils

Linda, 16, in Austria: “It is fascinating how the stories in the toolbox managed to move us. On the one hand, they are shocking and show that homophobia, discrimination and racism are not something from the past. On the other hand, these stories give us hope. They show that there are people who speak out, to encourage others and to show us that we, too, can help change things.”

Karen Polak is the international coordinator of Stories that Move, toolbox against discrimination.

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