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Just Around the Block: Bringing Cameras to Students in NYC


My BlockNYC Education Program brings cameras into the classrooms.

March 1, 2013 - MyBlockNYC.com, an interactive mapping website that captures and presents personal accounts of the life and culture of New York City through user-generated videos, is also working to engage young people through MyBlockNYC Education Program, which brings cameras into the classroom so that students can share their experiences of living in the City in video.

“It’s an opportunity for them to discover whether film is a language they speak and to express their ideas and discover their voice,” said Brian Paccione, the MyBlockNYC education foundation coordinator.

Since it began a year and a half ago, the program has spread to schools throughout the five boroughs. This past fall as the program reached more students, the need for more cameras was apparent. SONY generously donated a package of cameras, allowing MyBlockNYC to expand to more schools and letting students have the cameras for longer periods of time.

Thanks to the influx of cameras this semester, 36 schools will participate and use the cost-free interdisciplinary video curriculum, which includes a simple and adaptable teaching materials, access to an interactive website and free video equipment. Schools incorporate the curriculum in different ways. At some, it becomes a part of an English or Spanish class; for others, ESL students turn the cameras on each other to learn more about where they come from.

“We see it as an exercise in critical thinking, thinking in a new way, and becoming more involved with their community,” said Alex Kalman, MyBlockNYC’s executive director.

Once the videos are edited, they’re uploaded to an interactive map MyBlockNYC.com where they can reach a wider audience in and outside of NYC.

“It makes students realize their lives are valuable, that their lives have an audience,” said Paccione.

One student used his video to explore the murder of an elderly neighbor who was killed down the hall from his apartment. “[These students] are showing an element of our culture in a striking way, from a perspective that’s never been seen before,” said Paccione. “They become citizen journalists.”

The project also can help change perceptions. Videos about a particular neighborhood can put a new spin on the area. A park is no longer a few green pixels on a map, but accessible with a video that shows viewers the kind of stories that unfold there. “People can discover the City in an exciting, interesting and honest way,” said Kalman.

To learn more about MyBlockNYC and to watch student-made videos, visit myblocknyceducationprogram.tumblr.com and myblocknyc.com. To contact the MyBlockNYC Education Program, email them at schools@myblocknyc.com.   
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