AP Students Make Documentary Films

AP Students Make Documentary Films

By: Janice Neumann, Daily Southtown


Until the students at Oak Forest High School made documentaries about world conflicts, they had no idea of the depth of suffering out there.

They had read about wars in the news, but many conflicts seemed to be left out, or reports failed to fully portray war’s effect on individual human beings.

“I think most challenging was kind of accepting how bad these wars really are,” said Riley Ensing a freshman who wrote a script on Kashmir, Myanmar and Kurdish separatism. “You hear about civil war and people being separated, but in depth, with details, we learned about how people were being treated by their own government … people who were just trying to get along with daily life, not even being treated like human beings.”

The project was also a way for Riley to spread the knowledge to friends and her mom.

“I was able to get her up to date about what was happening in these other places,” Riley said.

Edwin Lipowski, the AP Human Geography teacher who assigned the documentaries to his three classes, said he wanted to expose students to different conflicts in a different way, helping build their knowledge, creativity and future workplace skills. The documentaries focused on Myanmar, Kurdish separatism, Basque separatism, Darfur, Kashmir, and the Yemen civil war.

“I wanted to try to do something that gave them as much control over what they created as possible and also sort of put them in a leadership position and to see how they worked under a level of stress that comes with putting together a significant project,” said Lipowski.

So students volunteered for various roles, including project manager, video director, writing director, prop director, quiz and research team director. Lipowski checked in on students occasionally but allowed them to work through much of the process on their own. They used their iPads, including movie-making and green-screen apps, and received editing and technology tips from librarian Amanda O’Rouke.

Lipowski said he wanted students to learn about the forces pulling societies apart.

“Looking at it with a bigger broader brush pretty much all the conflicts we looked at have situations of different groups getting thrown together for one reason or another, often as a result of how boundaries get drawn, which creates situations where different cultural groups come together,” said Lipowski. “In all these situations, there are usually two different groups, one fighting for greater autonomy from another and usually one oppressed by the majority.

The project was an eye-opener for Jasmine Chavez, who said she hadn’t realized “the devastation of the people and how they were affected by these conflicts.”

Jasmine, who wrote a script on the Darfur and Yemen Civil War and was a quiz manager said she liked seeing the whole picture of what was going on and has done extra reading on the conflicts since the project ended.

The project was also a chance to focus on teamwork.

“I liked that we got put into situation where even though someone didn’t really like the other person, we kept it civil, kept it clean and just got our work done,” Jasmine said.


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