Launched in 2007 with support from the Ford Foundation, BYkids is a global, award-winning, non-profit organization that uses storytelling to inform, engage and inspire action. We do so by pairing master filmmakers with youth (ages 8-21) from around the world to produce short films that bring color, context and understanding to critical global issues. BYkids enlists renowned filmmakers to mentor and provide training and equipment to kids from all over the world to produce short documentaries about their lives and broadcast their local stories on an international stage. BYkids hopes to give the young filmmakers and their audiences a sense of agency as they respond to challenges in a world that too often seems out of control.
BYkids strives to change the way young Americans see the world – and the way the world sees us – by using film as a conduit for global understanding and a catalyst for action. Subjects such as global justice, human rights and the environment are rarely addressed in the curricula of middle and high school, leaving a chasm of understanding regarding the critical importance of these concerns around the world. Common Core standards make oblique reference to incorporating classic stories and myths from around the globe, but with emphasis on core language and math competencies, rather than on critical thinking and cultural literacy skills. BYkids fills that void – speaking to America’s youth in their own voice through their peers from around the world, sharing their values, questions and hopes for their future.
The films and their Curriculum Guides are distributed to half the schools in America through our partner, Discovery Education, reaching one million teachers and millions of students across America. Initially aired on Channel THIRTEEN, the flagship station of PBS, our five-part series, narrated by Ashley Judd, aired on more than 170 channels in 107 markets, and was watched in 64 million households nationally. Social media engagement of each film clip reached up to 45,000 views on Facebook. The posts also linked users to the website, which offers free, ongoing streaming video of the five films. On screens large and small, our series touched the lives of children and adults who are hungry for content that is both educational and inspiring.
As teachers who have experimented with film in the classroom can attest, film presents an engaging and relatively untapped reserve of educational power for the digitally savvy youth of today. Viewed either in short segments or in their entirety, films provide a new concrete focus for instruction in the classroom while serving as a dynamic supplement to traditional lecture and textbook formats. BYkids films and curricula are project-based, collaborative and cross-curricular. They link diverse cultures and countries by themes that are relevant to all communities and spur students to develop the competencies needed to become global citizens while mastering college, career and life-readiness skills.
Using the vibrant visual content of film to foster global awareness and international collaboration during the formative years allows students to see things from different perspectives – a crucial skill for success in this 21st Century. Our tagline – Their World Their Films – has clearly hit a resounding note in classrooms and households across the country. In the midst of this explosive growth, our mission remains constant: use films to raise awareness of the issues facing the most vulnerable – and most promising – segment of the world’s population, and ensure their voices are heard, shared and acted upon.