In the past 50 years, the world has seen many new countries form. The break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have yielded the most independent nations. But in other corners of the earth, independence has also flourished, from the recent establishment of South Sudan in 2011 to the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993.
When a new country is born, a new national identity must emerge. And this is hard. What does it mean to one day be a citizen of the Soviet Union and the next to be a citizen of Georgia or Belarus? What about Kosovo – a new country that is recognized by over 50% of the world, but is not recognized by Serbia, the country that surrounds it on almost three sides. What is it like to be a citizen of a country that is the subject of such global dispute?
To look at this from a different perspective, think about how much being a citizen of your country – American for most of this audience – is a part of your identity. If America is your country, consider the security you feel to be a part of this nation: the freedom; the opportunities; the range of open discussions and debates that allow you to grow and be your own free-thinking individual.
In this Challenge, you are being asked to explore and investigate of what identity consists to youth living in one of the world’s newly formed countries. The video deliverable is your group creating and introducing a fictional person from this country – about your age – to the rest of the world. You are creating a portrait – as based on your research – of a female or male teen – living in that country.
This is not a report on the flag, economy and number one export of, say, Tajikistan. This is about researching what life is like, today, in your new country of choice, from the perspective of youth growing up there. This is about trying to understand what a teen growing up in Belarus – which is a country that remains very close with the Russian government (as opposed to Georgia, for example, which is trying to align more closely with the West) – is like.
This is also about new ways of research: the safe and thoughtful utilization of social media to understand real people on the other side of the world.
The final deliverable is a three-minute video introducing a) the basic facts about the newly formed country; b) a portrait of single teen from that country as loosely seen through a day-in-the-life perspective; and c) the voice of your fictional teen, expressing themselves on a relevant national issue, concluding with a statement about their national identity.
- Who are They? Portrait Video (this is the only Meridian Stories deliverable)
- Country Summary (at teacher’s discretion)
- Draft Script (at teacher’s discretion)
Assumptions and Logistics
Time Frame – We recommend that this Meridian Stories Competition takes place inside of a three to four-week time frame.
Length – All Meridian Stories submissions should be under 4 minutes in length, unless otherwise specified.
Submissions – Keep in mind that each school can only submit three submissions per Competition (so while the entire class can participate in the Challenge, only three can be submitted to Meridian Stories for Mentor review and scoring).
Teacher Reviews – All reviews by the teacher are at the discretion of the teacher and all suggested paper deliverables are due only to the teacher. The only deliverable to Meridian Stories is the media work.
Teacher’s Role and Technology Integrator – While it is helpful to have a Technology Integrator involved, they are not usually necessary: the students already know how to produce the media. And if they don’t, part of their challenge is to figure it out. They will! The teacher’s primary function in these Challenges is to guide the students as they engage with the content. You don’t need to know editing, sound design, shooting or storyboarding: you just need to know your content area.
Digital Rules/Literacy – We strongly recommend that all students follow the rules of Digital Citizenry in their proper usage and/or citation of images, music and text taken from other sources. This recommendation includes producing a citations page at the end of your entry, if applicable. See the Digital Rules area in the Meridian Resources section of the site for guidance.
Location – Try not to shoot in a classroom at your school. The classroom, no matter how you dress it up, looks like a classroom and can negatively impact the story you are trying to tell.
Slate – All media work must begin with a slate that provides:
- the title of the piece;
- the name of the school submitting;
- the wording ‘Permission Granted’ which gives Meridian Stories the right to a) publicly display the submission in question on, as linked from or related to or in support of Meridian Stories digital media; and b) use it for educational purposes only; and
- We strongly recommend that students do not put their last names on the piece either at the start or finish, during the credits.
Collaboration – We strongly recommend that students work in teams of 3-4: part of the educational value is around building collaborative skill sets. But students may work individually.
Presentation – We strongly recommend that at the end of this process, the student teams present their work either to the class and/or to assembled parents and friends as a way to showcase their work. The workforce considers Presentational Skills to be a key asset and we encourage you to allow students to practice this skill set as often as possible. These short videos provide a great opportunity for kids to practice their public presentational skills.
Our research indicates this to be a really useful exercise for two additional reasons:
- Students actually learn from their peers’ presentations – it is useful to hear a perspective that is not just the teacher’s; and
- The public setting – painful as it is for some students – provides them with an opportunity to ‘own’ their work and to be more accountable.
- Below is a suggested breakdown for the students’ work.
During Phase I, student teams will:
- Work with your teacher to choose a country that has been newly formed after 1970.
- Conduct basic research – using primary and secondary sources – on the formation of that country. The biggest question you will want to ask is this: What were the circumstances under which independence was gained and from whom? In other words, did the country become independent peacefully or through conflict? And once independent, did the region or world recognize that independence or challenge it?
- Conduct basic research – using primary and secondary sources – on the country’s current state of being. The objective is to get a sense of the political, economic and cultural stability of the country, as well as the political and religious ideologies. Questions to consider:
- Is the government and economy relatively stable?
- Does the government enjoy the support of the population?
- Is the country supported and at peace with its neighboring countries?
- What is the political system that rules the country?
- What role does religion play in the day-to-day life of the country?
- Knowing that your final deliverable is a video, pull and store images that you may want to include in your video as you research.
- Summarize the points that you have researched to comprise the first part of your video: how the country came to be independent and what state it is in now. This should be no more than thirty to forty-five seconds of your final deliverable.
- Teacher’s Option: Country Summary: Teachers may require student teams to hand in a two-page outline of the key events that led the country to independence and the current status of the country today, politically and economically. Citing all primary and secondary sources is critical.
|Consider the case of Macedonia. Here, the newly formed country that was carved out of Yugoslavia in 1991 – one of seven such new countries – was called, Macedonia. But the Greeks believed that ‘Macedonia’ was the region that formed their northern territory and so refused to recognize the new country on the basis of the name. And since they didn’t officially recognize the country as ‘Macedonia,’ the country has had to officially go by the name of FYROM: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. When the alphabetical Parade of Nations begins every new Olympics, Macedonia marches under the letter ‘F’ not ‘M’. Only in 2018 did the two countries reach a tentative agreement on the name, Republic of North Macedonia. But the question is this: what does this lack of a secure country name do to the psyche of its citizens? Imagine if Canada refused to recognize the US as the United States of America, claiming that ‘America’ belongs to the indigenous people of the whole continent? That would affect who we are as a nation. It is these kinds of questions that you are looking to explore.|
During Phase II, student teams will:
- Discuss the research in light of teens in that country. This might include the following issues:
- Safety – are teens safe in your select country?
- Freedom – how ‘free’ are teens in your select country?
- Gender equity – are women and men treated equally? Are the expectations for men and women the same or vastly different?
- Education – what is the education system and how accessible/affordable is it to everyone? What about higher education in country?
- Research the lives of teens in your select country, perhaps delegating each team member to research from a different source. Social media may be the best place to get a sense of the day-to-day life of teens in that country, as well as YouTube vlogs and articles published on teen sites.
- As you turn to social media as source of information, it can become a lot trickier to distinguish fact from opinion. In this kind of research, opinions matter as much as facts. But it’s still critical to be able to distinguish between them.
- Decide how to delegate the research so that the team is either looking at different research sources from social media or looking for different aspects of daily teen life.
- Continue to collect images off of the Internet to help you tell your story of this country, keeping in mind the digital rules of image collection, which is outlined in the Meridian Stories’ Digital Rules Center.
- Share your research results with your team. In creating a portrait of a fictional character, what exactly are you looking to communicate? For starters: male or female; upper or lower economic class; educated or not; part of an extended family unit or not; connected to a familial profession, etc. Make your decisions and start to write a character description of the person that you will feature in your video.
- As you move into this part of your video, your team needs to make a critical decision: is this story being told from a third-person perspective or a first-person perspective? The former allows you to present your information in a more formal and studied way: one step removed from the youth you are creating. The latter allows you to create a full-on character, who dresses X way and speaks with Y voice. Checking out the Character Creation support resources in the Meridian Resources Center can be really helpful here.
- The second part of your video requires you to outline a day-in-the-life of your character that showcases some of the daily traditions, challenges and rhythms of life in that country. Just focus on a few highlights to give us a sense of their daily opportunities and obstacles (recommended: thirty to forty-five seconds) Do you have enough information? Continue your research if you don’t.
- Keep in mind that depending on the country, a day-in-the-life in their country may not be that different from a day-in-your-life. So, don’t think you have failed if your lives are remarkably similar. In fact, that theme may be worth exploring: the similarities that you share.
- The third part of your video requires you to give your character a voice on a hot issue that that country is addressing. Whether it be related to religion, repression, education, freedom, cultural expression, climate change, job opportunities, the arts, sports: give your fictional character a clear belief as based on what you learn are the prevailing issues that teens are confronting in your select country.
- Remember that this final piece needs to reflect what you understand to be a common stance of teens in that country. In other words, be careful not to superimpose your values onto a teen in another country.
- Draft your script for all three parts: a) the country’s recent history; b) the day in the life; and c) the final belief that is at the core of their view of their world.
- The final piece of the script is their declaration about national identity: a statement that sums up what being [fill in the country name here] is all about at this moment in time. The content of the first three parts should naturally lead to the conclusions being drawn in this final segment.
- Teacher’s Option: Draft Script – Teachers may require student teams to hand in a draft of their final video script for comments and review.
- Create a rough cut of your select imagery that matches into your final script – The video piece of this is intended to be a collection of shots taken off of the Internet, used with the proper citations. We don’t want anyone from your team to pretend to be from that country. It’s a visual montage that is meant to give the viewers a strong sense of the architecture, landscape, light, flora and human sensibility of the country. However, there is no fixed format for the final deliverable.
During Phase III, student teams will:
- Finalize the script and the video montage.
- Shoot any footage that your team deems necessary to help you bring your fictional character to life.
- Record the voice over and/or character voices as needed.
- Post-produce the video, adding music and sound effects as desired.
- Consider using local music to underscore your video.
Meridian Support Resources
|Meridian Stories provides two forms of support for the student teams:
1. Meridian Innovators and Artists – This is a series of three to four-minute videos featuring artists and innovative professionals who offer important advice, specifically for Meridian Stories, in the areas of creativity and production.
2. Media Resource Collection – These are short documents that offer student teams key tips in the areas of creativity, production, game design and digital citizenry.
Recommended review, as a team, for this Competition include:
|Meridian Innovators and Artists||Media Resource Collection|
|On Fiction Writing – Lily King
On the Importance of Character in Storytelling – Scott Nash
On Character Design – Scott Nash
On Producing – Tom Pierce
|“Creative Brainstorming Techniques”
“Digital Rules Resource Center – The Starting Line”
“Essential Guide and Checklist – The Doctrine of Fair Use”
Evaluation Rubric – Who are They? Portraits of Youth in the World’s Newest Countries
|Criteria||1 – 3||4 – 7||8 – 10|
|The Summary History of Your Select Country||The presentation of your country’s recent history does not provide sufficient context for understanding your fictional character||The presentation of your country’s recent history does provide sufficient context for understanding your fictional character||The presentation of your country’s recent history illuminates the context for understanding your fictional character|
|Day in the Life||The presentation of your character’s day-in-the-life does not reveal much about the country or the lives of youth in that country||The presentation of your character’s day-in-the-life reveals important aspects about the country or the lives of youth in that country||The presentation of your character’s day-in-the-life illuminates much about the country and the lives of youth in that country|
|Current Political Issue and Youth||The current political issue and your character’s engagement with that issue is unclear||The current political issue and your character’s engagement with that issue is clear and relevant||The current political issue and your character’s engagement with that issue is presented poignantly and provokes reflection|
|National Identity||Your conclusion about national identity is unclear||Your conclusion about national identity is clear and informative||Your conclusion about national identity is insightful and provokes reflection|
|Criteria||1 – 3||4 – 7||8 – 10|
|Narrative Cohesion||The various parts of your video don’t cohere into a single narrative||The various parts of your video cohere into a single narrative||The various parts of your video come together to create a unified, powerful story|
|Character||Your fictional character does not feel like a reflection of youth in that country||Your fictional character is an engaging reflection of youth in that country||Your fictional character is an insightful and bold reflection of youth in that country|
|Criteria||1 – 3||4 – 7||8 – 10|
|Mixed Visual Media||The use of video, stills, screenshots, graphics and/or text was often confusing and not well matched to the goals of the video||The use of video, stills, screenshots, graphics and/or text was suitable to the goals of the video||The use of video, stills, screenshots, graphics and/or text was engaging, visually interesting and well matched to the goals of the video|
|Editing||The video feels patched together and the overall editing distracts from the narrative||The video flows, but there are occasional editing distractions||The video is edited cleanly and effectively, resulting in an engaging video experience|
|Sound Design||The mix of music and sound did not enhance the experience with the video||The mix of music and sound serviced the experience with the video||The mix of music and sound greatly enhanced the experience with the video|
|21ST CENTURY SKILLS COMMAND (for teachers only)|
|Collaborative Thinking||The group did not work together effectively and/or did not share the work equally||The group worked together effectively and had no major issues||The group demonstrated flexibility in making compromises and valued the contributions of each group member|
|Creativity and Innovation||The group did not make a solid effort to create anything new or innovative||The group was able to brainstorm new and inventive ideas, but was inconsistent in their evaluation and implementation of those ideas||The group brainstormed many inventive ideas and was able to evaluate, refine and implement them effectively|
|Initiative and Self-Direction||The group was unable to set attainable goals, work independently and manage their time effectively||The group required some additional help, but was able to complete the project on time with few problems||The group set attainable goals, worked independently and managed their time effectively, demonstrating a disciplined commitment to the project|
- What are some of the world’s newest countries and how did they come to be?
- What is life like for a teenager in a select ‘new’ country and how does one find this out?
- What are some critical political issues defining life in that country today?
- What is ‘national identity’ and how does it manifest itself in a new country with very little national history?
- How has immersion in the creation of a fictional character as based on historical research and the production of digital media – exercising one’s creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy skills – deepened the overall educational experience?
- How has working on a team – practicing one’s collaborative skills – changed the learning experience?
- The student will learn about the range of new countries that have been formed in the last fifty years.
- The student will learn how to use primary and secondary sources – including social media – to explore and understand youth in that country.
- The student will understand some current issues which are dominating the political landscape of that country, from the perspective of youth.
- The student will explore and understand the abstract idea of national identity, as well as speculate on what that means in the select new country on which he/she/they is focused.
- The student will utilize key 21st century skills, with a focus on creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy, in their process of translating their encounter with historical and current events research into a fictional character from the select country.
- The student will have an increased awareness of the challenges and rewards of team collaboration. Collaboration – the ability to work with others – is considered one of the most important 21st century skills to develop in students as they prepare for life after secondary school.
Common Core and NCSS Curricular Correlations
The Who are They? Portraits of Youth in the World’s Newest Countries Challenge addresses a range of curricular objectives that have been articulated by two nationally recognized sources:
- The Common Core Curricular Standards – English Language Arts – History/Social; and
- The Themes of Social Studies, as outlined by National Council of Social Studies (NCSS).
Below please find the standards that are being addressed, either wholly or in part.
Common Core Curricular Standards
English Language Arts Standards
English Language Arts Standards – History/Social
READING INFORMATIONAL TEXT
Key Ideas and Details
|Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.||Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.||Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.|
Text Types and Purposes
|Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.||Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.||Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.|
Text Types and Purposes
|Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.||Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.||Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.|
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
|Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.||Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.||Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
|Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.||Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.||Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.|
SPEAKING AND LISTENING
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
|Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.||Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.||Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.|
Knowledge of Language
|Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
|Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.||Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.|
Key Ideas and Details
|Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.||Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.||Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.|
Craft and Structure
|Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
|Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.||Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.||Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.|
Goals – NCSS – The Themes of Social Studies
|Theme – Culture|
|Through the study of culture and cultural diversity, learners understand how human beings create, learn, share, and adapt to culture, and appreciate the role of culture in shaping their lives and society, as well the lives and societies of others. In schools, this theme typically appears in units and courses dealing with geography, history, sociology, and anthropology, as well as multicultural topics across the curriculum.|
|Theme – Time, Continuity and Change|
|Through the study of the past and its legacy, learners examine the institutions, values, and beliefs of people in the past, acquire skills in historical inquiry and interpretation, and gain an understanding of how important historical events and developments have shaped the modern world. This theme appears in courses in history, as well as in other social studies courses for which knowledge of the past is important|
|Theme – People, Places and Environments|
|This theme helps learners to develop their spatial views and perspectives of the world, to understand where people, places, and resources are located and why they are there, and to explore the relationship between human beings and the environment. In schools, this theme typically appears in courses dealing with geography and area studies, but it is also important for the study of the geographical dimension of other social studies subjects.|
|Theme – Individual Development and Identity|
|Personal identity is shaped by family, peers, culture, and institutional influences. Through this theme, students examine the factors that influence an individual’s personal identity, development, and actions. This theme typically appears in courses and units dealing with psychology, anthropology, and sociology.|
|Theme – Individuals, Groups and Institutions|
|Institutions such as families and civic, educational, governmental, and religious organizations, exert a major influence on people’s lives. This theme allows students to understand how institutions are formed, maintained, and changed, and to examine their influence. In schools, this theme typically appears in units and courses dealing with sociology, anthropology, psychology, political science, and history.|