September 2012 M-Passioned Member: Lynne Azarchi

National Association for Media Literacy Education, September 4, 2012

1) What do you do?

KIDSBRIDGE is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing imaginative, hands-on programs focusing on: anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying; tolerance; diversity appreciation and respect for all persons; victim empowerment and positive self-esteem; conflict resolution and empathy; sensitivity to persons with disabilities; understanding of LGBT persons, grassroots youth activism and media literacy. Since 1996, Kidsbridge has sought to fill the large voids that exist in the learning of life skills, character education and diversity appreciation with knowledge, aspiration and empowerment.

The Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum is the only anti-bullying, youth-oriented tolerance museum in the United States, and is generously housed on the campus of The College of New Jersey in Ewing (outside of Trenton and Princeton). Each year more than 2,200 students and teachers visit the Museum, learning strategies to better deal with the challenging character education and diversity appreciation issues facing today’s youth and educators. In an open and interactive environment (also known as a learning lab), TCNJ students and professors, along with volunteer retired educators from the local community, meaningfully interact with visiting elementary and middle school students and educators. To date, more than 10,200 youth have visited the Museum.

2) Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.

Designed for middle schoolers who visit the Tolerance Museum, the program’s pedagogy is small group discussions led by a retired educator or a trained college student. First, a media clip is shown that portrays exclusion, humiliation, violence or stereotypes. Then the docent generates an interactive discussion inviting the students to share their impressions. Students are then asked what they would change about the media and asked if the TV/internet clip affects their attitudes about others. They are queried: “Would the show be better or worse if we eliminate the violence? if we eliminate the stereotypes? eliminate the back-stabbing? etc.

This media literacy program was measured to have statistically significant improvements in attitude. After the program, more students disagreed with the statement “television and movies are a good way to learn about how other people live,” and more students strongly rejected the idea that stereotypes on TV “reflect the way different people are in real life” than they had before the program.

3) Why is media literacy important to you?

Media Literacy is important to Kidsbridge because so few educators and parents watch and discuss television and internet media with children, teens and tweens. It is our hope to expand our program and conduct this training.

4) What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?

At Kidsbridge, we are most excited about the opportunity of teacher and parent training — educating them how to watch media with a critical eye analyzing what lessons we can learn together from cruel, exclusionary, back stabbing and violent media.

5) Why did you become a NAMLE member – what benefits do you see to membership and how will it support your work?

I was lucky to attend NAMLE’s last conference as a presenter and attendee; the sessions and the resources available were fabulous. I feel informed and appreciate the NAMLE emails and hope to attend the next conference.