Teaching for Environmental Justice at the Educational Video Center


By Steve Goodman

Thirty years ago, high school students in an after-school workshop made a short documentary sounding the alarm about the growing environmental crisis of garbage pollution in New York City. They wondered where the garbage we throw out all goes, and ended up bringing their cameras atop the man-made mountain called Fresh Kills, the largest landfill in the world — where at its peak barges brought as much as 29,000 tons of the city’s garbage every day (New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, 2019).  Before New York City began mandatory recycling, the students used their film Trash Thy Neighbor (Educational Video Center, 1990) to make audiences aware of community buy back recycling centers, and with music and humor they showed how to recycle and reuse what they buy…

The students making these documentaries were all participants in after-school youth media programs run by the nonprofit Educational Video Center (EVC). Since 1984, thousands of New York City high school and middle school students at EVC have gone through the transformative experience of collaboratively researching, shooting, and editing documentaries about urgent social issues in their schools and communities. Through the intensive experience of creating these projects, they develop a range of civic, critical media literacy, and documentary production skills. Most importantly, they learn to critically understand the systemic obstacles they face and make their voices heard advocating for change.


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