The Earth School in East Village adding LGBT studies to its lesson plan

Friday, June 17, 2016
East Village school adding LGBT studies lesson plan
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Tim Fleischer reports from the East Village.

EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A first of its kind program will begin this fall for one public school in New York City.

The Earth School in the East Village will add LGBT studies to its lesson plan.

The announcement Friday is having an even greater impact considering the horrible events in Orlando earlier this week.

The fourth and fifth graders at the Earth School were studying people's rights, civil rights, workers and woman's rights, but finding very little in their digital educational material from BrainPOP about LGBT rights.

"Gay and transgender, these groups and others are still struggling to be treated with dignity," a BrainPOP video said.

"We realized they didn't have any videos on the LGBT history or civil rights," said Grace Zagoria, a student.

That's when Zagoria and her classmates went to work, trying to get BrainPOP, the digital educational content provider, to create a standalone topic about LGBT rights.

Din Heiman is the chief operating officer.

"It was surprising that it came from a group of students at the time in the fourth grade. Because this is a topic the standards typically call for in high school," Heiman said.

"We were trying to convince BrainPOP to make a video," a student said.

They wrote emails and contacted principals at other schools.

"Sending emails to principals, calling principals, and doing a lot more," a student said.

"This is The Stonewall Inn. There are so many cool topics to learn about when it comes to LGBT history," a student video said.

With the help of their teachers Colin Schumacher and Carol Fitzgerald, they made a video and created a website to push their effort further.

"We made our own script," a student said.

"The idea of a video as a way to educate a large group of people in a short amount of time," Schumacher said.

"It got bigger and bigger and that's why BrainPOP has finally decided to get a video," a student said.

Eventually, BrainPOP decided to make changes to its current civil rights material.

"We felt that their comment was correct and we published that before Orlando," Heiman said.

The tragedy in Orlando, Heiman says, changed that thinking even more.

"The time is right and the responsibility is really on us to put something forward to allow kids to better understand some of the background to what they're reading and seeing," Heiman said.

By the next school year, BrainPOP will develop a standalone video on LGBT issues.

"Important issues are here and they are aware of them, especially now," Fitzgerald said.

"I want to see if they do Harvey Milk or Stonewall Inn," a student said.

They are changing lessons for an ever changing generation.