My name is Wendy Jewell and I have been associated with The MY HERO Project almost since it began. Currently, I am a producer/writer/educator living outside of Toronto. But it was in Southern California where I met my dear friend and fellow adventurer, Jeanne Meyers. She told me about this thing she was creating on the "World-Wide Web", about heroes and her desire to make uplifting, enlightening material available on the Internet. A decade ago the Internet was a baby and my child was a toddler so I didn't fully appreciate what Jeanne was trying to do. Now that I have a teenager using the Internet, I really GET IT. The MY HERO Project has been an on-line resource for my daughter, not just to learn about great people, but to learn about herself. It's a way for her to voice what's important to her in a non-violent, socially responsible, tolerant way. And that's what Jeanne was talking about… what the MY HERO team, my family and I have been talking about ever since.
My first in-class experience was when I brought MY HERO to Slater's 3rd Grade teachers at Dixie Canyon Elementary in Los Angeles. I saw firsthand how important it was to the children to talk about their heroes. I also saw a motivated teacher turn our little project into an educational hat-trick: history, English and computer science.
|David, Wendy and Slater at iEARN Slovakia
From there we would take The MY HERO Project around the world. My husband, David, my daughter, Slater, and I were lucky enough to represent MY HERO at the ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL iEARN CONFERENCES in Slovakia '04 and Holland '06. 1,000 students, teachers and adults from all around the globe get together every year to share ideas and projects about how to improve the world and our places in it. While we were conducting MY HERO workshops on journalism, filmmaking and the Learning Circles, Slater attended the Youth Summit and each time was thrust into a group of 150 kids from all over the globe. As a parent, I watched Slater explode with optimism. I saw her mind reel in the amazing possibilities that open up when a group of like-minded kids put their heart and soul into creating something.
In Kosice, Slovakia we made new friends from countries like Egypt, Taiwan, Spain, Australia and Russia who introduced us to THEIR projects. We met Joanne Tawfilis, and got to know her Art Miles Mural Project, which plans to wrap the pyramids of Egypt with 12 MILES of murals to mark the end of the United Nations Decade of Peace. We learned about YouthCan, a youth run organization that uses technology to inspire, connect and educate people worldwide about environmental issues.
|Wendy, David, Slater and friends...iEARN Slovakia
In the Netherlands, Slater shared a cabin with students from Iran, Egypt, USA, Wales, Australia, Mongolia, England and the Netherlands. There were countless different religions and cultural beliefs, along with many discussions…heated and fun… about how they could create the world they want to live in. And through it all, one unifying idea flew from cabin to cabin to the disco to the debate circle to the closing ceremony: "We are the new generation…we have great ideas and we have each other to work together around the world to create positive change."
A newly-minted iEARN proponent, I became MY HERO's facilitator for iEARN's LEARNING CIRCLES…an online smorgasbord of interactive, experiential learning shared between classes from all around the world. Outside of North America the classes in our groups have ranged from Belarus to Nepal, Mexico to Nigeria, Taiwan to Germany. We began by exchanging class surveys and welcome packages. What fun! The chocolate and maps from Slovenia, pistachios and prayers from Iran, music from Mexico and bumper stickers from Texas all added to our knowledge of each other. By the time we started exchanging ideas about who inspires us, we felt much more like friends sharing ideas around a campfire.
The Learning Circle provides an amazing geography lesson and cultural exchange to any classroom. For the small, informal homeschooling group Slater was in, it was a slam dunk. The results of our first homeschooling Learning Circle project looked like this: ECREATE page for the SCHOOLERS.
Working with the head of the iEARN Learning Circle, Barry Kramer, has been a joy and I applaud his ever-expanding vision for experiential project-based learning. Facilitating the MY HERO Learning Circle has given me a new insight into teachers and why the ones that go the extra distance are so valuable to any society. All the teachers I have worked with have gone beyond curriculum and what is expected of them to share a global journey with their students. Here are just a few of the wonderful teachers that have shared this journey in cyberspace (click on the teacher class page following their quotes to see their students' journalism, art and short films for The MY HERO Project):
Debbie Senger from Canada: "The MY HERO Project spoke to me as a teacher and I felt my class would learn about what it means to be a hero. This has been an uplifting experience for us all and I am very proud of the results."
Debbie's Class Page
Guillermo Ojeda Lajud from Mexico: "I've been teaching English for several years now, and throughout those years I've seen the sign of wonder that any individual's face expresses when some kind of educational experience "connects" with their personal growing needs. Working with (Wendy Jewell and Barry Kramer) has made this expression a common one."
Guillermo's Class Page
Lillian Liu from Taiwan: "It really gave them a sense of accomplishment when they saw their works published on [the] myhero.com website. I can still recall how they presented their works with pride. Through these works, they not only share with the world their heroes, but also leave something which they can reminisce about as they look back on their high school days."
Lillian's Class Page
Dadhiram Khanal, Principal from Kathmandu, Nepal: "Hari Om and Namaste. Participation in this project has broadened students' horizon[s] and knowledge. They have come to realize how important the computer is in today’s world for learning. Our school is in a rural area, where students had not even seen [a] computer, let alone use it. To participate in [a] project in computer and Internet has been [the] greatest achievement for students and our school."
Dadhiram's Class Page
|Laurie David, Dan Eldon, Rowena Gerber, Robert Kennedy Jr.,
Sinikithemba Choir, Mrs. Mei Ng, Sasha Earnheart-Gold, Tom Chau, Ilse Bing
My first written piece for MY HERO was to profile Ilse Bing , who at the time was 98 and had even more trouble understanding the Internet than I did. Even so, she loved seeing her story on the screen. And I deeply enjoyed telling it.
I've been writing stories for The MY HERO Project ever since- some pretty cool, innovative, caring, smart and fun people that are changing the world. Some you may have heard of, but most you probably have not:
Laurie David, the global warming activist/producer behind Al Gore's blockbuster documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.
Sasha Earnheart-Gold, the homeschooling high schooler that helped poor villages in Nepal and Bolivia plant and maintain their own apple trees.
Rowena Gerber, who teaches her grade 5 students in Florida about harnessing the sun through solar ovens and about being good global citizens that share their knowledge and raise money to send large solar ovens to schools in Africa and Afghanistan.
Mrs. Mei Ng, who works with Friends of the Earth, Hong Kong to try to make industry responsible for its pollution.
Artist, poet, humanitarian and photojournalist Dan Eldon, who tragically lost his life while covering the war in Somalia. He was 22. His inspirational life and legacy is kept alive through his journals, photos and the Dan Eldon and Creative Visions Foundations, set up to support visionary youth throughout the world.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an environmental activist who would have made his father very proud of the way he fights to keep our water and air clean.
The Sinikethemba Choir from South Africa, that bravely acknowledge they all have AIDS and are spreading hope through their music.
Tom Chau, the biomedical engineer that has enabled disabled and critically ill children to communicate by using his technological inventions.
My family and the MY HERO team have also shared some wonderful filmmaking opportunities:
Like the time we covered the Green Carpet at the NRDC (Natural Resources and Defense Council) fundraiser in Los Angeles. As a junior MY HERO Reporter, Slater spoke with many celebrity activists like Leonardo DiCaprio, .Larry and Laurie David, and Jack Black, who were in attendance to hear Robert Kennedy, Jr. speak about saving the human ecosystem.
|Slater Meets Her Hero Jean-Michel Cousteau (myhero.com)
Our travels also took us to Catalina Island, off the coast of Southern California, where Slater finally got a chance to meet her hero, Jean-Michel Cousteau, and get a firsthand look at his Ambassadors of the Environment Family Camp. Here, families learn about the ocean and how to live sustainably on the planet.
But perhaps my proudest moment was going to the United Nations Celebration of Earth Day in New York to watch Slater get an award for her environmental activism, much of which took place hand-in-hand with The MY HERO Project. Slater told me: "MY HERO has been such a wonderful experience for me. I've met some of my best friends and I've learned that we all really DO want global peace, a better environment and a caring society. It gives me hope."
Being a producer and writer for The MY HERO Project has not just given me a sense of pride and purpose, but a community of friends I will always treasure. It has given me an opportunity to shine a light on global stories that remind us that we all live downstream from one another and that everyone can make a difference. I invite anyone reading this to share your hero story with the world. One thing we need right now are more good news stories to give us a laugh, a smile, a "wow-that's a good one."
Barry S. Kramer, Coordinator iEARN Learning Circles writes:
Wendy Jewell, a frequent participant in the iEARN Learning Circles
project, developed an idea to create a Learning Circle project devoted
solely to writing stories, working with digital photography, and creating
videos around the theme of My Hero. Since many schools often choose the
topic of My Hero when they work in Learning Circles this was a perfect way
to blend the two projects together. In order to get this project going
Wendy volunteered to serve as the facilitator and coordinator for the
elementary, middle school, and high school Learning Circles that were
created for My Hero. This past year over forty different classrooms from
all over the world participated in this project. In fact, the project was
so popular iEARN decided to run the My Hero Learning Circles project for a
Wendy’s leadership with the project has been critical to its success.
Wendy holds online discussions regarding the topic of heroes and she
instructs teachers and students on how to use the My Hero Web site to
create online projects. She has paved the way for teaching how classrooms
of students can telecollaborate using the My Hero theme as a central topic
to learn about each other, develop writing skills, and refine presentation
skills. Her innovation, creativity, and leadership serve as an
inspiration on how a terrific idea combined with effort and determination
can become a project that makes a difference in the lives of students and
children around the world.
Click here to see an interview with Barry Kramer about his heroes at the iEARN Egypt 2007 Conference.