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Through a Lens: Exploring Contemporary China Through Film, Documentary and Social Media

This was an online program open to current, in-service K-12 teachers of all subjects.

For most Americans the geography, culture, economics, politics, religions and philosophies of China seem more than an ocean away. Chinese documentaries, films, and social media can make this complex country—with its long history and mind-boggling present—more accessible to you and your students.

Film can be an extremely useful source for exploring many issues facing China today: the complex issue of globalization, environmental concerns, migrant labor, urban demolition/urban construction, China’s changing rural landscape, political and economic reform, the generation gap, human rights, etc.  Together we grappled with these changes through up-to-date documentaries as well as enjoyed many of the visual beauties of Chinese land and culture through Chinese-made feature films.

Participants watched films and clips from a wide variety of documentaries and films, and shared lesson plans/discussion ideas in relation to those. Educators received a resource packet that included an annotated list of documentaries and films for classroom use with guiding questions and lesson plans. Our goal was to assist educators at all levels in finding documentaries/films for learning and teaching about China.

This seminar was led by Tese Wintz Neighbor.

This seminar was sponsored by the East Asia Resource Center (EARC) in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington with funding from a Freeman Foundation grant in support of the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA).


Teachers watched designated films on their own and then joined for four mandatory Zoom sessions (2 hours each) to discuss the film/corresponding resources and share teaching ideas.  Teachers received resources and a stipend to cover the film rentals.


Participants selected either the Wednesday events, or the Thursday ones:

Wednesday-at-the-movies: 4:30-6:30 PM on January 20, February 10 and 24, March 17, 2021.

Thursday-at-the movies: 4:30-6:30 PM on January 21, February 11 and 25, March 18, 2021.

All four classes are mandatory. Educators received 20 WA OSPI clock hours for their 8-9 hours of film study, 8 hours of class attendance and completion of a final project. After successfully attending each class and completing a short project, teachers received a $150 stipend to order books or films on China topics of their choice (the stipend also covered the membership or rental fees participants might have had to pay in order to watch the required movies for this class).