Diversity in the curriculum: teaching and learning with human stories

Content Team
Share this page
Lyfta News
On Saturday we had the pleasure of taking part in the Big VIRTUAL Conversation as part of the series of #DiverseEd events organised by Diverse Educators. The session, organised by the brilliant duo, Hannah Wilson and Bennie Kara, was a chance for us to hear from a range of amazing speakers in the diverse education sphere, including from our own Penny Rabiger, who is director of engagement at Lyfta. The key themes of Penny’s session, about the power of human stories to help to deliver diversity in the curriculum are outlined in this blog.
We know that asking someone where they're from can come from curiosity but can often serve to make people feel alienated, because it can focus undue emphasis on their right to belonging. Asking someone instead, "tell me about yourself, what's your story?" gives them the invitation to craft their response and weave their answer so it belongs anywhere and on their own terms.
It is only when you look back, or forwards, and start to tell your own story, that you can make sense of the links and connections that bring all of the elements together. I have been thinking back to the many threads and moments in my own life that seem to have led me to this point.
Human stories have always fascinated me, and they are what led me to study social anthropology at university. After graduating, I wanted to explore beyond the pages of books and ended up buying a year's open ticket and accidentally spending ten years abroad, learning, working, teaching, continuing weaving into my story, stories and histories with new threads of different hues, that had echoes of my ancestors which I hadn't known existed then. I learned new perspectives and new concepts every time I heard someone tell me a new story.
While away I ended up learning a new language, Hebrew, which taught me words that just don't exist in English and thus opened me up to new cultural concepts that made me see the world in a different way. One of my favourite words with no English equivalent is the word 'Firgun' (said fear-goon) - which describes genuine, unselfish delight or pride in the accomplishment of the other person. Another definition describes firgun as a generosity of spirit, an unselfish, empathetic joy that something good has happened, or might happen, to another person. Like the South African concept of Ubuntu, I am because you are. Your success is our collective joy. And in the same way, your story, is our collective story.
Human stories are more important than ever. The world events of the past 6 months have brought this home to us in unique and often tragic ways. Like many occupying the education sector, I've been lucky to see the importance of my work's potential to harness the power of humanity for the common good. At Lyfta, we capture human stories in the form of documentary films and turn these into 360 degree explorable, immersive spaces where teachers and their students can learn about people, places, skills and values.
While we're restricted from travel and close human interaction, these human stories seem more precious than ever. And in the words of one student, Thomas, with Lyfta's immersive platform you are "able to instantly teleport yourself halfway across the world while staying on the same spot and see how things are for real".
One important aspect of schools' offering for young people in their care is the element of broadening horizons, and instilling a sense of cultural capital through the texts, music, art and experiences that are included in the curriculum, like school trips. We know that even in normal times, some children won't get the opportunity to go far beyond their own postcode.
Teaching and learning through human stories using Lyfta can be a useful and powerful way to ensure that students have experience of the world as part of their entitlement to cultural capital - especially at a time when trips, museum visits and getting out and about are so limited. This can be important also as a way to teach an understanding of the protected characteristics, and show how equality and diversity are promoted within our schools.
We have seen that teaching and learning through immersive human stories can bring depth, breadth and meaning to concepts for children, bringing these from the realm of information and into the realm of knowledge. Exploring Lyfta's storyworlds has enabled teachers to unlock critical thinking skills in their students - and teachers tell us they have seen students use rich vocabulary and oracy skills, and understand complex concepts, they weren't aware of previously. Engaging in learning through human stories can provide breadth. This breadth is important, and leading authority on learning, Chris Quigley, describes this breadth as both cultural capital ie. the background knowledge of the world students need for inference and understanding, and also the range of situations students need to grow confidence in the threshold concepts. These threshold concepts are understood as concepts that 'open up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something'.
Our vision at Lyfta is to ensure that by the time a child completes their education, they will have visited every country in the world, and will have met at least one person in every place they go. Right now, you can take your students all the way to an Ethiopian village to visit Mesgana and Gebeyeu in their family home, or hop over to Malte's garden in Berlin to see how honey is made, or pop down to Cornwall to litter-pick with Rob on the beach, and so much more.

Scroll through the Lyfta storyworlds below and click on the image to get a flavour of the places students can go and who they can get to know:

We're excited that Lyfta's platform and the immersive and engaging experience has helped teachers and students find the language, and medium to talk about concepts which are so vital and yet hard to incorporate naturally into the curriculum such as bias, difference, diversity, race, gender, sustainability, mental health, disability, resilience, skills, values and more. And we're delighted that our story has intersected with the global story of learning being something that can take place both face to face or remotely but that must continue, no matter where we find ourselves.
Global Learning
Human Stories
Immersive Learning
Skills & Values
Sustainable Development Goals