A Powerful Collaboration

A Powerful Collaboration

English teacher Monica Kirschmann believes in the power of collaboration and the value of incorporating diverse perspectives and expertise into her curriculum. She recently designed an interdisciplinary project for her AP Junior English class with fellow Govs English teacher and entertainment industry veteran David Brooks P'23.

“Last spring, I reached out to David to talk about potential collaborations since his Art of Public Persuasion course last year seemed to align with some of the skills I teach in Junior AP English,” said Kirschmann. 

The AP curriculum includes argument, persuasion, rhetoric, and image as text, so she challenged her class to produce elements of a marketing campaign that they would later "pitch" to a panel of Govs faculty with marketing and communications expertise, including Brooks. “We also asked students to work collaboratively and present their work to professionals in the communications field,” said Kirschmann. “I wanted my students to collaborate, see adults collaborate, and create work for an authentic audience.”


The students divided into groups, and each designed a mini marketing campaign for a hypothetical campus screening of the film Milk, a 2008 American biographical drama film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. Students watched the film and afterward participated in workshops with Kirschmann and Brooks to create marketing pillars to guide the execution of their campaigns. Each group would have just three to five minutes to present their pitch, after which they would invite the panelists to critique their work.

Kirschmann’s thematic framework for the AP is "belonging in America," and Brooks' professional work on the film Milk fit the theme perfectly. It also connected to the anchor novel Kirschmann assigned to her class: The Great Believers, a work of historical fiction set during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Kirschmann and Brooks used the film to launch into the unit, focusing on belonging through the lens of LGBTQ+ history. 

Students had an authentic "agency" experience as they were tasked with turning around fully executed campaigns, including print, digital, and oral pitches, just over a week after their initial screening of Milk. They executed notably creative and professional-level social media posts, campus posters, and written and verbal pitches to entice the Govs community to attend an on-campus screening. 

Kirschmann and Brooks were thoughtful about the pillars they drafted to guide the student campaigns. For example, Milk is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago when the events took place and 16 years ago when the film was released, especially in this critical election year. The ongoing fight for representation, advocacy for human rights, preservation of democracy, and the power of protest still echo in our current times. The themes of hope, advocacy, and authenticity also resonated with students. They appreciated the power of great film and visual communications to portray important themes and inform a collective force that uplifts and strengthens communities. 


Students presenting their campaigns to the group.


After the student presentations, Brooks shared his professional work on the 2008 Milk campaign, an incredible learning experience for students. They saw how Brooks used literary devices, such as a story arc and building suspense and tension, alongside graphic design and communications best practices, including branding, thematic consistency, and repetition, to create an impactful marketing campaign. Students enjoyed stretching their knowledge and learning new skills that might spark future career aspirations.