Offering a rich library of multimedia stories comprised of award-winning films, photo essays, and articles, the Global Oneness Project helps connect students of all ages to the human experience.

Here in our feature “Grateful Changemakers,” we celebrate programs and projects that serve as beacons of gratefulness. These efforts elevate the values of grateful living and illuminate their potential to transform both individuals and communities. Join us in appreciating the inspiring and catalyzing contribution these Changemakers offer to shaping a more grateful world.

Global Oneness Project

From the photo essay ‘Drokpa: The Nomadic Mountain People of Tibet” by Diane Barker

The stories that the Global Oneness Project makes available to classrooms throughout the world remind us of the transformative power of narrative. Offering a rich library of multimedia stories comprised of award-winning films, photo essays, and articles, the Global Oneness Project helps connect students of all ages to the human experience. World cultures come alive through their stories, which explore cultural, environmental, and social issues. Through featuring individuals and communities impacted by these issues, the stories — which come with companion curricula and discussion guides — provide opportunities to examine universal themes such as identity, diversity, hope, resilience, imagination, adversity, empathy, love, responsibility, and our common humanity.

Each week, the Global Oneness Project releases a new lesson plan, and all of their content and resources are available for free with no ads or subscriptions. The lessons facilitate the development of students’ critical thinking, inquiry, empathy, and listening skills and contain an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Cleary Vaughan-Lee, executive director, shares more about how the Global Oneness Project enriches learning by linking global issues to the human experience.

What sparked the founding/creation of the Global Oneness Project?

We have always been drawn to tell stories that explore the connection between culture and ecology. Stories, told through a humanistic lens, bear witness to the changes we are facing in the world today. When the Project was founded in 2006, we wanted to provide a free library of stories that document cultural, social, and environmental issues from around the world. As storytellers, we were asking ourselves questions such as: How can we learn from people who are experiencing some of the world’s most challenging issues like migration, global sea rise, poverty, and language loss? How can we engage in thoughtful dialogue around these issues and consider what it means to be human? How can one story challenge us to consider the threads that unite us? We think these questions, when explored in the space of education and learning, can encourage students to find their own place in the world.

How does the Global Oneness Project fill a need for the educators and students it serves?

Nhakri and Nhgreiprõti, Xikrin women with their children in the village of Poti-Krô. Photo by Taylor Weidman

At the Global Oneness Project, we aim to encourage students to consider their relationship to the world. We bring global cultures alive in the classroom using film and photography, which is such an integral part of students’ lives today. Educators are using our resources to introduce students to global issues. All of our resources document the theme of our common humanity and provide an invitation to connect to what is universal and deeply sustaining across borders and boundaries. Our resources are relatable across multiple subjects and age levels, from the social sciences to earth and environmental sciences to art. They allow teachers to provide students opportunities to make real-world and cross-cultural connections, as well as enhance collaboration and listening skills. How can we nurture students in their own path to learning? It begins with authentic inquiry, which can lead to changing perspectives. When sharing stories and lessons that highlight humanity’s interconnectedness, students can begin to ask questions about the world and ultimately themselves.

How do you see the Global Oneness Project being related to grateful living?

How can we appreciate the people and places of the world? We highlight the world’s cultures through thoughtful and intentional stories, most of which explore the themes of identity, resiliency, diversity, overcoming adversity, and our relationship to the land, among others. When students meet a Native American woman who is the last fluent speaker of her language, like Marie Wilcox in the film Marie’s Dictionary, they learn about her struggle and resilience to keep her language and culture alive. Students see Marie as a hero and are grateful for her efforts. Most times, a story can ignite compassionate action in students. Marie’s story, for example, inspires students and educators to reflect on their own cultural heritage and what they might want to preserve. Our library of stories contain 50 short documentary films and 40 photo essays which highlight communities and individuals like Marie Wilcox. When teachers and students have time to reflect on these stories in thoughtful dialogue, it creates a space to examine their own lives and what they cherish.

Marie’s Dictionary from Go Project Films on Vimeo.

How does the Global Oneness Project inspire gratefulness and related values?

How can we contribute to a better world? In what ways can we persist through challenges? We explore these questions. The values of love, kindness, and compassion are qualities of what it means to be human. Students are introduced to people from cultures on the other side of the world with different religious beliefs and values. Often times, students are challenged to look at their own stereotypes and misconceptions. If we can frame these questions for students around what unites us, rather than what divides us, students make connections in themselves that are hopefully life-sustaining.

What inspires people to use the resources offered by the Global Oneness Project?

How can we humanize learning? We consider this question frequently. The beauty of a great story is that it can grab the heart and provide a window into another person’s world. Educators tell us that they are always searching for resources to expose their students to the world. Our resources challenge students to expand their world by introducing them to values, struggles, innovations, and beliefs beyond their daily experiences. Pedagogically, educators are using our resources to make cultural, historical, and environmental connections. In our lessons, we provide ways for students to conduct research, consult secondary sources, and engage in writing activities. We challenge students to consider their own perspectives in the context of the story’s wider implications, such as the underlying notions of progress and the impact on specific cultures. Teachers integrate our stories and lessons into their curricula in creative ways. They might connect a story to a piece of literature or text, or they might build an entire unit or lesson based on a particular global issue or theme, such as diversity, indigenous cultures, communities impacted by global sea rise, climate change, and refugees in search of a new home.

What is the lasting impact of the Global Oneness Project?

The village of Poti-Krô is made up almost entirely of direct descendants of the two village elders. Photo by Taylor Weidman

We are learning that educators use our resources year after year, building on what their students contribute in the classroom. Stories in general have everlasting impacts on our lives. We remember them. This quality of remembrance is very powerful. When we remember a story that touched our hearts, we can reflect on what it means to be human. We can then decide how we want to live and be in the world.

Educator Dr. Cheryl Wright teaches a university course titled “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion K-12”. She describes the impact of our resources: “I use the Global Oneness Project stories and lessons to prompt enhanced perspectives and deepened understanding. We address difficult yet important topics in my class and the Project is most helpful in providing tools to elicit conversation, instill hope, and dispel myths. How do we envision a better world for all regardless of ethnicity, religion, language, and culture?”

What kind of people do we want to be in the world? In order to answer this question, we must reflect on own lives and expose ourselves to diversity and different ways of life.

What are some of the common barriers and obstacles that arise in offering the educational resources of the Global Oneness Project? How are these challenges addressed?

One common obstacle is providing lesson plans to address all age levels, K-16. Each age level requires specific language variations and entry points. We are currently developing elementary and middle school lesson plans to address this issue. Elementary teachers, in particular, have reached out to us in large numbers, asking for these lessons.

How does gratefulness inspire you and others involved with the Global Oneness Project to make change in the world?

Thorton Wilder wrote, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” One story that we share frequently that gets to the heart of this message is Welcome to Canada by Mary Fowles and Adam Loften. The film highlights a young Syrian refugee, Mohammed Alsaleh who was granted asylum in Canada. He now works to help resettle newly arrived refugees. This film reaches the heart and provides a human face to the issues of immigration and the refugee crisis, which creates a way for the abstract news of the world to touch, inspire, and move us.

Welcome to Canada from Go Project Films on Vimeo.

The team at the Global Oneness Project—as well as the filmmakers, photographers, and writers that we work with—continually reflect on what unites us as human beings. Diversity is our strength. We are grateful that our stories can engage students with complex issues through the heart. We can then learn empathy, the most valuable skill for the future of our global community.

What inspires you personally about this work?

Cleary Vaughan-Lee, executive director, Global Oneness Project

It brings us joy to witness students exploring the why of learning and being in the world. We love witnessing the projects that our stories and lesson plans inspire in the classroom. We’ve seen thoughtful photography projects, written essays, letters to the storytellers thanking them for their work, and stop-motion animation videos, to name a few. We are inspired by the work of educators, most of whom are incredibly creative and innovative. When we hear comments from an educator that a character in one of our films has touched her and her students’ hearts, it inspires us beyond measure.

How does the Global Oneness Project plan to grow?

We plan to continue to build our library with new stories— in the form of short documentary films, photo essays, and articles— and companion lesson plans. We are also working on student media projects that aim to challenge students to document their places in the world. We also will continue to work with our education and media partners, including Share My Lesson, Edmodo, National Geographic, and The New York Times Learning Network, among others, to offer webinars and professional development courses to provide additional ways to engage with our stories and curricula.

If you could share one message for those who are served by the Global Oneness Project, what would that be?

From the photo essay ‘Drokpa: The Nomadic Mountain People of Tibet” by Diane Barker

As historian and political science professor Howard Zinn wrote in A People’s History of the United States, “I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own.” During this challenging time in history, what if we imagined all of the children of the world as our own?

If the Global Oneness Project could share one message about gratefulness, what would it be?

We are so grateful to educators. They provide a moral compass for students’ lives, which is so essential in today’s fractured world. We love the following quote from educator and writer Parker Palmer: “Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.”

To read more about the inspiring work of the Global Oneness Project, visit the website: Global Oneness Project

To learn about other Grateful Changemakers, visit: Grateful Changemakers

Do you know of a project/program that elevates the values of grateful living? If so, we invite you to nominate them for our Grateful Changemaker article series.


Grateful Changemakers