Advocating for Media Literacy

By Erica Steinhoff, '16

Before coming to Ithaca I had only a very general sense of media literacy; however, over the past two and a half years I have been here, my idea of media literacy has been completely flipped upside-down and my mind has been opened to its ubiquitous nature. I have realized that the ability to understand, critique and create different media forms is of extreme importance in today’s technology-driven society.

By participating in the Park Scholar Media Literacy Club service project for four semesters, I have experienced many different sides of teaching media literacy. I have taught a general media literacy class and a journalism class to elementary aged-children, and I have taught photography workshops to developmentally disabled adults on several occasions.

Last semester I had the opportunity to build on all that I have learned by interning with Ithaca College’s media literacy initiative called Project Look Sharp, and producing a media literacy lesson for publication and use by teachers nationwide. Project Look Sharp, located on IC’s campus, develops and provides lesson plans, media materials, training, and support for the effective integration of media literacy with critical thinking into classroom curricula at all education levels.

Throughout the semester, I went through a process of researching, analyzing, formatting, critiquing, editing, and evaluating a lesson plan for the health curriculum of 6th-8th grade classrooms. While researching, I noticed a lack in nutrition education focused on portion sizes, which is a serious issue considering the ever-increasing average portion size is contributing to the ongoing obesity epidemic in the U.S., and so I decided to create lesson focused on portion size.

One of the main goals of my lesson was to teach students about the oversized portions served in restaurants and found in pre-packaged foods, in order to give them the skills to discern what a healthy portion size is for their selves. Additionally, my lesson aimed to give students the media literacy skills necessary to think critically about the marketing techniques used by food companies to encourage overeating in the form of “super-sizing” and upgrading to larger portion sizes.

Acquiring the proper media literacy skills can really change a child’s life, especially when it comes to health and nutrition, and media literacy skills can empower children, and adults alike, to take charge of their behaviors and decisions when the media is constantly trying to persuade them one way or another. My recently acquired knowledge of the very depths of media literacy will follow me for the rest of my life, as I have been inspired to continue to advocate for the incorporation of media literacy in the education curriculum.

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