(bright music) - [Announcer] Tonight, on "Rhode Island PBS Weekly"... - [Michelle] Teachers across Rhode Island want to make sure students from a young age learn to think critically about the messages they're consuming.
- Kids are born into it from day one, and if they're gonna be surrounded by it, the sooner they can understand the concepts and then the creation that goes behind it, the better they are.
- [Pamela] A year ago, a friend in Rhode Island offered professional dancers Roger Romero and Arismel Naya of Spain a job.
Today, they teach 40-hours a week, (upbeat dance music) and on weekends they compete.
- [Announcer] First of the couples, from Rhode Island, (indistinct) it's Roger Romero and Arismel Naya!
(crowd clapping) - For us, it makes us feel very proud, because most of time, we are the only couple representing Rhode Island.
So it makes us just feel proud to represent all the community here that is supporting so much us.
(bright music) (bright music continues) - Good evening, welcome to "Rhode Island PBS Weekly."
I'm Michelle San Miguel.
- And I'm Pamela Watts.
We begin tonight with the ever-changing media landscape and an informed public.
- As more Americans rely on social media for news, studies have found we are less likely to get the facts right about COVID and politics and are more likely to hear about some unproven claims.
We recently met educators who are trying to turn the tide on misinformation.
They say the survival of our democracy depends on it.
Screens are everywhere, and with countless news sources at our fingertips... - Well, there are new concerns about the spread of misinformation on TikTok ahead of the midterm elections.
- [Michelle] Figuring out whether something is true can be difficult.
- [Reporter] Even before the announcement of an indictment, purported images appearing to be former President Trump, surrounded by NYPD officers went viral on social media last week.
The problem, they weren't real.
- [Michelle] Research shows false rumors spread faster than the truth.
- Viral vaccine misinformation is infecting social media.
This time it's on TikTok.
- Start the camera and then you let us know it's started.
You say, "Rolling."
- [Michelle] Teachers across Rhode Island want to make sure students from a young age learn to think critically about the messages they're consuming.
- When she says, "Rolling," you- (Brien claps) - Clap.
(clapper claps) - Well for one, being physically fit can help you fight off illness.
- [Michelle] These fourth graders at Narragansett Elementary School are learning about media by creating it.
(clapper claps) - Hey you, yeah you, in front of the television, get up off your couch, get ready, and get physically fit.
- [Michelle] They're recording a public service announcement about the importance of exercise with the help of Brien Jennings.
He's the school's library media specialist.
- [Children] Not so bad, it's way better than that.
- They come up with a concept.
We assign roles, we assign jobs, they write a script, and then once we've got the script finished, we go into production.
- [Michelle] Jennings spent years working in television news as a photographer.
- That was awesome, wow!
- [Michelle] That inspired him to want to teach children how media can change how they perceive the world.
- Just the concept of how a green screen works is beyond some of them.
Some of them get it (snaps), but one of the kids there, Nick, was wondering, okay, are we gonna hang a picture behind us?
So when he sees what we do with the green screen, that's gonna be a light bulb.
- Ah, but that takes too long, I wanna play video games.
- What is the larger lesson that you want them to take from that?
- I just want 'em to understand that everything is a construct, and they have the power.
If they have the power to make it, then that gives them the power to understand it.
- [Michelle] Children are spending more time on screens than ever before.
According to a survey published by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit research organization, kids between eight and 12-years-old spend about five and a half hours a day using screens for non-school purposes, including social media.
- So Nick, you're gonna do this, (clapper claps), okay?
When Nick does this, Ella, you are the floor director for this one.
- Why is it important from a very young age, to teach students about the ways that media are all around them?
- People don't even realize how much they're consuming.
The adults in their life don't realize how much they're consuming.
So kids are born into it from day one, and if they're gonna be surrounded by it, the sooner they can understand the concepts and the creation that goes behind it, the better they are.
- Sometimes people don't appreciate how teaching about propaganda takes you in all kinds of directions.
- [Michelle] Renee Hobbs has spent three decades studying media literacy.
She's the director of the Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island.
- [Renee] Memes can be beneficial or harmful.
I think this is a harmful meme.
- How would you describe the media landscape that we're living in right now?
- Oh, what does Charles Dickens say?
"It was the best of times, "it was the worst of times."
(laughs) Media right now sets up a kind of reward system where I'll get more visibility for my opinion when I'm at my worst.
That's the worst of times that we're trying to disrupt with Courageous RI.
- [Michelle] Courageous RI is a media literacy project created by Hobbs and her colleagues at URI.
It's funded by a $700,000 grant from the US Department of Homeland Security.
- We are thrilled to be welcoming newcomers to the Courageous Conversation Series.
- [Michelle] Hobbs leads online forums where she talks with people, including teachers, about how to have constructive conversations.
The goal is to reduce the hate that leads to violence and extremism and to help people identify misinformation.
- We are living in a climate right now where there's a lot of stress and anxiety.
Our instinct is to feel hopeless and helpless, like there's nothing we can do.
And this is very dangerous for democracy.
So, in order for us to be citizens, we have to overcome our fear.
Conflict is generative.
When it's productive, it leads to learning, but when it's unproductive, it leads to harm.
- [Crowd] USA, USA!
- [Michelle] She says adults need to take responsibility for the us versus them mentality that contributes to political divisions like we saw on January 6th.
(crowd yelling) - If we don't help people understand how the tools of communication and expression that we're using as everyday things are shaping our attitudes about what it means to be in a democracy, to be a citizen, and what our responsibilities are as citizens, then I think the risk that we lose our democracy is very real.
We're gonna work in small groups to practice the skill called "Looping for Understanding," which is a listening technique that helps reduce harmful conflict.
- [Michelle] Hobbs says helping people hone their listening skills is critical to building a less polarized society.
- Listening is the cure to many of the communication woes we have.
In order to reduce conflict, we have to make sure that people feel understood, that they feel that their views have been heard.
- [Michelle] But research nationwide shows many adults did not learn media literacy skills.
- What are different types of media?
Things that you can watch, see, read, view.
- [Michelle] Jen Robinson is working to change that.
She's an English teacher at Rogers High School in Newport.
- Often when people hear the term "media literacy," the first thing they think of is news, fake news, misinformation.
Media literacy is a field that is so broad and so vast and so wide.
Fiction is media literacy too.
- [Juliet] Parting is such sweet sorrow, then I shall say goodnight til it be morrow.
- [Michelle] Robinson showed her students a stage adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," and then had them compare it to the 1996 film version by director, Baz Luhrmann.
- Romeo, oh Romeo, where for art thou Romeo?
- Do you think the Baz Luhrmann version is for you?
Do you think you are the intended audience, teenagers?
Baz Luhrmann's version of Romeo and Juliet is very shiny and flashy and features very famous actors at the time, Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes.
It has fast cars and guns, and the action is just so fast-paced.
So we talk about pacing, how does pacing change things?
How does the music impact you, the critical analyzers of what they see, and that can take them to the next step.
- [Michelle] For many students, it's a new way of thinking about the information they're consuming.
- I never think of it, I just watch the movie, and I don't ever think of what goes on behind the movie.
- [Michelle] Robinson hopes students take the skills they're learning in her classroom and use them when they get older and vote.
- We hope that they've started to critically analyze messages that come to them in a way that will say, "I don't just wanna watch this message and assume it's true "because it's on my phone, on my screen.
"I want to think, who made this message?
"Am I the audience for this message?
"Why am I the target audience for this message?
"Are they trying to manipulate me?"
- [Michelle] Freshman Madelyn Plowden says she sees the value in learning how to analyze media platforms.
- You could spread misinformation.
I mean, you could spread a lot of rumors, 'cause I wouldn't want to do that.
- What's at stake if students do not become media literate?
- Then they become people that are easily manipulated.
Then they are just passive consumers, and they can be taken advantage of.
They can be fooled, they can lose their money, they can vote only for a candidate and not think about the other candidate at all, because this is all they hear in their algorithm.
They can be lost in an algorithm bubble and not ever escape from it, and then they will not become consumers that are active.
- Keep rolling, keep rolling, let's try it again.
- We jinxed it, three, two.
- [Children] Oh no it doesn't.
- [Michelle] Jennings wants to help his students think about all of the media platforms that are vying for their attention.
- [Jennings] And three, two.
- [Children] Make fit is your choice and get moving!
- The people who are creating media are learning at every step of the way how to fine tune and hone in on grabbing people's attention, and their attention's gonna be the only asset they have left, so if they don't know how to dedicate in the right spots, they're lost.
(gentle orchestral music) - Up next, iconic American dancer, Fred Astaire once said, "Dancers need to cultivate flexibility "and be able to adapt to their partner."
Tonight, we introduce you to a couple who have done just that.
They have a passion for dancing and now, a deep affection for their adopted home state of Rhode Island.
(computer clicks) (singer singing) Held back during the pandemic, professional dancers, Roger Romero and Arismel Naya, say their mambo moves are now stronger than ever.
- So this dance came out a little bit after all the COVID things.
So it was after being at home and all these things that were happen, we had to do something to unleash so much power we were containing, so- - We listened to this music in the radio and for this first moment, we love it.
- [Pamela] Their love of dancing has come a long way.
Both Romero and Naya are from Catalonia, Spain.
They took their first steps on the dance floor as children at rival studios.
- Well, we start when we are seven-years-old.
- So in the beginning when we were kids, we were competing against each other, let's say till we were 21, more or less, always competing against each other, so we knew each other.
And then- - Did you like each other?
- Not really.
- Not really.
(Arismel laughs) - [Pamela] But at age 21, something changed.
Timing is everything.
- [Roger] Three, four.
- [Pamela] It was summer, and both needed new dance partners.
- I asked Arismel if she wanted to partner up with me for the summer to make some money, and she was like, "Yes."
And then we started dancing together in the summer.
Then, I work my magic, and so we also started a personal relation.
(upbeat music) - [Pamela] That was 10 years ago.
They say becoming a couple personally, as well as professionally... - [Roger] Mambo's working great.
- [Pamela] brought real chemistry to their choreography.
They soon joined the troop on Spain's version of the TV show, "Dancing With the Stars."
(upbeat dance music) The couple also started their own dance company in Spain.
But work was slow post-pandemic.
- [Arismel] Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba.
- One, two, three... - [Pamela] Just a year ago, a friend in Rhode Island offered them jobs as dance instructors at the Fred Astaire Studio in Warwick.
(bright music) - One, two.
- [Pamela] Romero and Naya say they were ready for an American adventure.
So 40 hours a week, they teach... (bright music) weekends, they compete in national ballroom dancing contests.
- [Announcer] First of the couples, from Rhode Island, (indistinct) Roger Romero and Arismel Naya!
(crowd cheers) - For us, it makes us feel very proud, because most of times, we are the only couple representing Rhode Island.
So, it makes us just feel proud to represent all the community here that is supporting so much us.
- We always need to explain where it is exactly, like, oh yeah, the smallest state in the United States.
They say, "Yes."
- The smallest state, but with the biggest heart, right?
(Arismel laughs) So this is what we tell to the people.
- [Pamela] And they also like to show people how beautiful their adopted state is.
One day, they drove by the Temple to Music in Providence.
- This was like love at first sight, because we made this video when we just moved here.
(upbeat dance music) So we were trying to know our surroundings, and one day, we stopped there in Roger Williams Park, and we were like, "Wow, this place is so beautiful."
- We saw the spot and we say- - Yeah, we look at eyes, and we said, "We need to do something here."
And then we create this small choreography, small piece.
We were there, we did a very beautiful video, and everybody was like, "Wow, this, I mean, guys, "this is a nice video, the routine, the place."
And we were like, "Yeah, this is Rhode Island.
"This is where we live now."
- [Pamela] Living and working in Rhode Island is keeping them on the fast track.
- (claps) Let's go for it, and... - [Pamela] As if instructing and entering competitions weren't enough.
- [Roger] Oh my god.
- [Pamela] They also practice their routines two hours every morning.
- Anytime you're passing your legs, they have to brush.
- [Pamela] This day, they are being coached by a familiar figure.
- Yes, much better!
- [Pamela] Tony Dovolani.
- There you go.
- [Pamela] He's a former regular on the popular show, "Dancing with the Stars."
(upbeat music) - And what do you want to improve?
- Sometimes, like- - Don't look at him, look at me.
- (laughs) No, no.
- [Pamela] He is disciplined when it comes to putting them through their paces.
- Come on, up, up, up, up, up, I want, no, I want that leg here.
Big leg now and ba, big leg now, wow, ba, excellent!
- What's the most important thing to be a good dancer?
- That's a good question.
- What's the most important thing someone needs to learn to be a good dancer?
- I think practice, practice makes progress.
- Like, you cannot say, "That's gonna take me, I dunno, one month."
No, maybe you're gonna spend your whole life, because practice never ends.
For me, I feel the freedom when I'm dancing, because I connect with the music that is playing.
- Yes, the passion.
We always have it with passion and with fun.
And at the end you always can finish with a nice dip with your partner and another dip and another dip, just in case.
And then, you keep dancing and having fun.
After so many years, just looking at the eyes, we can communicate, you know?
We have a very nice relation.
- Do you ever disagree?
- Not really.
- [Arismel] You forget one step.
- [Roger] No way.
I mean of course sometimes we disagree.
Yes, you were right, I forget the step, but this is a question, if we disagree, or something is not working, the fault always is mine.
(Roger and Arismel laugh) And this is funny, but it's true.
90% of the, I mean, I guess this is in all the relations, 90% of the time, she's right.
But no, but it's true, and we really never have arguments.
Almost never, we disagree.
- [Pamela] Their personal/professional partnership has been a winning combination.
Since coming to the US, they have won first place in a number of national competitions for American Rhythm Style in the Rising Star category, meaning couples entering for the first time.
(big band music) Ballroom dancing has changed a bit since the days of movie star, Fred Astaire.
And while Romero doesn't dream of following in a Astaire's footsteps... - You would like to be Ginger Rogers?
- I mean, if you don't mind.
(laughs) - You don't mind.
- I don't mind, of course not.
(Arismel laughing) I would love if you would be Ginger Rogers.
- [Pamela] When not dancing, Romero and Naya say they enjoy taking hikes along ocean state beaches, such as Rocky Point Park, with their chocolate lab, appropriately named Rumba.
But beyond the coastline and the clam cakes, there is something truly special about Rhode Island the couple likes best.
- Since the day one we get here, all the community in Rhode Island, but most especially all our students here in the studio, they are being like our family... Steve!
So they are always taking care of us.
They were always asking if we need something, we can count on them.
They were helping us out.
They were always greeting us, so it's been fantastic.
They were super, super nice with us.
- [Pamela] And that kindness from Rhode Islanders has translated into a meaningful experience for these Spanish dancers, one that inspires them to always have each other's backs.
- In the last competition, after one of the dances we did, when we step out of the dance floor, I told to Arismel, "Thank you," because I was in some movement about to fall- - A little bit out of balance.
- And I felt like she was pushing to help me.
After when we went out, I was like, "Arismel, thank you, you saved my life," and we were laughing about this, but yes.
- The show must go on, so whatever happens, you just need to continue, and that's it.
(bright music) (bright music continues) - Finally, in our continuing series, "Window on Rhode Island," we take another look at the Providence Atheneum.
It was first established nearly 190 years ago.
Stephanie Ovoian, Head of Research and Library Services, gives us a tour and shares some intriguing finds.
(gentle music) - Hi, I'm Stephanie Ovoian.
I'm the Head of Research and Library Services here at the Providence Athenaeum.
We are kind of a relic here in Providence.
We're a 19th century library that's operating in the 21st century.
The building has so much charm and so many fun little aspects to it that anytime you turn a corner, you're bound to notice something new.
Here we are at the athenaeum's card catalog.
This was introduced to the library in the 1880s, and a librarian named Grace Leonard was hired in 1895, specifically to introduce the Dewey Decimal System to the library.
So at the time of her hire, we had 56,000 items in the collection, and it took Grace 13 years to finish writing out all of the cards.
If we open up one of these drawers, you can still see Grace's handwritten cards inside.
So here we have one of the gems of the athenaeum's art collection.
This is "The Hours" by Newport-based artist, Edward Malbone.
It was stolen in 1881 by one Providence gentleman, and then another man, who was thought to have been part of Jesse James' gang.
But a detective was on the case, produced a reward poster, and the works came back to the library.
It's lived in this case here ever since.
(door rattles and hisses) All right, so welcome to the Philbrick Rare Book Room.
Out on display on the cabinet today we have the "Description of Egypt."
This set of books was commissioned by Napoleon when he was bringing his troops to Egypt.
He also brought scholars, scientists, and artists to record everything that they were seeing in Egypt, and then they published their findings in this set of books.
It was a real hot-ticket item at the time.
And the books were responsible for paving the way for the birth of modern Egyptology and kicking off the wave of Egyptomania that swept through North America and Europe at the time.
Here we have the volumes of text in these folio-size volumes.
Next, we've got the volumes of plates, which were published in these elephant folio-size volumes.
And then lastly, we have three of these double-elephant folio-size volumes, which contain the largest plates and maps.
And these are the largest books in the athenaeum's collection.
And then just for fun, I've pulled out also the library's smallest book.
This measures just about an inch by three quarters of an inch, and it's an addition of Robert Burns' Kilmarnock, "Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect."
(gentle music) And this is the art room where we honor the legacy of Edgar Allen Poe.
We'll set the scene in the year 1848.
The poet, Sarah Helen Whitman, was a local poet, and by 1848, she was considered one of the best poets in America.
And also in the year 1848, the poet, Edgar Allen Poe, was the talk of literary society.
The two poets began a correspondence, and Poe would come to visit Whitman here in Providence.
The two would come to the athenaeum.
And at one point during their time at the athenaeum, Whitman asked Poe if he knew who wrote a poem called "Ulalume," which had been anonymously published in a periodical called, The American Whig Review."
Poe took our copy of that book off the shelf, opened up to the poem and signed his name in pencil at the bottom of the page, because he had written it.
He had just submitted it anonymously.
We have that book in our collection still today here, and you can see his signature at the bottom of the page right there.
That must have been kind of a smooth move between poets, and Whitman agreed to marry Poe on the condition that he remained sober, 'cause he had a known drinking problem.
At one point during one of their visits at the athenaeum on December 23rd, two days before their Christmas day wedding, someone came in with a note for Whitman, claiming to have seen Poe out drinking that morning and the night before.
She ran back to her home where she fainted on the couch.
Poe begged her to still marry him, and she said while she did still love him, she could no longer marry him.
Poe left Providence.
The two never saw each other again, and then he was dead within a year, so it's a bit of a tragic love story.
But Sarah Helen Whitman lived for almost 30 more years after Poe's death, and she was a firm defender of his reputation.
Here we are in an alcove at the athenaeum, and this is a fun little secret part of the library that we like to tell people about.
Here in the desk, you can see that over the years, lots of visitors have come to the library and left little notes for one another inside the desk drawers, and you can find them throughout the library.
This drawer has a ton.
This one probably has about 50 notes inside.
Other desks have a similar amount, some have fewer.
They're just tucked in everywhere.
So this one's pretty lovely, this illustration in there.
We've got all sorts of notes, little poems, longer letters, so everyone is part of the athenaeum's history.
It doesn't have to be from 1850 or 1838 when we were established, but even just last year or this year, everyone makes a little mark on the library.
- And that's our broadcast this evening.
Thank you for joining us, I'm Pamela Watts.
- And I'm Michelle San Miguel.
We'll be back next week with another edition of "Rhode Island PBS Weekly."
Until then, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and visit us online to see all of our stories and past episodes at RIPBS.ORG/WEEKLY, or listen to our podcast on your favorite streaming platform.
Thank you, goodnight.
(gentle music) (gentle music continues) (gentle music continues)