Friday, November 12, 2010

My Middle School Residency ends with students making movies and a teacher making plans for change.

Lisa Scaltrito's 8th grade class presented their 'American Stories' short films at the Skirball Center recently, culminating my month-long residency with Notre Dame Academy. The projects, which screened as part of AFI Fest 2010, explored themes of immigration and identity and challenged the production teams to research their own cultural heritage and tell the story of a fictional immigrant to America. In addition to an intensive week of basic digital storytelling training, the students had two field trips to the Skirball Center to gain inspiration from the Center's "American Journeys" & "Thousand Journals" exhibits.

This project was based on the "Thousand Words" lesson I use to teach basic storytelling in editing technique and was modified to align with the Notre Dame's social studies curriculum and Skirball's Arts in Education outreach goals.  Six student teams were given a basic outline for their immigrant including; Age, Gender, Country of Origin and a decade of immigration.  Student teams wrote character bio, a 1 page story narrative and finally 2 column video script. They used online resources like the Library of Congress' American Memory Archive and others to find images that represent their immigrant's life and finally combine the images with narration, music and sound to create their own unique immigration story.

Team Wei's Journey to America tell the story of a young girl's immigration from China. One of two teams that narrate their movie in the native language of the country with English subtitles.

Team Alejandra produced this story about a young woman fleeing a civil war torn Cuba and making a new life in America and also make some astute observations about assimilating in American culture. Notre Dame Principal Lilliam Paetzold volunteered her own family photos to be re-interpreted by her students.

All the students wrote self-evaluative essays following the final screening at the Skirball and many wrote about how they'll never look at TV or film the same again and how they were amazed about how much they learned about working as a team, managing, problem solving and creating. Their veteran teacher, Lisa talks about being transformed by this experience and by the leap of faith she took to get out of her students way and to let them drive their own learning.

Both Lisa and NDA's Principal are planning to build on this experience by doing much more media and technology infused projects at all grade levels in the future. I was moved and inspired by my experience at Notre Dame Academy; Lilliam Paetzold and Vice-Principle Ellen O'Shea and their supportive staff for giving Ms. Scaltrito the faith and freedom to really engage with this project. I'm grateful to Emily Mahon and The Skirball Center for the opportunity to work with such bright, talented and creative young filmmakers, the Notre Dame Academy Class of 2011.

>>Quick Plug<< I'll be leading a 1-day Storytelling in Editing workshop at the LA County Office of Education in Downey next month and in January I will present more about this residency and modeling the Thousand Words Project at Macworld Conference and Expo, 2011 in San Francisco. Click on the banner below for 15% discount on your conference registration.


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