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Classroom to Community: How Do You Get Your Students Out There?

A middle school teacher describes filmmaking projects that inspired her students.

February 20, 2015

Recent discussions posted here by high school social studies teacher Peter Paccone have nudged me to consider how I can help my students connect their school work with their communities in active, meaningful ways. Peter’s high school students make powerful links between their government curriculum and their world by participating in interest groups in efforts to improve the communities in which they live. As an English and Media Productions teacher, I wonder how I can help my 12- and 13-year-old students make and participate in the real-world connections of their curriculum.

In my English classes, my students write novels and produce magazines, which are significant projects that directly link their curriculum to the real-world applications of our language arts studies. But it wasn’t until my students read aloud from their novels at an author event at the local bookstore that they began to see themselves walking the same path as the authors we study in class and line up to meet at the same bookstore. Or when they take their novel all the way through to publication and see it for sale on Amazon: then they see how the day-to-day work we do in English class connects to a career in writing.

Recently our Media Productions students had two exciting opportunities to see their filmmaking skills appreciated by their community and beyond. Our morning news show, delivered live every day by student anchors, caught the attention of a county administrator who was organizing a conference in Southern California. She asked if our news anchors could film themselves introducing the keynote speakers at the conference. Our students were so excited for this opportunity to produce work that would be projected in front of a conference hall filled with a thousand educators that they came to school at 7:30am and gave up their lunch time to work on the filming. Here is an example of one of their introductions:

And this is what it looked like at the CISC Symposium in Anaheim:

That same week our students were asked to produce a film about our schools to recruit our next superintendent. Local principals provided still images for the project, but our students said, “That’s not a movie!” And they went around on their own to film clips of our downtown, our schools and our greater community. Then they spent many hours editing and producing the video.

It’s no small challenge to provide these opportunities for our students to do meaningful work beyond their school campuses, especially in middle and elementary schools when they are not old enough to drive themselves.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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