George Lucas Educational Foundation

Student Filmmakers Find a Voice Through EAST

Middle-school students make sense of local history while creating an award-winning documentary in an Environmental and Spatial Technology Initiative class. 
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Student Filmmakers Find a Voice Through EAST

Narrator: The Environmental and Spatial Technology Initiative, EAST, is an elective class offered in schools around the country. Students use the latest technology to complete projects of their own design that often serve their community.

Sarah: And then we contacted the people who owned the rights.

Narrator: Emma and Sarah are eighth graders at Little Rock, Arkansas' Horace Mann Middle School.

Teacher: You two look a lot alike.

Narrator: They have produced a ten-minute historical documentary, which is about to be judged in a national EAST Competition.

Teacher: We'll be showing the film, and we watch it together, and then we'll have a couple of questions for you.

Emma: Edith and Ms. Monroe are leaving today in government boats. We're going to litter off [inaudible]. I went riding yesterday. It sure was fun.

Emma: I did most of the editing. Sarah was more of the sidekick on there.

Sarah: Yeah, I am the writer. I'm the organizer. I don't-- I can edit if I need to, but I prefer not to. I just tell her what to do.

Emma: And there was one paragraph that she had the hardest problem hearing.

Sarah: Most problem hearing.

Emma: No, the hardest.

Emma: When we started making the movie, I didn't really notice it, but now, when I watch a movie, I suddenly realize, "Now, that's a good cut-away. That's good editing. You know, that's a good sound."

Sarah: For the first time on record, all the tributaries of the Mississippi flooded at the same time, adding to the steady rise of the water.

Emma: In class, I write a report. In EAST, I make a movie. I can't remember history. I know who some of these people are, but I can't remember what they did. In EAST, I know what I did, because I did it. I made it real.

Deanne: Okay, what you've just been reading about are reformers who've been opposing slavery.

Emma: I love my history teacher. My history teacher's wonderful, but she can't give me the things that EAST can give me. She can't give me hands-on experiences.

Deanne: This is just a survey course of US History. And this is a very structured course. The curriculum is set by state standards. It's a problem sometimes when you let kids just take something that they like and they run with it. You know, I'm responsible for making sure that they have covered all of that material. And in EAST Lab, she gets to take whatever she likes, usually, and then she can run with it. There's much more freedom down there.

Emma: She shows me the book, and she says, "Read it." I read it. I fill out a worksheet. But here, I actually have to turn in something more than just paper.

Teacher: Oh, very cool. Sweet. Super sweet.

Teacher: How much interview minutes did you log?

Sarah: Oh, at least an hour-and-a-half.

Emma: Yeah, at least.

Sarah: Because Mr. Jones...

Teacher: With each person?

Emma: Yes.

Sarah: Well, no.

Emma: A lot of them were just dribble.

Emma: I felt so proud of myself, because I don't know most of the information. It's mostly Sarah. But when they started asking, you know, "How many people died, and what was the worst ones?" You know, I was like, "I know that stuff. You know, I know it. I can tell them."

Sarah: We had something like a hundred sources.

Emma: Our packet of files that Sarah highlighted, about this big. We have so much information. Every person, at least one of them gave us a picture, or a packet.

Sarah: Well, one of them gave us the clips.

Emma: Yeah, those wonderful clips that made our movie.

Sarah: Yeah.

Sarah: I know that I've become a better public speaker, and I know that I'm more comfortable around strangers now. I'm not so afraid to show off what I've done.

Teacher: Good job, girls.

Emma: Great.

Teacher: Great job.

Teacher: Yeah, good job.

Teacher: Thank you.

Sarah: Thanks.

Teacher: All right!

Teacher: It was great to work with these young people. We particularly have been so impressed with the quality of the films that are coming out of the EAST Labs from around this country. And our winning documentary film is, "Watching the Waters Rise," Horace Mann Magnet School, Emma Baylon and Sarah Baylon.

Sarah: We just won the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival first prize! Shock!

Emma: Excited! Yes!

Sarah: It's like a bubble!

Emma: No, yeah, bubble.

Sarah: Yeah, yeah, that's the word.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producer:

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Rob Weller
  • Jeff Woodward


  • Karen Sutherland

Original Music:

  • Ed Bogas

Watch more videos in the EAST series:

  • EAST -- A Way Forward: Tech Inspires Self-Directed Learning

    Students in the Environmental and Spatial Technology program, in Little Rock, Arkansas, connect with nature through projects that serve their community.

  • An Old-School Coach Becomes a Facilitator for EAST

    A teacher finds new inspiration for a different way of teaching though the Environmental and Spatial Technology Initiative.

  • Student Filmmakers Find a Voice Through EAST

    Middle-school students make sense of local history while creating an award-winning documentary in an Environmental and Spatial Technology Initiative class.

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