George Lucas Educational Foundation

Kids Represent Their Work Through Tech

King Middle School used technology to help provide top-of-the-line education for all students as early as 2003. More to this story. View a 2010 update on the school or read the original story.
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Good afternoon. Welcome to the culminating event of Fading Footprints.

Narrator: It's a big day for King Middle School's seventh-grade class. It's the day they present their class project, a CD-ROM featuring Maine's endangered species, to an audience of parents, teachers, and experts at Portland's Audubon Society.

First we took research on the Internet and stuff, and then after that, we had to format it right, doing drafts. It took me about 10 drafts to get this right.


Narrator: Producing the CD was an ambitious undertaking, especially for a school that serves the most ethnically and economically diverse population in the state, a school where 28 different languages are spoken and 60 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. But it's just one of a series of impressive productions the school has turned out, byproducts of a curriculum designed to bring out the best in every student.

Right now, if I was in a moat, I would become very ill. A moat is very polluted.

Scott: The model that we use is expeditionary learning, outward-bound, so it focuses on hands-on learning. We try to integrate science, social studies, math, and English with technology, with artwork, with community members, fieldwork, etc.

Narrator: The Fading Footprints CD includes a student-made video that illustrates the production process.

For the Fading Footprints kickoff, David Sparks came in and brought animals. He talked about the animals' habitat and how they survive. Then we started our research using our laptops.

Scott: We don't use textbooks, per se. The students can sit here right on their computers with the air ports, and we can do a lot of our research right here in class.

We were also using our library and many books to try to find some information, and Internet, we use our laptops a lot.

Narrator: Through digital production, students learn to collaborate and contribute their many different talents. In music class, they recorded soundtracks for the CD. In art, they painted scientifically accurate watercolors of their animals.

It talks about fieldwork, and they're out and they're playing with other fishes.

Narrator: And in video-production class, they made the movie about the making of the CD.

On our winter walk, we learned about how animals and plants survive in Maine's harsh climate.

David: We're looking at ways for students to deepen their knowledge and work with their own knowledge so that they can become the authors of their own learning. All schools should be making things with their students that force the students to show us what they've learned, and it's in the making of things that kids actually do their learning.

Narrator: To give their products professional polish, the school has connected with local businesspeople, like print-shop owner Philip Rhinelander.

Now, would these students take a particular species and concentrate on that?


The focus started with just helping them print the newsletter, and then it turned out, "Gee, wouldn't it be wonderful if every kid could take home a book?" And so we were able to help them by donating those. And then we find our relationship with them is so good that they'll come in, "We need CD covers." "Sure, we'll do them for you." It's a synergy that just seems to have come together. To be part of that is very exciting.

So, we have Kayla filming, and we have like three angles of her filming.

Narrator: The school has also hired an accomplished documentary filmmaker to help students improve the quality of their work.

Huey: My mission is to show them how to make, I guess you'd say good movies, movies that rise above just being imitations of everything they've seen.

I think what matters more is what the flow of the video is.

Huey: Having an audience, I think, is great. I mean, it puts you on the line. It's not just like, "Well, I meant to do this," or, "I was going to do this," or, "If you let me tell you, you can really understand it." So I think that is an interesting part of the educational component of this, and hearkens back to this thing of quality. You want to stand up there. You want to show them your best stuff. And so that permeates the entire process.

Narrator: Since implementing the project-based curriculum, King principal Mike McCarthy has seen the test scores of King's diverse student body go from the bottom one-third to the top one-third in the state.

Michael: I've heard people describe what a gifted and talented classroom would look like. It should include field experiences, and it should include technology. It should include independent work. It should include work that is in depth. Well, that's basically what our school is.

Scott: Every kid has their own finish line and some kids might have done seven pages and some kids might have done three paragraphs. That's okay. They have done their work. They're on the CD. They have completed what they can do, and it's the best they can do.

Michael: Our whole goal is that every student here can have access to high-quality learning and produce high-quality products. One kid said, "Nobody feels stupid around here anymore," and I think that was one of our highest achievements.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Diane Curtis
  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Miwa Yokoyama


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Geoffrey Leighton
  • Joe Labonte


  • Noel Cisneros

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • King Middle School
  • © 2004
  • The George Lucas Educational Foundation
  • All rights reserved.

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Comments (14) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Our students in canada do not have access to computers, laptops (on average there is one computer in every classroom).The concepts are fabulous. I too would love to have a copy of the video.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'd lihe to have a transcript of the video.Wonderful project that gets students involved & responsiple about their own learning.

team's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'd like to have the transcript of this video, since I am interested in project-based learning.

Alfred Mutanga's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently studying for an International MSc in Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Amsterdam, I have been impressed by PBL and would like to learn more about it. Can I please have copies of your videos as a means to influence others back home in Africa.
Keep up this good methodology, I have been impressed

KCrowley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Outstanding work! Your students should be very proud of their accomplishments! Your district is certainly preparig for the 21st century-congratulations on taking the first step!

Shirley Larry's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is a great piece of work. It seems that not only was the school district bought into this, but also the community. It is good to see that the community still looks at the school as a part of it, not as a separate entity.

Carnita Brown's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really love this!I teach Special Education and I would love to share this activity with my students

Debbie Hennis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have done this with special ed high school students (SDC). Lots of coaching needed. They were very enthusiastic. We did it with our career unit and they presented their work. My students vary from MR to SLD with some PDD and autism thrown in. They truly are of the digital generation and desire to be taught all this stuff they see their peers doing! I am doing an action research on this topic next fall.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Hi Wendy-

Thanks for your comment. We currently do not offer transcripts for our videos but I know we are discussing this possibility internally -- so hopefully we'll be able to offer transcripts soon!

Thanks for your patience and support,

[quote]I would love to have a transcript of this video... I am compiling information on Problem based learning and would love to cite some of these events.


Wendy Fischer

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs Middle School[/quote]

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Hi Janet - Great to hear that this video inspired you. You can purchase the DVD of this video at this link:


[quote]I am inspired. I teach 4th/5th grade refugee students from Africa along with some local students in Denver Public Schools. I'm curious as to how the students deal with the linguistic diversity in their process. Many of my students are just beginning to speak English. I would love to buy the DVD to motivate my students.


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