A 9th grade humanities teacher at Pathways High developed a new project for her class. Knowing that her students have been enamored with film making in the past, the teacher visits a movie production studio, where she learns a bit about the lingo and processes that take place on set. The 9th grade social science standards revolve around learning about different world cultures: what if her students studied civilizations around the world that have fallen and create a movie about our own potential downfall, and how to avoid it using the lessons of history?
Her physics teaching partner has decided he will have students make working sustainable energy sources and build special effects, sets and props based on physics concepts for use in the movie, while she focuses on helping her students learn about the history of the Maya, Aztecs, Romans and Huns to develop their own theory of collapse and then write a script and film a movie about it.
Pathways High business partner Discovery World, has underutilized lab spaces, the museum has a fully equipped television sound stage with green screen and was considering closing the exhibit due to lack of interest. This project allows Pathways High to connect real world needs to the skills acquired during class time.
Using Project Foundry teachers enter a variety of standards-based outcomes and have students look at the road ahead of them. Students are trusted to act as professionals while they become more interconnected with the adult world. Each day, a learning experience takes place; at the start of the project, the learning is geared toward exploring historical and literary content in humanities and science and energy concepts in physics and constructing meaning from it. Students inquire about the essential question and engage in equitable discussions to learn from one another's perspectives. Students learn how to ask good questions based on primary documents and create theories of collapse using historian’s research. They learn how to design using a framework for design. Slowly, the learning transitions into the analysis of models by students; because teachers trust students, they include their voices in the formation of rubrics for the final product, the film and the sustainable energy sources, special effects, sets and props.
The teachers ask students to critique model dystopian and apocalyptic films, as well as sustainable energy sources and create goals for the products they themselves plan to build. Then group work gets underway, as students are intentionally placed into groups based on desired topics and their own skills and behaviors. Structured lessons are planned to give students the required tools to begin developing their own film and energy sources. Through hands-on lessons, students learn how to write scripts, use cameras, draw to-scale models, code and use 3D print capabilities.
Once the teacher feels confident in students content and skills, they begin the brainstorming process in groups. Because of a dedication to excellence the teachers are constantly facilitating brainstorming, design and drafting lessons that are collaborative, filled with constructive critique and making use of the student-generated rubric as an anchor document and evaluation tool. Not only are students engaged in giving one another critique, but they are also instructed about how to give kind, specific and helpful critique through demonstrations, role-play and reflection.
In later drafts and rounds of critique, a professional filmmaker is invited into the classroom to watch footage and give feedback. The students are excited to show off their work to a professional and the interconnectedness they develop with her inspires them to refine their work to a greater level of excellence. Using Discovery World’s soundstage, students edit and reshoot scenes of their movie to make it as high quality as possible for exhibition which, as their professional contact has just informed them, will be debuted in a real movie theater!
Students’ props, costumes and green screen programs become part of the permanent exhibit at Discovery World. Community members can use the students work to film their own zombie movies and add value to an underutilized local resource.