Week 1 – Reel World Youth Kickoff

Being faced with a class of thirty teenage girls is a terrifying prospect for someone who only grew up with a brother. As it turns out, the story of my life, a handful of my homemade videos, and a decent knowledge of Harry Potter gave me all the connection I needed to make a connection.

This is the beginning of a tremendously exciting project I am working on with Kate, a teacher from the Alice Jamieson Girls Academy, a public school in Calgary. Both of us share a love for education and getting youth to engage with real world issues. So both of us decided to collaborate on what we are calling Reel World Youth Documentaries.

What is this all about? It’s a semester long project that is engaging junior high kids with the community by teaching them how to seek out, storyboard, shoot, edit and produce short documentary films to share with friends, family, and Calgarians… and in the process learn about their worldviews curriculum.

I’m motivated by a few very basic principles:

  1. The best source of learning is life itself. Sometimes the classroom or even the teacher as authority can mislead students into thinking that the source of learning is the teacher or the textbook.
  2. Give students real projects with real responsibilities that will be publicly viewed by their peers and the public and they will care about the quality of their work.
  3. Teach them how to judge what good work is and how to receive feedback… because good work takes many iterations and the support of many others in providing it for you.

You’ll note that none of this has anything to do with video. The video camera is just a tool, or rather an excuse to get the kids exploring and investigating real life stories. My hope is that this will encourage them to think about how people see the world and how that affects what they do.

But to get there, each of the students will have to reach deep. They’ll have to develop the confidence to seek out people, to ask questions, and to make judgments. They’ll need to learn about what moves them and why it moves them so that they can convey it to others. They’ll also need to learn the often frustrating technical aspects of getting what they want from the camera and edit.

I will have to reach deep because I’m no Hollywood producer myself and must learn along with them in this adventure.

So far, what I have discovered in this first class is that technology won’t be too much of a problem for them. When I was their age, I had just learned how to type on an electric typewriter. There is also no shortage of concern for worldly issues. The topics have ranged from talking to firefighters to addressing the issues of climate change and to women’s rights and FGM (I had to look it up); these are much more worldly kids than I ever was. Now comes the hard part. Can they do the hard work of researching the topic? Talking to the experts? Finding a smaller story that links it together?

Well, let’s find out just how curious and innovate these young adults are!