Posted by Myles David Jewell
I can't gush enough about what Kate Toland and her People's Academy Geography class have accomplished. Their work typifies what we believe Discovering Community is capable of: getting students to go out into their community, or any community, to dive a little deeper and uncover all the stories that are around them. Not only did Kate's class do this, they ended up hosting a community screening and invited all the folks who were involved. The result was a beautiful screening with an amazing Q&A where I got see first-hand how much the students gleaned from our work with them.
An top of all this, Kate was a Summer Institute Participant last year and this is proof of how a teacher can implement this work in his or her classroom. Was it difficult? Of course. Did it feel impossible at times? Double of course. But this is media-making, and the screening was proof that despite all the technical hiccups with WeVideo, with audio, with scheduling interviews, with editing in groups, at the end of the journey you have stories about the process and what you learned from it, and a product for people to watch that shows the process in a refined way.
To my mind, hearing the students talk about how they wish they had gotten more b-roll, how much they enjoyed being able to talk to people they never would have been able to talk to without the camera, and how much they learned about their community - all that is the power of this work. I have to admit, the ethnographer in me found one moment in the documentary especially impactful, the moment when the movie took a self-reflective turn. All throughout the picture, we were hearing from community members, and near the end, one of the brewers from Lost Nation Brewery turned to one of the students behind the camera and said, "Well, what do you think of Morrisville?"
Fade to black and a text appears signaling the point at which the students then reflected on what they learned, and what they think about Morrisville. I love how they found the content from their interviews to prompt their reflections. As a viewer, it was very satisfying to hear the voices from behind the camera, because after all, they are also the fabric of the Morrisville community.