Our Discovering Community Summer Institute introduces educators to the methods of ethnographic field research and the techniques of documentary media-making and digital storytelling as a means to facilitate meaningful student involvement with the communities in which they live. Working with community resources and digital media tools represent rich opportunities for personalized, student-led learning experiences—with the capacity to engage both high-performing and at-risk students. This student-directed research model facilitates the development of transferable skills such as clear and effective communication, responsible and involved citizenship, creative and practical problem solving, and informed and integrative thinking.
The Discovering Community model gets students out of their classrooms to learn from their diverse communities using media-making tools to document and ultimately share their experiences. It supports educators in providing the context for students to achieve required proficiencies through real-life learning, and holds the potential to promote personal growth by deepening students’ understanding of themselves and others. It can also enhance students’ sense of identification with, and caring for, their home community and help to ensure their future involvement in its civic life.
Scenes and reflections from the participants in the 2016 Summer Institute.
VFC Discovering Community at-a-glance: Shot on location at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury, and in Shoreham, Vergennes, Duxbury, and Morrisville, Vermont.
VFC Discovering Community Summer Institute Testimonial: Greg Sharrow VFC's Co-Director Greg Sharrow talks about what spawned the idea of Discovering Community.
Shot on location at the Vermont Folklife Center, Middlebury, VT
VFC Discovering Community Summer Institute Testimonial: Joan Soble Educator Joan Soble speaks about her experience engaging with place based learning and media making.
Shot on location at the Vermont Folklife Center, Middlebury, VT
TRANSFORMING STUDENT LEARNING: BUILDING BRIDGES OF UNDERSTANDING AND DEVELOPING TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
Our long-term goal is to foster a transformative experience for young people that will facilitate personal growth by deepening their understanding of others and, in turn, themselves. At the same time, community-based ethnographic research will promote a young person’s sense of identification with, and caring for, their home community and their future involvement in its civic life. Harwood Union educator and long-time Discovering Community collaborator, Steve Rand, wrote the following about the ways in which the Discovering Community model aligns with transferable skills:
To me it is all about having students practice speaking to people, possibly strangers, and practice listening attentively to what these people have to say. Who among us has mastered these skills? One could argue, as adults, we must continue to practice these skills in our professional lives and personal relationships. Subsequently, if we're listening in earnest and asking questions we're genuinely curious about, our projects--products of a shared learning experience--end up being highly collaborative and honor those voices captured on film by students.
ESTABLISHING A NETWORK OF SUPPORT
The Summer Institute faculty and participants will form an ongoing network of like-minded peers who will provide feedback and support for each other’s classroom and program initiatives. Institute faculty and participants will meet again in early fall to share and receive feedback on participants' short documentaries or digital stories based on footage gathered during the Institute. The mentor relationship established during the Institute will continue as teachers return home to flesh out their projects and implement them. As part of the cost of the Institute, participants will receive 5 hours of complimentary, on-site support from Institute faculty, spread throughout the fall, to ensure the meaningful implementation of student projects. Student work is the basis of our Discovering Community website. Our Student Project Database offers a resource of curriculum exemplars and student-generated work—providing models and inspiration for other teachers and students. Institute Participants will be encouraged to stay in touch about their projects through our Discovering Community blog.
INSTITUTE SCHEDULE PROJECTS
Each day of the four-day Institute focuses on developing a different aspect of the research and documentary process. The daily schedule is built around sessions led by educators, folklorists, digital media specialists, and artists who have done exemplary work as ethnographers, teachers, and documentarians. Over the course of the week participants will undertake a mini-field research project and explore the documentary potential of the digital medium of their choice: photography; audio; or video. Each day will begin and end with a peer reflection session facilitated by core faculty mentors. Participants will develop individual curriculum plans based on their Institute learning and experience.
PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATES; GRADUATE CREDIT
Participants will meet eight hours per day, with the expectation of individual reading, research, and planning. Professional certificates will be issued to all participants upon completion of expectations for the week. Participants seeking three graduate credits will submit a completed curriculum plan along with a post-institute reflection. A follow-up session will be held in the fall.
Day 1: Community Ethnography & Transferable Skills
The first day focuses on place-based education, community ethnography/research, and the power and significance of personal stories—including a practicum on the interview process. Collaborators in past projects will speak about how the Discovering Community model facilitates students’ development of transferable skills.
Day 2: Methods & Approaches: Exploring Everyday Life
After learning the methods and approaches of ethnographic research and an introduction to classroom applications, participants go out into the community as participant-observer teams to literally discover the extraordinary character of everyday life.
Day 3: Introduction to Documentary Media Production
The third day offers an introduction to video, audio, and photography as documentary media, after which media teams spread out to pre-selected field sites to gather footage to use for their own documentaries and digital stories.
Day 4: Digital Storytelling & Classroom Applications
The first part of the day is dedicated to learning how to produce a digital story or documentary: reviewing footage, finding the story, and editing a short piece. The second half of the day will be spent brainstorming classroom applications with support from VFC faculty.
Ned Castle, Digital Media Instructor & Photographer
Ned is a native Vermont photographer who focuses on documentary and ethnographic subject matter. His work includes In Their Own Words, a collection of stories from refugees resettled in Vermont, Indigenous Expressions, comprising portraits of Native Peoples from the Lake Champlain Basin, and most recently the HIGHLOW Project, which is now touring the state. Ned attended photography school in Florence, Italy and New York City, and is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in Biology and Psychology.
Ned also is Program Director and Media Producer at the Vermont Folklife Center.
Kathleen Haughey, Executive Director & Ethnomusicologist
Kathleen has a diverse background in education, ethnomusicology, and collaborative ethnography and media making. As a PhD student in Ethnomusicology at Brown University, Kathleen co-led an audio and video ethnography project with Mbyá-Guarani musicians in southern Brazil. Kathleen also has years of experience as an educator, having taught in both K-12 and higher education settings. She has additional years of experience teaching early childhood music and cello in private music studios.
Kathleen received a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Literature and a Bachelor of Music in Cello Performance from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, and a Masters in Ethnomusicology at Brown University in Providence, RI.
Erica Heilman, Audio Producer
In 2003, Erica Heilman moved back to Vermont, had a baby, and started collaborating with Greg Sharrow at the Vermont Folklife Center. She's been producing radio and audio work ever since. Her work has aired on NPR’s Day to Day, Hearing Voices, KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston, VPR, and other public radio affiliates nationwide. She currently produces the podcast, Rumble Strip Vermont.
Myles Jewell, Education Outreach/Media Instructor & Filmmaker
Myles graduated from the University of Vermont, where he double majored in English and Anthropology with a Film Studies minor. He then went on to earn a Master of Arts from New York University with an Advanced Certificate in the Program of Culture and Media (technical training in Documentary and Ethnographic filmmaking). After graduate school, Myles began making documentaries (www.strangleholdthemovie.com, www.tylerjewell.com) and experimental films full time (www.mylesdavidjewell.com). To supplement his filmmaking career, he also developed media literacy workshops to promote minimal resource filmmaking in disenfranchised areas. He ran workshops for the San Francisco Film Society’s Filmmaker in the Classroom Program and ran his own independent workshops in the Bay Area, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Mary Rizos, Director of Education
Mary was a high school and middle school Spanish teacher for twelve years before joining the Folklife Center. During that time, she also taught photography and Latin American Studies, and led students on international trips built around history, identity, community, and cultural exchange. Mary has a BA in Anthropology and Spanish from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, and an MA in Journalism (with an emphasis on documentary photojournalism) from the University of Montana. She has produced multimedia work exploring the culture of bodybuilding, daily life on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, and microfinance and water access in the Andes. Mary has also worked collaboratively with students on projects about their personal and educational experiences in rural Vermont.
Greg Sharrow, Folklorist
Greg serves as the VFC’s Co-Director and Folklorist. Sharrow brings to the Center a history of academic excellence and years of teaching experience. He holds a BA from Oberlin College, a MEd from UVM and has his PhD in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. Sharrow taught at the Braintree School in the Orange Southwest Supervisory Union (Vermont) for several years and was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year for that district in 1983. He was also appointed as the Mellon Graduate Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania for the 1987-88 Academic Year. His current research interests include the interplay of folklife and personal identity and the role that culture plays in our construction of self.