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On watching our kids walk the red carpet

They rolled out the red carpet again at the Keswick, our beautiful local arts theater.

Earlier this week I attended the 2011 Greenfield Youth Film Festival.  With twice the number of Philadelphia-area high schools participating as last year, it is clear that something big was going on at the Keswick.  I wish it could happen in everywhere.

Not only did every student filmmaker in the audience learn in two months allotted for the production of his or her film, watching the winning films was in itself a learning experience.  Entries were judged by a prestigious panel of established media professionals and university professors, their commentary was read, and the top films were screened.

My colleague media teacher, Dan Meder, sat next to me taking furious notes.  Ideas to introduce next semester.   And as I watched the faces of the film watchers, I could see almost smell their pride in work that reached real audience and made real difference and the students’ genuine respect for new ideas and creativity of their peers.  I could see big gears turning as learners planned their own next steps, their own growth.

You don’t get that kind of response from a bubble test.  This is assessment and celebration of student work at its best.

The Greenfield Youth Film Festival website describes its mission and the work behind the scenes that prepared students for a red carpet.  Students were granted

direct access to university-level academics and seasoned industry professionals with a collective mission to explore and share each student’s voice through a holistic approach to filmmaking as a storytelling medium. GYFF integrates both an artistic and technical approach to process and provides a unique forum for young filmmakers to collaborate, create and showcase their work. The first two years of the GYFF exceeded expectations with more than 250 films from over 80 high school filmmakers. In 2009, the inaugural festival hosted five Philadelphia-area high schools. The 2010 festival expanded to include ten schools. And through the continued generosity and vision of the Greenfield Foundation, twenty schools will participate in the 2011 GYFF

Though the 2011 entries are not yet posted, visit YouTube to check back for them and to experience the brilliance of the past two years.  Here is a montage of this year entries:

My colleague, Marlene Thornton, who teaches the gifted and drama and creative writing, shared her reflections on the evening:

I couldn’t sleep last night.  I was so proud of them. Last night was an exciting celebration of the process.  Hearing my students thank their classmates for their help with everything that happens in our classroom was heartening.  It made me realize that they appreciate the hours of critique, planning and post production.  So many assume that having a camera in their hands makes them a filmmaker.  It is encouraging to see students celebrate their hard work, especially the screenwriting process.  In our class, that is the most scrutinized part of film making.  It seemed to pay off last night.   The excitement was so energizing for me as an educator. It validated the my curriculum, my assessments and proved the importance of the meshing of the rigor of  pen and paper with the exciting technology and art that excite today’s learners.

Watch our award-winning films in the experimental and documentary categories for a taste of this festival.

I closed my my post on last year’s Festival this way:

It is important to recognize, that programs like the Greenfield Youth Film Festival are replicable.

While funding, and beautiful venues, and scholarship gifts are wonderful, sharing and celebrating the work of creative digital learners can happen at any scale!

Red carpets can come cheap.  They can even be virtual.

Later this month, our District will host its own first Digital Storytelling Festival.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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