by Mentor Artist Sophie Cooper
How long does it take for one to become an author, rather than a consumer, of images and stories? For 5th and 6th graders at Harding Elementary, it only took 8 weeks! Students started out learning how images communicate, and recognizing that the images surrounding us on a daily basis are telling us stories and infusing meaning into our lives. We spoke about being aware of how images communicate stories, and that we can choose to agree or disagree with the values embedded within these stories. Brainstorming as a class, we then created a treasure chest of values: things most precious to the students that they want to protect.
It was very inspiring to observe the students actively declaring what was most important to them and arriving at the jewel that would be the themes of their personal stories! Once they had decided on a theme, students were guided through a process of story development using traditional components of storytelling.
Equipped with their new tools of media literacy (understanding how images communicate) and outlines of stories they wanted to tell, students began searching for images on the Internet and assembling their stories using a basic video editing program. Students did a phenomenal job navigating the editing software, and many students quickly found their own way, adding effects and transitions!! Even students who had not had extensive computer experience prior to the project were able to follow the simple steps and assemble found images into a short video.
As we screened the completed projects for the classes, I observed the excitement dancing in students’ eyes while watching the stories their classmates had created. It is the same dancing excitement with which they watch a TV commercial or a video clip on the internet: the innocent curiosity of what is next, the enchantment of flickering light that lures us all to cinemas. The only difference now was that rather than absorbing a message put in place by a large corporation or production studio, they were attentively watching messages created by their peers. They were discovering a new way to communicate, a new way to listen to one another.