Using PBL to Establish a District Film Festival

I am passionate about movies and digital storytelling. In my classroom, I love to use movie clips, rattle off popular movie quotes to enhance lessons, add drama and suspense to mundane content, and create with music, video, and sound. My students picked up on this passion and found their own love of film, so when I asked them how we might increase student voice not only in our classroom, but across our district, I wasn’t surprised when the idea of a district wide film festival popped up. This led to developing a driving question for a project-based learning unit, “How might we design, organize, and execute a Los Altos District Film Festival?” We were off and rolling.

We first developed five different teams to keep ourselves organized; Submissions, Public Relations, Website, Judging, and Event teams. After outlining the responsibilities of each team, students used a job application form to apply for the team they felt they were most qualified for. Once teams were formed, I developed a Google site with a page delegated to each team. This would be the way we communicated and updated each other on our progress. I also created a timeline board on our back wall for each team to post important deadlines and coordinate with each other. It gave us a place for quick “stand-up” meetings so all parties were informed.

Each team had specific task lists that they created. Public Relations team was responsible for creating posters and a promo video to share with schools and on the website. They also performed a short sketch at each school assembly to kick-off the film festival and spread information. Fundraising was also a large part of their mission. Submissions team created the guidelines and categories for films as well as the submission form that students would need to fill out. As films came in, they were responsible for reviewing each one to make sure it met the guidelines and was entered into the right category. Our Judging team created the judging rubric, recruited and communicated with judges for each category, and handled thank-you’s. They also arranged for all prizes to be awarded. A smaller team designed and maintained our website and our Event team focused on the actual festival event, ordering food, decorations, and planning the awards presentation. Each team was required to develop and post budgets on our site and journal and document their progress.

Our first film festival was a great success. We had 78 entries and a large turnout for the awards ceremony. We opened up a gallery walk the hour before so all films could be screened by attendees. Our event team did an excellent job of scripting and emceeing the event and it was exciting to see happy winners come forward to collect their trophies. It was an incredible learning opportunity for our sixth grade students and many were awed by the amount of work and coordination it takes to plan and execute a large event. I am pleased to say that our film festival is in it’s third year this year and is becoming a tradition. The awesome part is that the event is handed over to a new class and new teacher each year as a project experience. It is a student voice event that is led and designed by students. You can check out this year’s website and event here, and the video below is our first two groups of sixth graders reflecting on their experience.

cross-posted at Innovate, Create, Educate

Kami Thordarson is a graduate of the 2011 MERIT program through the Krause Center for Innovation and has led classes on project-based learning, digital storytelling, and design thinking. She is the Innovative Strategies Coach for the Los Altos School District. Read more at Innovate, Create, Educate.