By Irene Guzman
Five years ago my 4th grade class at Heninger Elementary in Santa Ana partnered with Creating Creators founders Polo Munoz and Jessica Just. Their program uses the medium of filmmaking to develop students academically and socially. At the onset, my knowledge of how to guide the students from story to script to film was limited–producing 5 films with these 10 year olds was going to be a monumental task. Learning alongside the students through the Creating Creators film program, I watched as my class transformed to become directors of their own learning.
With film industry professionals present to guide the class through the process, my students collaborate, problem solve, think critically, and grow creatively. In the five years since we first began film, my students have produced 25 short films some of which have gone on to screen at Studios, Agencies, and film festivals.
As a teacher, this program has provided me access points to identify the talents, needs, interests, and abilities of all students that otherwise would not be seen through a traditional curriculum. Creating Creators promotes an enriched learning environment where the students are free to share their ideas. Even my most reserved students participate. Those students who struggle academically discover a connection to one of the many diverse jobs that comprise film production and are celebrated for their expertise and uniqueness.
Working in their own production groups with a common goal in mind has helped my students develop a sense of belonging, build a strong bond with each other, and learn that practicing respect, patience, and kindness with others is a big part of accomplishing any major project.
Filmmaking has served as a catalyst to improve narrative writing regardless of the language or learning level of my students.. By understanding that storytelling can at first derive from our own personal experiences, the students are challenged to write ‘their’ own story which then lays the foundation for developing their own unique voice. As their voices grow and blossom, my 4th graders become self motivated learners, ready and committed to producing the shorts as an integral part of their learning.
This partnership with Creating Creators offers students opportunities to showcase in film festivals, storyboard with Disney animators, participate in industry workshops, and attend studio screenings and panels. As a result, they have opened up a whole new world of possibilities and access to career exploration.
Programs like Creating Creators offer young creative minds the opportunity to work alongside professionals in a 21st-century learning atmosphere that contributes to the development of a long term culture of creativity, community, and learning. The quality of the Creating Creators program and their care for the students creates a deep sense of achievement and confidence. I am continually impressed each year with the increasing quality of the students’ films such that they now live beyond the classroom and adorn the screens of film festivals for years to come.
I am excited to continue to be the foundation class for filmmaking in my school district because the seeds we plant today nurture the innovators of tomorrow.