In the merry, merry month of May...


I wrapped up a 20-week long after-school outreach I’ve been teaching at an elementary school. I worked with two groups of students: the older group made a documentary about the experiences of their classmates who have moved to the U.S. from other countries, and the younger group made a collection of short instructional videos on topics of their choice (drawing, making a paper airplane, counting to ten in Japanese, making farting noises with your armpit, etc.).

Both videos were screened for parents at the after-school program’s year-end showcase. The kids were excited to see themselves on the screen, and it was really cool to talk to all the parents whose kids appeared in the film or who worked on it.

But the highlight of the month was taking a group of kids to a fancy, televised awards ceremony.

The Blue Chip Cable Access Awards are given out each year to recognize the work of volunteer producers of cable access programs in Greater Cincinnati. A short documentary made by one of last summer’s video camps I helped with at Media Bridges was nominated in the “student K-5” category. So, I rounded up the kids and parents to go to the award ceremony, which was held at a grand old restored movie theater. When their group was announced as the winner, I ushered a bunch of mostly shy kids up on stage, where they all got big rounds of applause for their acceptance speeches. One girl’s was, “Thank you, people.”

Here's the group photo, complete with shiny award plaque:

Both events were good reminders of how important it is to follow through on projects that involve people in creating media. If we want people to realize the power their voices can have through media, we should involve them in the distribution, not just the production. When you put a piece of media “out there,” others will see it, and that is an important media literacy lesson. I see a lot of light bulbs turn on when kids see other people reacting to their work, whether those people are their parents or an entire theater full of people. Distributing one’s work can be an encouraging ego boost, but it can also be humbling and intimidating. Either way, it promotes responsible media-making.

The award-winning documentary was about an awesome, kid-friendly art museum where you can touch and interact with the artwork. It is called the UnMuseum, and it is housed in Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center. You can see the video in the youth section of the Media Bridges Web site.

Those of you looking to hone your armpit farting skills will have to wait. I haven’t been able to put those videos up yet. One problem that we constantly have with younger groups is that the instructor always ends up having to do additional editing after the outreach or class is over. Does anyone has a good model for this or any advice?