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Lights, Science, ACTION!

recording student working in garden

Talk about the perfect combination for a fantastic STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) educational experience! I’d like to introduce you to Sarah FitzHenry, last year’s librarian at Johnson Elementary School in Charlottesville, VA, who- with her tech-savvy, incredibly curious young scientists, partnered with local non-profit filmmaking studio, Light House Studio on a project that combines movie making and science. As FitzHenry explained, “"Lights, Science, ACTION!" is a spectacular combination of high tech equipment and old fashioned hands-in-the-dirt educational experiences for students. From filmmaking to seed planting, students were knee deep in exciting, real-world science experiences, and loving every minute of it!”

Sarah FitzHenry shares more about “Lights, Science, ACTION!” Originally published in a different format on the Learning Leopard Library blog.

"Lights, Science, ACTION!" was a club offered by the Learning Leopard Library in Charlottesville, VA in collaboration with local non-profit organization Light House Studio. Light House Studio’s mission is to bring young people together to make movies. They are dedicated to mentoring the creativity of young minds through a hands-on approach to teaching the art of filmmaking. They brought their collaboration, mentorship, creativity, and joy for filmmaking to "Lights, Science, ACTION!" and the results were incredible.

"Lights, Science, ACTION!" was an eight- week session  where students learned the ins and outs of basic filmmaking, including types of shots, types of cameras, how to run sound equipment, film set lingo, and interviewing and directing techniques. Students enjoyed hands-on experience with state-of-the-art film and sound equipment, along with different types of filmmaking like stop-motion, claymation, and special effects. They experienced the editing process, learned the basics of layering video and sound, edited scenes to get the very best result, and added special features like transitions and effects. Light House Studio’s dedicated, experienced, patient mentors were with them every step of the way, providing individualized attention and instruction to help each child get the most out of the time behind the lens.

After our initial filmmaking workshops, the science experiments began. Each week, a small group of students acted as the documentary crew while the rest of the group participated in a short science lesson and experiment. The group shared stories and ideas about natural science while the crew recorded the action, ambiance, and interviews. All of the footage was then edited and combined by the experts at Light House into a final project.

Whether studentswe were creating art from nature, digging (and chewing) in the garden, or studying animal behaviors, their science experiments helped students to make observations and ask critical questions about the world around them. Together with parent and community volunteers, they worked on being more inquisitive, curious, and creative; all while working towards teamwork and a growth mindset.

As an added bonus, the filmmaking aspect of the club helped students to see their world through a different lens. They had to answer new questions like, what will a viewer need to know to understand this experiment without having heard the directions? Which students are focused enough to appear on film? Does this shot show what our group is all about? These questions forced students to walk in a teacher’s shoes for an hour or two.

So much of students’ time in school is spent working quietly and independently towards the goal of a good grade on a test or assignment. These skills are essential for students to develop, but they’re not the only skills needed for a well-rounded, successful, and happy child. With so many demands and limitations placed on teachers, even Johnson’s exemplary staff can’t always get kids learning through moving, shaking, and making.  Thanks to the generosity and expertise of the Light House Studio team, the Learning Leopard Library provided third and fourth grade students with rich, engaging, hands-on experiences that allowed them to learn at their own speed, in their own way. Students are transformed when they are allowed to take an active role in their own learning - and whether they’re behind the camera or up in a tree, students on the Lights, Science, ACTION! team were exploring, growing, and making connections in a way that they won’t soon forget.

The final result of eight weeks of hard work:
View the full album of "Lights, Science, ACTION!" videos on Vimeo here. Each short video encompasses one subject – watch them together, separately, in order, whatever you want. While you watch, keep in mind that the filming, interviewing, and many of the editing decisions were completed by third and fourth grade students, thanks to the mentorship from the Light House Studio team.

“I was so impressed with the quality of work from our student filmmakers – and with the incredibly talented Light House Studio film team that put it all together,” says FitzHenry, “It made me so proud to see the student excitement and passion captured on film – is there any better commercial for science, filmmaking, and after school programming?” Students were also able to express their quirky humor and silliness on film. Even as dedicated scientists and filmmakers, the group had a creative, fun-loving feel and a delightfully wacky sense of humor that made every meeting more fun than the last.

None of these creative, dirty, wonderful experiences would have happened without the generous help of Light House Studio. Thanks to a generous grant from the Prana Fund, Light House offered this program to us Johnson Elementary at no cost, and student club members didn’t have to pay a cent to participate.

Learn more about Light House Studio and their amazing community work here.