Growing Up with the Arts Conference: Breakout Highlight

Contributed by Carla Fernandez-Soto, Development Associate, Young Audiences Arts for Learning. Carla and many others from the Young Audiences Arts for Learning network and other arts organizations are attending the Growing Up with the Arts national conference in Miami, Florida this week. Here are her thoughts on a breakout session about a digital storytelling program in Cleveland, Ohio.  

Student video from Center for Arts-Inspired Learning (CAL)

Want to engage middle school students in a meaningful way? Give them access to iMovie or Movie Maker, a smartphone, and let them tell a digital story! Okay, okay, so there's a little bit more to it than that...

In a previous job as the Youth & Parent Engagement Coordinator at a small Latin community center, I was always looking for ways to engage middle school students. There seems to be a lot of energy and funding for programs that reach elementary school and high school students, but I always thought that middle school students kind of got the short end of the stick...not a lot of programming aimed at engaging them. And that's a shame because middle school is one of the most awkward and strange times to navigate as a pre-teen. So today's breakout session on Digital Storytelling presented by the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning (CAL) really blew me away. 

Mike Obertacz and Jimmie Woody did a fabulous job breaking down the components of this exciting residency program aimed at giving middle school students a chance to tell a story about a social issue that resonates with them. Students worked together to first research and then write a script for their digital story on a social issue like bullying or teen pregnancy. Then they found images and music that they incorporated into their film using iMovie or Movie Maker and finally, recorded their voices to share their unique perspective and findings. Before the conference, I had stalked CAL's Youtube page and saw a ton of the digital stories and was completely blown away! All of their voices came through in such a powerful way! And today, to see the images and the clips from the district-wide film festival that CAL put together to bring the students and their families together to showcase their important work, was just awesome.

It's exciting to know that CAL will continue to bring this residency to more Cleveland Metropolitan School District middle schools and am extremely grateful they shared their genius with the rest of us! 

Read more about the program here.

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