When the 5th grade groups for the LTP “Stories from Stagville” project were announced, groans were heard across the classroom. Jonathan said “I hate school” and Tayshawn seconded that with an “I’m not doing this.” Macy was upset that she was the only girl in her group and Harrison sat quietly in the corner. Needless to say, none of my group members were thrilled to be there.
Fast forward two months and the kids are ecstatic each time my fellow interns and I walk in the classroom. Tayshawn’s anxious to go outside and film the videos, while Harrison and Jonathan debate what music to use for the soundtrack, and Macy chimes in on how the video needs her feminine touch. It was like working with a new group of kids- ones that were excited to show off what they had learned, about their respective ex-slave’s history, and get outside of the classroom for a more hands-on experience.
To me these kids exemplify the ideals of LTP- giving students a project where they have to think on multiple levels, pull all of their thoughts together, and work hands-on. The end results are sparks of creativity that ignite a joy for learning, all the while bonding the students in a way that wasn’t otherwise possible. For “Stories from Stagville,” my group of kids first worked on knowing the ex-slave they picked, owning their story, and articulating it into a narrative. They then worked together to edit their writings, pick locations, film, direct, and put the final video together. (Though agreeing on a final music choice was quite the struggle between Team Fall Out Boy and Team Linkin Park).
Before this internship at the Club Boulevard Magnet School, I had no experience with LTP. But after having worked on this project, I have a new respect for the LTP methodology. If you give a student a piece of paper and tell them to write an essay, sure- some kids will dive right in, but most kids will struggle, both with finding the words and the motivation to write. However, as I’ve now seen firsthand, if you give a student a piece of paper and a picture, if you ask them “What do you see?” and “How do you think this person felt?” it opens another avenue of thinking. It allows for creative thinking. Suddenly the students have a personal connection to what they’re doing, which makes all the difference. If you top that off by telling the students that this essay will lead to a movie being made and them being filmed, well then excitement ensues even more. All of the sudden, school has become less mundane and the students have much more freedom for their voice to be heard and their creativity to shine through.
I have seen many things during my time at Club Boulevard: students who say “but I can’t write” turning in paragraphs, shy students leaving their shell behind while in front of the camera, and group members going from having no connection to being good friends. But what has been the most incredible to see is the pride on my group members faces as their final video has come together. All of their hard work, creative thinking, and 5th grade antics culminated into a video that all four of them are proud of- and that they show off to their friends, of course.