Grand Canyon School videography class partners with park on film projects

National Park Foundation awards $18,000 grant for creation of first Videography I class offered at Grand Canyon School

Videography I film class take time to set up for a shot. From left: John Morfin, Tyler Jones, Traci Curley, Julian Cly and Ellie Perkins not pictured Jorge Valerio Del Villar. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

Videography I film class take time to set up for a shot. From left: John Morfin, Tyler Jones, Traci Curley, Julian Cly and Ellie Perkins not pictured Jorge Valerio Del Villar. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Grand Canyon High School senior Julian Cly took Videography I because it interested him and said it could help him decide if he wanted to pursue a career in the film industry and what aspect of filming interested him the most.

"It was a personal interest, I wanted to understand more about the field," Cly said. "I wouldn't want to be a director, but I might want to work for the park and take pictures."

With the amount of involvement the class provides and the time spent working with Grand Canyon National Park rangers, Cly should have a better idea of what he likes best about filming and have a better understanding of ranger lives and jobs.

In 2009, the National Park Foundation offered high school educators and students the chance to explore good stewardship opportunities and discover the relevancy national parks have on educator and student's daily lives by providing a Park Steward's Program grant for high schools around the nation.

This year Resource Education Training Specialist Amala Posey worked with Grand Canyon School music and drama teacher Bently Monk, to apply for the 2014-2015 National Park Foundation grant. The $18,000 grant provided the class with the funding to purchase equipment needed for the class as well as a teacher stipend and the opportunity for two summer interns to earn a $2,000 stipend.

"They've got these projects all over the country where they (the National Park Foundation) do these grants (Park Steward's Program Grants) and this is the first videography grant that's actually gone through and we got it," said Monk, who is teaching Videography I at the school. "Our project is different because most schools don't live in national parks. So we have the benefit of having the school inside of the park. Our partnership is so much closer, where most schools get to visit the park once or twice a semester."

To apply for the grant Posey and Monk developed the videography class program from the ground up.

The grant asked for a representative of the park to work with a school representative in order to develop the class curriculum and activities for the class.

Monk and Posey were then asked to incorporate national park and state school standards into the curriculum as well as develop a program capable of being used in the future. One the park and school can continue to develop and grow for future classes.

"For one, he's (Monk) created a curriculum that will share what the National Park Foundation and the Park Stewards so that we can use this curriculum for all our teachers at other national parks or other schools if they want to try something similar," Posey said.

According to the grant, students are asked to apply what they learn - through activities performed in class and through hands on experiences, to address legitimate needs of the park.

By spending the summer and fall preparing, writing curriculum, purchasing and testing cameras and equipment and developing ideas for film projects within the park, Posey and Monk were able to offer Videography I this semester. Monk began writing the curriculum for the class and ordering the film equipment and supplies in the summer of 2014. He and Posey also attended training and a film conference in West Virginia to prepare.

One reason Monk wanted to offer the class is to help students learn better film techniques.

"Everyone in the 21st century has a smartphone or a tablet and they make videos and they put them on YouTube - they're terrible quality," he said. "I get to teach them to actually use good techniques so that when they're making those videos that are just for fun, they actually look good.

Before the class, Ellie Perkins, a junior at Grand Canyon School had limited knowledge of film techniques and said building off her prior knowledge, she hopes to learn more through the class.

"In middle school I did a lot of videos for class work, but it wasn't full scale, it was whatever camcorder you had and just putting a movie together," she said. "I do ok on the videography portion, but I can't put things together very quickly. I think it's a really fun class because of the interaction we have with each other and the cameras. If I were to pursue a career in videography, this class would definitely help."

Students started the semester by learning basic film concepts like white balance and exposure speeds and have now moved on to filming projects for the park.

Having students work with various divisions within the park service was also one of the purposes for the grant.

"We have several different really neat projects that we're working on," Posey said. "One of them is that kids are going to be interviewing different park rangers here at the park within different divisions."

Posey said eventually the goal for the class is to have student's interview and film different careers the park offers.

"So while the kids are learning videography skills, at the same time they're learning something about education and work experiences and how they got their jobs." she said.

Additionally students will work with Posey at the park's distance learning center to create films that will be incorporated into the park's distance learning program.

"We do curriculum based learning programs with students from across the country," Posey explained. "We thought, 'what a great way to design a program where we interview a variety of different rangers.'"

Additional projects planned include having students interview and film Native Americans for a program that will be incorporated into new educational programs at Desert View. Students will also shoot a wilderness video showing foot traffic along the Bright Angel trail.

"The kids and I will go down to Indian Garden and set up shop and use time lapse videography to film the amount of human traffic that comes up and down the corridor trails," Monk said.

The final results of filming will be given to the park to apply to their archives and students will have the opportunity to add the experiences to their portfolios.

"They learn the techniques in class and then we go and apply them within the park and then our videos we give to the park service at the end," Monk said. "The kids will also have a video portfolio that they can use to submit to a tech school if they want to go into the career of videography."

In the future, Monk hopes to take the class from one semester to a yearlong class that meets the Arizona's Career Technical Education (CTE) standards to help students receive college credit.

"We bought the nicest equipment we could get for the kids, regardless of the technology at the school because my goal for this class is to convert it from the National Park Foundation grant, which is a one semester long grant, into a full year long course that meets Arizona's Career Technical Education (CTE) standards," Monk said.

"If the class can meet CTE standards it will be able to partner with the state and the National Park Foundation to turn it into a two year program that counts for college credit and offers students the opportunity to work in the field."

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