Education Blog

Little Pieces. Big Pictures.

By Karolina Manko, Communications Manager 07.20.15

As our annual Summer Teachers Institute turns 10 this year, we welcomed over 50 pre-K- 12 educators to spend a week with us having experiences as learners themselves, and providing pathways for them to reflect on their role as teachers. This year’s themes will include participation and interaction- through media projects, feature films, and Sherlock Holmes- more to come on that later in the week.

This morning, after a quick check-in and with mugs full of coffee, the teachers jumped right into it with a special View Now Do Now all about the process of creating meaning in a large whole by using thoughtful pairings of small particulars. The group discussed the building blocks of media literacy: how color, shape, lighting, etc. can be used to evoke certain emotions or invoke specific connotations; and how that process creates powerful stories. Then, with iPads in hand, they went to work! In small groups of 4-6 people, the teachers watched short clips of video and took on the task of finding interesting ways to connect these clips to new ones of their own- a digital "exquisite corpseexercise

After 20 minutes of thinking like filmmakers, the group sat down to a screening of the timeless and widely acclaimed documentary, Baraka. The film is an epic journey across continents, cultures, and even historical moments. It's a study of the largest story that can be told: the human story. Baraka is an ambitious and thought-provoking film to screen to a room of educators. It doesn't feature many traditional or familiar documentary elements like interviews with talking heads or statistical voiceovers. Instead, Baraka is a collage of small moments: monkeys in a bath, tribal members dancing, monks in meditation, crosswalks filled with people, ants marching across a leaf, the stars moving through the night sky. Scene-by-scene the film explores the totality of human life by placing the magnifying glass on the smallest pieces. 

But what does the process of building a meaningful whole out of thoughtful particulars have to do with teaching? Everything! Education hinges on the ability to contextualize the small within the large. In order to understand something, we must know about the things that led to it. This is true of history, art, science, and even math. (Imagine learning how to add without first learning about numbers. Yikes!) This is why knowing how to build is essential to successful engagement and student progress.  As our Summer Teachers Institute progresses and branches out into seven strands that span multiple themes and content areas, the participants will continue to explore and discuss the task of teaching students how to be successful storytellers and mindful consumers.