Since 2013 students at St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas, have been channeling their inner Ken Burns to produce short documentary films based on original oral history research.  Students conduct preliminary informational research with two to three older family members.

Based on their initial findings, students pitch three ideas for a film topic to Integrated Drama Specialist Tom Parr and history teacher Kathy Carroll. Once they have narrowed down the topic, students practice how to engage in inquiry based research in order to craft strong interview questions.  Teachers coach the students on interview techniques and setup before “interview season” in November, December and January.

Once the interview is complete, students conduct further research into their topic in order to practice traditional research and writing skills.  Next, students begin the production process by adapting the research paper into a documentary narrative.

Students learn to storyboard their film and to search for images and audio available from family records, the public domain or Creative Commons sources. Using iMovie on their iPads, students complete the process by editing images and audio into the narrative to produce a short documentary film.  Students share their learning with others at the Annual Documentary Film Festival in May.  Their learning is preserved in the  Weaving Our Story archive and published through the Weaving Our Story Scalar project.

Use this website to follow along on the journey, learn to implement this program through the guides, or explore the exhibits or archives using the links at the top of the page.