Lights, Camera, Action!

Everglades project excites fifth-grade filmmakers
By Lee Prater Yost
The task: To create a one-minute video about how sugar farmers contribute to Florida's economy.
The tools: Data and a video camera.
The teams: Fifth graders in teams of five representing farmers, developers and environmentalists
Sound like fun? Yes! Sound like school? Maybe.
At Grandview Prep School, a private K-12 school in Boca Raton, Florida, the fifth graders love making videos. Some operate the camera, while others are scriptwriters or actors. All are film critics. "They are following their passion, and, in the process, they're learning," says Diana Joseph, a Learning Sciences (LS) alumna.

Photo by Richard Sheinwald.


At Grandview Prep School, a private K-12 school in Boca Raton, Florida, the fifth graders love making videos. Some operate the camera, while others are scriptwriters or actors. All are film critics. "They are following their passion, and, in the process, they're learning," says Diana Joseph, a Learning Sciences (LS) alumna.

Joseph (PhD00) initially developed the "Video Crew" curriculum in her dissertation work at Northwestern. She and fellow LS alum Tammy Berman (PhD02) adapted and combined various curricula including "Video Crew" and "Water Quality" (developed with the University of Michigan) to create a coherent learning experience about the Everglades, says Berman.

Last summer the two Northwestern alumnae worked with the Grandview fifth-grade teachers to integrate the curricula into program planning in time for the new school year.

Joseph and Berman visit Grandview frequently to observe class, advise the teachers and take field notes on how well the curricula are working. These site visits are a practical application of Joseph's work as a researcher and curriculum designer at the University of Chicago's Center for School Improvement and Berman's design activities for Engines for Education, a nonprofit group that spearheaded the Grandview project.

"After eight years of designing courses for the corporate and university worlds, I'm excited to bring goal-based learning and story-centered curricula to K-12 schools," says Berman, who is a postdoctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University's Institute for Software Research International.

Video Crew follows the cognitive apprenticeship model, which assumes that kids start out with different levels of expertise and, as they gain experience, mentor other apprentices, says Northwestern Learning Sciences Professor Allan Collins. In his article "Cognitive Apprenticeship and the Changing Workplace," Collins argues that in today's complex world, students need a different model for learning. While at Northwestern Joseph and Berman brainstormed with Collins on how to restructure learning environments along the lines of the cognitive apprenticeship model.

" An apprenticeship embeds the learning of skills and knowledge in their social and functional context. This has serious implications for instructional design," says Collins.

Using Video Crew Grandview fifth graders take on
By Lee Prater Yost