Isleton Bridge 10 Feb 2018
PhotoQuote_JimBentley (3)

Curiosity Films

How do we motivate students to want to write? A 5-paragraph essay read by a teacher, graded, and stapled to a wall is probably not the answer. 

Blogging is one solution. Filmmaking is another. Several years ago I asked my 6th grade students if they would be interested in producing public service announcements for a regional film competition, the Sacramento Educational Video Awards. The answer was an overwhelming, "Yes!" Since that time we haven't looked back. We've obtained cameras and teleprompters, sliders and jibs, and most recently have begun working with drones to capture aerial imagery.


Consider the work behind creating a film. Concept development requires speaking and listening, critical thinking, revision. Research requires evaluation of resources, reading, and more speaking and listening. Writing and revising scripts clearly cover standards. And then there's the actual storyboarding, filming, and editing which cross the boundaries of art, technology, and storytelling. And with an inexpensive Chromebook and platforms like WeVideo, it doesn't require a big budget to produce a high quality film. 


If filmmaking were a food, it would be a high nutrient density food capable of feeding and developing a student's mind, passion, and sense of curiosity.   


As I continue to refine my craft, I am also looking to other ways to supercharge learning through blogging with student-friendly platforms like Edublogs to the creation of map presentations and Story Maps with the help of Esri and Arc GIS Online tools. 



Carl the Cart & SWCC


How do we teach students there is no "away" when disposing our waste? We collaborated with Gina Rossi Sculptural Designs to upcycle metal materials to create Carl the Cart, a public art installation in the City of Elk Grove (location 16 in this Esri Story Map). 

Art can serve as an entry event to a project based learning experience focused on how we use natural resources. It could also serve as a culminating, public product. Teaching students how materials can be recycled, downcycled, or upcycled connects to science, math, and a variety of English language arts standards. And it helps us see waste from a different perspective, too.


Authentic projects empower students to help change the world. Fighting food waste and food insecurity offer opportunities for learning which is why we helped launch the Elk Grove Food Exchange (now known as Sacramento Cropmobster). 


Working with our mayor and Cropmobster founder Nick Papadopoulos, students created this film to help educate our community how we can each do our part. 

Questioning is Exploration
Geo-Inquiry Process


Questioning is exploration. When we teach students to look at their world with a geographic perspective and question why things are the way they are, we're laying the foundation for lifelong learning and activism. 

In 2017 I was asked by the National Geographic Society to serve as Faculty for its inaugural Geo-Inquiry Institute. The goal: teach 106 teachers from 50 states, Canada, and a few outlying regions how to implement the Geo-Inquiry Process so they could become ambassadors.

The process is 5-steps: Ask geographic questions. Collect data. Visualize that data in a way that's compelling so you can create a story and act. Think of it as project based learning meets geography and civic education. The exploration is the vehicle for leanring. The culminating activity is a story that leads to action.