"Place-Based Media Arts" is the integration of Media Arts Literacy with Place-Based Education. Place-based media arts projects are designed to assist students in creating meaningful multimedia projects that engage students in curriculum and community. Through these projects students learn the tools necessary to evaluate and navigate media influences as well as how to effectively participate in global conversations. While place-based education has often had an aversion to technology out of concern for its tendency to distract students from their immediate surroundings and distrust their own senses, we see that the media arts can do just the opposite when used intentionally as a way of reconnecting students to place. Place-Based Media Arts is grounded in the pedagogy of place-based education, and looks to the ideals of the youth-led media justice and empowerment movements.
Here, in my community in Northern Arizona, I’ve had the tremendous pleasure to witness and work with youth who are profoundly reinvigorating our local communities with an engaged interest in our social and natural environments. In our unique place, here on the edge of the reservation, young people are re-enacting the significant events of their ancestors’ lives, on stage, and in film. Teens are making documentary films about heritage foods, their local social and environmental issues, and their own community histories. Youth are raising awareness of the issues most important to them and are actively contributing to the well being of the community. They proudly look to their local communities, histories, traditions, and environments for inspirations for creating films, plays, music, websites, and other art to tell their own stories and share with their families, their community, as well as the wider society. Our youth here are doing all of these, and more, at the STAR School, and with the Outta Your Backpack Media Collective, in Youth of the Peaks, and even in my own family.
Rachel Tso's Thesis Film on Place-Based Media Arts Education. Demonstrates the benefits of a Place-Based Media Arts Education and how the Curriculum works. Chronicles the making of Camille Manybeads Tso's award winning film, "In the Footsteps of Yellow Woman" which was made as a Demonstration Project of Place-Based Media Arts Education.
For my thesis project, I documented my home-schooled eighth grade daughter’s place-based media arts project, that resulted in her multi-award winning film, In the Footsteps of Yellow Woman. Camille had done this type of project before, as a student in one of my STAR school classes that produced the Tolchaco project, and she had learned to make films through being involved with Outta Your Backpack Media, an indigenous youth-led media literacy collective. Since she already had experience with doing this type of project and knew how fun they could be, she jumped at the opportunity to do one as her final project.
The influence of the American media machine on all our youth and their psychological development can be immensely disconcerting. Our students have grown up devouring corporate-sponsored audio-visual and print media. Media influences our children's identity and sense of self and community. It is ever pervasive in our children's lives and effectively indoctrinates them into a consumer- based homogenized pop culture, losing connection with past, culture, and heritage. However, the Media Literacy / Media Justice movement seeks to free students from being mindless consumers. Media already engages our kids; media literacy seeks to teach them how to intelligently analyze and evaluate the media they see and how to create their own messages and to tell their own stories.
Outline of How to do a Place-Based Media Arts Project
Ancient Proverb on Education: Tell me, I will forget. Show me, I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.
There are three phases to creating a media project: pre-production, production, and post-production. Accordingly a course calendar should be divided into these three sections. The first portion of the course would be focused on pre-production and that includes educating ourselves about the issue(s) we’d like to make a media arts piece about, becoming familiar with various mediums and genres and writing either a script or a treatment. Production is the creation of the material the students will use to make a Media Arts project such as filming, photographing, collecting sound, creating music, conducting interviews, etc. Post Production is putting all of the pieces together into a meaningful form, editing, screening, and appropriately distributing the finished piece.
Place-Based Education: The STAR 3-to-3rd Model
A short film demonstrating how STAR School utilizes Place-Based Education in the 3-to-3rd (Age 3 to Grade 3) classes. STAR is the 1st all off-grid charter school in the country, and is recipient of the 2012 Dpt. of Ed. Green Ribbon Award. STAR is located on the southwestern edge of the Navajo Nation and serves a majority indigenous population. This film was written and produced by Rachel Tso (tsoinspired.com) made for The STAR School (starschool.org) as a part of a free training packet for educators. It is for non-commercial, educational purposes.
In the Footsteps of Yellow Woman A docu-drama made for an 8th grade project by 13-year-old, Camille Manybeads Tso, who finds her own strengths through learning from her Grandmother and their ancestral history. She imagines what it would be like to be her ancestor, Yellow Woman, who lived through the Navajo Long Walk of 1864-1868. This film preserves the oral history of her family, and is a testament to the courage and fortitude of the Navajo people who endured the Long Walk and the cruel imprisonment at Fort Sumner. Camille conducted the interviews, researched the time period, wrote the script for the re-enactments and recruited her family to help make the costumes, direct, film, act, sing and edit this work. The re-enactments are performed by actual descendants of Yellow Woman and are filmed in many of the places where the historical events had taken place. This film is an official selection in over 50 film festivals world-wide and winner of: Young Filmmakers Spirit Award - ReelHeART Film Festival; Student Production Winner -- Kids First! Film Festival; The Dolphin (Young Filmmaker) Award -- Moondance Film Festival; Best Youth Film of the Year, Best Actor, Best Script -- Cowichan Aboriginal Film Festival ; Special Student Recognition -- Lake Arrowhead Film Festival; Most Innovative Short -- Eckerd Film Festival; Best Documentary Short -- Red Nation Film Festival 2009; Best Student Dramatic Short - Southeastern Native American Indian Film and Video Festival 2009; Best Student Docudrama - International Cherokee Film Festival 2009. Featured in over 90 film festivals internationally.
RedBird Saves the Corn Traditional Navajo Spider Woman story retold through Lightbox Animation by STAR School students Larissa Luther, Taylor Long, Makyla Allison. Story learned through the Voices Native Literature program, "Zinnia: How the Corn was Saved" by Patricia Hruby Powell. Demonstration of integration of Native Literature, Literacy, and Place-Based Media Arts under the direction of Rachel Tso. Youth Mentors Camille Manybeads Tso and Kira Butler. Winner: Second Place 2014 MY HERO International Film Festival Middle School Animation category. This film is an official selection of: MY HERO International Film Festival, The Red Nation Film Festival in Los Angeles, The American Indian film Festival in San Francisco, The Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival, and shown as a part of the Museum of Northern Arizona Navajo Show and NAU Native American and Indigenous Film Series. This film was also featured in the documentary "Valdagno, Arizona" and screened at the 2011 Venice Film Festival in Italy.