By Levi J. Long
Special to the Times
Navajo Times, LEUPP, Ariz., Sept. 22, 2011
At STAR School, a group of creative youngsters are showcasing their talents and voices on a worldwide cinematic stage.
"I like to put a lot of heart into my films," said freshman Kira Butler, 14, whose film work at STAR School has already taken her across the U.S. and to Italy. "Through filmmaking I understand who I am in the world community."
Located 15 miles northwest of Leupp, STAR School serves mostly Navajo students from preschool to 8th grade.
Nestled among rolling hills with vistas of the San Francisco Peaks, the rural school is the first off-the-grid campus in the country powered by wind and solar energy.
Now STAR School is gaining another reputation for its 3-year-old media arts program that connects Native American youth with their culture, community and themselves.
"When it comes to mainstream media, indigenous youth are often seen in the negative or are portrayed as historical or cultural subjects in the past," said Rachel Tso, the media arts educator who developed the film curriculum. "It's important for students to represent themselves using their own voice, not someone else's."
Students from fifth to eighth grade can learn the nuts and bolts of film making: script writing, researching topics, interview techniques, capturing video and sound, editing, acting and public speaking.
The main focus is on what Tso terms "place-based media arts."
"It describes what we're doing with our students through film," she said. "It reconnects kids with their community, reconnects their place in the community and reconnects them with their family, including their elders."
TOP: Kira Butler, from the STAR School in Leupp, Ariz., is interviewed by an Italian journalist at the Venice Film Fest.