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Most of us go to the movies to have fun: to laugh, cry, boo, cheer, be scared, thrilled, or simply to be amused for a few hours. But movies are something more than just an evening’s entertainment. They are also historical documents that help us see—and perhaps more fully understand—the world in which they were made.

—Steven J. Ross, Ph.D., professor of history, University of Southern
California, as quoted in Movies and American Society

Sarasota Film Festival Hosts Professional Development Program

Sarasota--As part of its educational outreach programming, the 2005 Sarasota Film Festival presented a two-hour workshop on January 27th on teaching film in the classroom at the Electa Lee Magnet Middle School in Bradenton, Florida. The workshop focused on teaching strategies within The Story of Movies curriculum that guide students in learning how to read moving images. Twenty teachers from both the middle school and high school levels attended, representing multiple disciplines and school districts in the Bradenton-Sarasota region.

Catherine Gourley, a curriculum writer with The Film Foundation, led the workshop. She is the author of 14 books for children and young adults and has developed curriculum materials for several organizations, including the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. “Film is more than an industry, more than a vehicle for studios and stars — it is a visual language,” said Gourley. “Moving images are how we learn about the world, how we elect our leaders. Study of this technology is critical if we are to prepare students to be literate citizens of the 21st century.”

The interactive workshop included multiple screening activities based on film segments from both To Kill a Mockingbird and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In addition, educators had the opportunity to view a scene from Frank Capra’s World War II documentary film series, Why We Fight: Prelude to War and The Nazis Strike. “I came here today hoping to get some ideas for meaningful lesson plans. I came away with lots of new ideas, things I had not considered before,” said a social studies teacher from Venice, Florida.

The Story of Movies is a middle school curriculum developed by The Film Foundation, Los Angeles, with funding provided by IBM and Turner Classic Movies. The curriculum has three teaching units, each focusing on in-depth study of a classic film. The materials are in production and will be made available to teachers free of charge later this year. The films discussed at the workshop included To Kill A Mockingbird (1962, d. Robert Mulligan), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, d. Frank Capra) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, d. Robert Wise).

The festival also presented daily screenings of To Kill a Mockingbird for students in the surrounding area. In addition, the film was screened at the Sarasota Film Society’s Projections Outdoors Film Series at 7 p.m. Feb. 4th along Lemon Avenue in Sarasota.

The Story of Movies Presents Film Study Workshops at National Education Conferences

More than 300 educators, ranging from middle school to college level, attended a workshop on The Story of Movies during the annual National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention, held in Indianapolis last fall. The presentation focused on teaching strategies for learning how to read film as a language. Presenters were Jennifer Ahn, Director of The Film Foundation, Los Angeles, CA, and curriculum writer Catherine Gourley, Dallas, PA.

The program included interactive screenings from the To Kill A Mockingbird (1962,  d. Robert Mulligan) teaching unit. "Although teachers frequently use film in the classroom,” said Gourley, “film as a language and as historical and cultural documents is not widely taught.” Two weeks earlier, Ahn and Gourley presented a similar program to over 175 educators during the National Middle School Association (NMSA) conference, held in Minneapolis. A similar presentation was part of this national conference.

Screening activities also included footage from Frank Capra’s Academy Award® winning documentary, Why We Fight: Prelude to War and The Nazis Strike (1943). This marked the second year that NMSA has featured a professional development workshop on The Story of Movies during its national conference.