Not too young to watch, not too young to make

I wrote an article for Youth Media Reporter, and it has come out in the online edition of the journal, Vol. 2 Issue 6. The print version will be available in January. It is called Not too young to watch, not too young to make, and features several of the children I worked with last year at PS 27 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Here is an excerpt:

While at young ages like four and five, children are not ready to operate cameras or editing equipment, they are ready to take the first step toward media creation, by being videotaped, watching their actions, and retelling what they did using their inherently diverse and creative storytelling voices. This process harnesses the vital role of storytelling in young children’s lives and pairs it with technology so as to make both components not only valid but also easily accessible to children.


Rainforest Thank You

The second graders at PS 50 wrote this lovely thank you letter at the end of our Rainforest video project this Spring. I have not received anything like it since I student taught first grade in Terry Ashley's class at the Marion Cross School in Norwich, VT, and the class wrote me a couple of collective thank you letters, referring to all the fun we had had with our studies of fairies. . .
To come back to PS 50 (in East Harlem, first school for my friend/colleague Rebekah Marler-Mitchell to head up as principal, after a successful career as early childhood educator): this Spring I made four original video stories with one second grade class and three original travel shows with a fourth grade class, and we all viewed them together on the last day. The second grade videos were imaginative story-plays woven together from several days the children spent playing and narrating their stories in the Rainforest Library. The fourth grade travel shows provided information from the students' in-class research and interviews with teachers from the school who had visited various rainforests of the world. Doing both projects simultaneously was an exciting way to explore two developmentally appropriate uses of the video medium. And perhaps more importantly, making videos with students was the perfect way to explore the completely original phenomenon of an actual public school Rainforest Library! Every school in NYC should have one, or something similarly un-characteristic to New York. . . truly mind-expanding, giving children entering the space a reason to feel in awe of reading and its relationship to the world at large.


Little Creatures

As of this summer, I am formally refocusing my children and video energies into making Little Creatures, my new film company, a reality. I am currently writing and rewriting my business plan, which I have submitted and will submit to future business plan competitions, reading everything I can about the film and children's media businesses, and talking to people in these fields. My hope is that Little Creatures will receive seed money from an angel investor within the next year, so that I can complete Mysteries in the Woods and also produce another short film I am currently planning to make with children in Brooklyn, which I believe could revolutionize the children's film genre. If you know of any potential funders, do send them my way, and I will gladly provide business plan and work samples. I am also seeking families who would like to participate in my market research, which will consist of viewing a DVD compilation of my short films with their children, and answering a few questions about the films and their children's interaction with them. The data that I gather from these ongoing conversations with parents and children will help me to frame my work in the context of what media is out there for children, what is needed, and how my work can better fill that gap and flourish as a viable option for parents to buy and view with their young children. Perhaps these conversations will bring similar endorsements to what I have heard so far:

• Kristin captured the authentic sights and sounds of childhood . . . she uses her camera as a lens into the deepest inner-workings of a child’s mind . . .
- Vivian Gussin Paley, author of 12 books on the lives of young children

• The remarkable videos made by Kristin are unique in their ability to bring us into the very life of childhood play itself. Wonderful as tools for teaching the importance of play - or as a means to validate for children why their playing is always meaningful, these videos should be made available to anyone who cares for what learning and education need to be about – and could become.
- Richard Lewis, Director of the Touchstone Center for Children

• I believe that, in honoring children’s play, Kristin’s movies will also help audiences reflect and learn about the overall experience of being human.
- Olga Hubard, Assistant Professor of Art Education, Columbia University Teachers College

• I would gladly support more initiatives such as these that speak to the true essence of childhood and would rather put my dollars in movies and projects like these.
- Kathy Malone, Clothing Designer and Mother of Milo (10), Brooklyn, NY

I am very interested to compile specific reactions of parents and children to my films, which will help me immensely as I restructure future projects, and which will strengthen the argument for making more of these films, as only research can do.


Through the Window

"Through the Window," a short film featuring young children's impressions of the Yale Center for British Art (designed by Louis Kahn, completed in 1974) from vantage points inside and outside, and the art collection within, premiered Saturday, June 21 in the museum's auditorium in New Haven. Sean and I were commissioned by the Education Department at the museum to collaborate with first and second grade children from the Foote School for the project. The premise of the film came from producer Cyra Levenson, Associate Curator of Education: have small groups of 6-8 year-old children narrate the world as seen through the lens of Kahn's last building, with particular focus on looking through the large window within the 4th story gallery housing many of J.M.W. Turner's paintings from the 19th century.
The children came to the project with characteristic poetry and wisdom. Here are some excerpts from their narration:

• All the things outside are the painters of this painting. All the cars, all the people, all the bricks, are the painters. Everyone is a painter. The painting is called “Outside.” It must have took him a long time to make this painting, like a hundred million years, and everybody moving and stuff, and all the cars.
• A painting’s kind of like, if you walk right into it, you’d slam right into it, you’d probably break it. In the real world, you can walk around in it.
In the real world, you can go in stuff, you can touch stuff.
• When you’re an architect, you’re kind of like, important, cause you designed the buildings, and if there were no architects, it would be hard for the people that build the buildings, to decide where to put the stuff, cause they didn’t have a plan.
• I see trees, the leaves on trees, and the wind is blowing them.
• The building has probably more than a thousand pools in it.
• There are lots of tiny people one inch tall waving at us.

The Puppets Ate the Sun Up

While making the final edit of the PS 27 videos for the end-of-project school screening today, I was again struck by the poetic language of the kindergarten children, as evidenced by this story Vertyce told about her group's play with their puppets, planes and backdrop representing Coffey Park:

When the sun woke up, the sun fell down, cause it was hot.
I got on the sun, then I got burned-ed.

The fire truck fired all the sun down, then it melted.

The sun melted, cause they put water on him,
and then the wind blowed the sun, and after that, it fell on the ground.
And then the puppets ate the sun up,
and then they spit out the sun, cause it was very hot.
And the sun got warmer, and then they ate it all up.

These children's poems will live on in the in between spaces, among the images of their lives, lived through story, when the children look back over these videos for years to come. At times like these, I truly believe in the video medium as a powerful tool in capturing such profound ideas that would not be remembered otherwise.


Puppets and Planes at Rotunda Gallery

Our DSW/PS 27 School Arts Partnership Grant project is currently on display at BRIC's Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn Heights, in the 16th Annual KidsArt Exhibition, curated by my colleague Hawley Hussey. The teachers (Shariffa Martinez, Andrew DeMers, Sandy DeFrancesco and Elizabeth Pavis) and I took all three classes, Pre-K, Early Kindergarten and K-1 (Self-Contained), to the gallery to interact with their own videos made over the course of the year, their backdrop and props (puppets and planes), and some representative picture story books compiled by my co-teaching artist Terry Solowey. What a wonderful culminating event of this year-long project!


Our Shadows are Real Animals

I have been making videos with first graders exploring the theme of play between animals. As much of the action has taken place outdoors, in the school yard, I was not surprised to see the element of shadows come into the children's narrations of their videos. Many creature-like shadows came alive underneath the children's running, skipping, hopping, trampling, searching forms, and upon viewing these taped images, the children took note, and seemed to be taken with the arresting shapes their shadows made on the earth, and intrigued by their abilities to manipulate their own shadows. See this compilation and notice the scientific and poetic conclusions the children have drawn about shadows. What sparked my interest in compiling this short piece, aside from my own wonder at shadows and thrill at seeing young children explore them, was the breathless comment of the boy in character as a Mouse searching the school building for a lost cat and bird, who turned to me and said with amazement: "Our shadows, they look like real animals!!"