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Summer Institute for Educators


  • Putney Central School Putney, Vermont (map)

The Discovering Community Summer Institute introduces educators to the methods of ethnographic field research and the techniques of documentary media-making and digital storytelling as a means to facilitate meaningful student involvement with the communities in which they live.

Each day of the four-day Institute focuses on developing a different aspect of the research and documentary process. The daily schedule is built around sessions led by educators, folklorists, digital media specialists, and artists who have done exemplary work as ethnographers, teachers, and documentarians. Over the course of the week participants will undertake a mini-field research project and explore the documentary potential of the digital medium of their choice: photography; audio; or video. Each day will begin and end with a peer reflection session facilitated by core faculty mentors. Participants will develop individual curriculum plans based on their Institute learning and experience.

Working with community resources and digital media tools offers rich opportunities for personalized, student-led learning experiences—with the capacity to engage both high-performing and at-risk students. This student-directed research model facilitates the development of transferable skills such as clear and effective communication, responsible and involved citizenship, creative and practical problem solving, and informed and integrative thinking.

The Discovering Community model gets students out of their classrooms to learn from their diverse communities using media-making tools to document and ultimately share their experiences. It supports educators in providing the context for students to achieve required proficiencies through real-life learning, and holds the potential to promote personal growth by deepening students’ understanding of themselves and others. It can also enhance students’ sense of identification with, and caring for, their home community and help to ensure their future involvement in its civic life.