#8: Explaining What’s The Story To Schools

What’s The Story is a year-long program that kids all over Vermont can complete for high school credit. The purpose of What’s The Story is to work with a team to create a documentary over the course of the year about a social issue in Vermont. What’s The Story uses a blended-learning environment, meaning we work together in person, but the bulk of the work is done online in our homes, video conferencing together online. We only meet together about once or twice a month during the year, but we are always communicating through group text, email, video chats, and other tools.

What’s The Story is a free program that kids from all over Vermont can apply for. Once the applicants are selected, we meet for the first time at the start of the school year. Over the next couple months, we pick a social issue in Vermont that we research by ourselves and do weekly blog posts updating on what we have done in the past week. By the time our first overnight weekend retreat comes around, at the end of October, we are done focusing on solo projects. We split in groups based on related topics and pick a topic that we all think is important and relates to all of ours. From this point on we will work together to try and tell our story.

To tell our story, we need to consider a variety of factors- who we want our audience to be, who we want our main characters to be, and most of all- what kind of change we want to affect. My group picked the topic of income inequality in Vermont, specifically how if affects kids in schools. We found out that kids from lower-income families were negatively affected in school and didn’t have a lot of opportunities that other kids did. We found they performed worse on most standardized tests, and we want to find out why. That’s our driving question: How does income inequality affect kids in schools? We have just started this work, and as such we aren’t completely sure how we want to tell our story. We have a variety of ideas of who we want our audience to be, including policy-makers and other government officials, low-income families, teachers and school administrators, and the general public. Our goal is the expose to them the so-called Opportunity Gap that is found in schools, where lower-income kids don’t have the same opportunities for success that other kids do. In our documentary, we also want to have main characters that we can interview to share personal stories on how income inequality has affected them or their children in school. Some ideas we have for people to interview to be main characters in our documentary are lower-income students, parents, teachers, administrators, social workers, and more. This will all affect how our documentary will be made and how we will tell our story.

In What’s The Story, we are not only creating a documentary in an attempt to effect social change, but also learning important life-long skills that we don’t always have opportunities to learn in the classroom. What’s The Story uses lots of technology in a blended-learning environment, where lots of the work and communication is done online at our homes. This is something that I have never done, and probably will never do, in a standard classroom, but is a very important skill nonetheless. When we pick our topic and pursue it, we learn how to pursue refined questions, something that we will use often in our lives after education but we won’t necessarily learn in school. We also improve on managing our learning and giving feedback to our teammates, because since we don’t see each other in person often it is up to us to be responsible for work and to give each other deadlines. Through our blogging, research, and interviews, we learn how to interpret, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information. We also learn lots about filming and interviews- how to do them well, how to manipulate them in ways to get our message across, and how to use them in the best way to serve our purpose. These are all things that show what a special program What’s The Story is and how is gives us opportunities like no other. Here, we learn skills that we might not learn in the classroom, but are just as vital in life.

Finn Wormser
My name is Finn Wormser and I'm from Shelburne. I'm a ninth grader from CVU High School. This is my first time doing the program, but I'm familiar with it through friends and my brother. I love playing sports and watching sports. I play volleyball, basketball, and am going to start ultimate frisbee in the spring. I play the bass and my brother, dad and I like to pretend we're a band. I am very excited to start What's The Story and to learn about a social issue in Vermont.

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