March Retreat: The Mark of a Feat

The florescent lights, and white washed walls of a classroom seem to disappear every time we enter the wood paneled rooms of the Common Ground Retreat in Starksboro. What once was an area of expectations and deadlines, is now an opportunity to discover a new learning method collaboratively and as an individual. “What’s the Story” is an extraordinary opportunity to explore community based, and international social issues, using a curriculum  that  adjusts to each student’s learning style. Every week, students determine  specific goals to be achieved before a regular meeting time, which is appointed by the collective members in each social action team. This allows for a flexible and comfortable work load, on a week to week basic.

Throughout this course, the cohort gathers during various stages of the classes’ progression, to learn about a range of skills and their application that are needed during each section of the program. For example, when we were ready to conduct interviews, we meet for an overnight, to learn about using media kits, and creating aesthetic in a film.  This involved learning about framing each shot, setting up microphones, and cameras etc.

Our weekend retreats provided not only in-person meetings with your team members and mentors, but also really nice lodging, fabulous food, and everything in between. Our stay at the Common Ground Center in Starksboro, provided heated rooms with bunk beds, meeting areas, and a dining room along with catered lunch, dinner and breakfast, which are all more the reason to apply for the WtS cohort.

“What’s the Story”, began with researching issues in our community and the people involved with these problems. This exploration really exposed Vermont based social issues, that we might had previously been unaware of. When a specific topic piqued your interest, we continued kindling our passion and understanding for the subject, in preparation for a “pitch” of our project ideas at the first retreat. During this “pitch”, we spoke about the issue, it’s significance and posed possible solutions. Many skills were gained during this initial meeting, including public speaking, being persuasive, and learning to collaborate and compromise. In following the creation of each social action team, we began researching, and reaching out to specific people involved in the matter in question, and set up interviews. From this, we learned the most effective ways to request an interview from various perspectives, how to ask effective questions, and how to frame a shot. When interviews were completely, we met again to discuss editing the footage, and story boarding the documentary, along with considering how to wanted to publicize our end products, which is generally our present stage.

This program is, once again, an incredible opportunity for students interested in film making, engaging in social issues, and exploring a different way of learning. Depending on the size of your group, the time commitment might vary, but there is definitely a possibility of daily work, but once you find something that is really interesting, the work is surrounded by a lot of learning and enjoyment. In conclusion, I highly recommend “What’s the Story” to any incoming students, and really enjoyed this years cohort.

Lena Ashooh

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