APPLES Course Development Grant enhances filmmaking class

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By Kealia Reynolds

Rachel Schaevitz wanted her students to experience working with real-world clients while creating media in public service. So, she applied for an APPLES Service-Learning course development grant and proposed that students in her COMM 493 film production class pair with university departments to create videos to use as teaching tools in K-12 and community college classrooms. The course is a collaboration between the Department of Communication and Carolina Public Humanities. Inspired by retired professor Francesca Talenti, Schaevitz, a post-doc research associate in the Department of Communication and Carolina Public Humanities, revised her class to include a service component where student filmmaker teams collaborate with educators across campus.

Course development grants successfully integrate community-based service into the curriculum and promote the pedagogy of service-learning at UNC.

“One of my favorite things about this course is that it is truly interdisciplinary, truly helps students serve the public in a meaningful way that relates to their career goals, and truly takes advantage of the myriad resources available here at UNC,” Schaevitz said.

Jaycee Rogers films for her class

Some students in Schaevitz’s class experienced filmmaking for an education-based audience for the first time ever. So, the creative decisions made were filtered through the lens of education. They had to keep the attention of high school students, explain complicated historical material and creatively incorporate faculty experts.

“As the films started taking shape, students became increasingly excited about the prospect that students and teachers in classrooms all over the state would be relying on their work for educational information,” Schaevitz said. “This added a layer of responsibility and accountability to what would otherwise have been a purely artistic project.”

When Jaycee Rogers ’17, a communication studies and English major from Robbinsville, North Carolina, found out that their videos would be used in classrooms, she understood the potential the projects had.

“Knowing that this video was actually going to be useful to educate someone made me push harder to create a great video,” Rogers said. “The aspect of community service made it more than just a class — I was doing this to help a system that needed content to teach kids who need to learn.”

Thanks to the grant, Schaevitz fully integrated a community-based service component into the course. Schaevitz also realized an added impact; the grant allowed her to engage with the Department of Music, incorporating an interdisciplinary experience for the students. They could go beyond the classroom and partner with another professor’s class to enhance their videos. Schaevitz’s students worked with Professor Allen Anderson’s advanced composition course to have his students create original scores for each film made in her class.

“Because we had funds from APPLES, we could pay for mixing and engineering of original student-produced music for all six films in the class,” Schaevitz said.

While Schaevitz and her students anticipated that middle and high school teachers would use the films, they didn’t imagine it would extend beyond that. “We’ve loved learning that professors here at UNC are using our videos as instructional tools in the university classroom as well,” Schaevitz said.

The partnership between Schaevitz’s course and the Carolina K-12 program, also under the Carolina Public Humanities department, will place the class’ videos on a database of educational resources available to teachers across North Carolina. Once the videos are added to the database, teachers across the country will use them to help teach their students.

Schaevitz and her students expected their work to have an educational impact. But the students did not expect the emotional impact the course would have on them. Rogers added how essential it was having professor Schaevitz lead the class. “There were parts in this class that were incredibly hard when deadlines were approaching and she was always there to push us and jump into the thick of production with us,” Rogers said. “Without her, I don’t think the motivation and the sense of community would have been as strong.”