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Four Directions Offers Innovation in Media Arts

Julie (Minnesota Association of Charter Schools) Originally published May 2004

When leaders at Four Directions, an urban charter school located in North Minneapolis, asked a group of ten high school students to teach teachers and students from another urban charter school how to implement a successful media arts program through peer mentorship, they knew the idea was innovative-innovative enough to win them national recognition and a Federal Public Charter Schools Dissemination Grant.

In November, Four Directions’ Director Ron Buckanaga, Media Artist Kristine Sorensen, and two students presented their successful media arts program at the National Indian Education Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. The school has also been invited to share their program and student artwork at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Through the Federal Dissemination Grant, Four Directions has been working with High School for the Recording Arts (HSRA) in a peer mentorship program. According to Four Directions student Shawnesha, “We aren’t scared or shy to be the teachers. We are excited. We’ve practiced ourpresentation, and we really know how to use the equipment and software. This project will help prepare us for our future. Many of us want to be teachers or leaders in our community.”

The media arts program gives students the opportunity to learn about photography and video production. Students utilize equipment and software to create photographs and videos around particular topics ranging from family history to social activism to culture.

The Federal Dissemination Grant has given students and teachers from Four Directions the opportunity to go to HSRA and teach them how to implement their own media arts program. Ten students were paid $10 per hour to teach teachers and approximately twenty students at HSRA about camera operation, sound production, project planning, critical viewing, editing, critiquing, and presentation. Through the teaching and learning process, the ten students at Four Directions had the opportunity to mentor their peers in creating media arts.

Four Directions began its media arts program in 1991, even before Four Directions was a charter school. Director Ron Buckanaga attributes the success of many students to the media arts program:

“This program is really making a difference for students. Through the media arts program students are becoming engaged in school and improving their academic achievement. Fifty percent of our graduates are going on for college, and we’re dealing with one of the most challenged populations. We are proud of the work we are doing.”

Buckanaga, who founded the school, received the 2004 Minnesota Charter School Educator Hall of Fame Award for his leadership at Four Directions.

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