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End-of-year Inspiration and Ideas from Young Artists, Writers and Filmmakers

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Graduation, summer break, new experiences and next steps loom large in the minds of students and educators this time of year.

The research journal Youth Media Reporter together with the Alliance for Media Arts and Culture have published a Special Issue that matches this future-facing mood. The issue is packed with articles, art, images and lesson plans to spark inspiration in the last weeks of school.

Nineteen contributors ranging in ages from 16 to 50+ tackled themes around the question: What are our desired futures? The issue follows The Alliance’s 50 State Dinner Party Project, which used gatherings over a simple dinner as a way to start conversations around civic issues.

“This journal contains the desired futures, unforgettable pasts, and unavoidable realities of artists, educators, practitioners, students, and media makers across the country. It is a diary of experiences and dreams,” wrote Myah Overstreet, who edited the special issue. Overstreet is a San Francisco State student and The Alliance’s Producer of Youth Engagement.

These experiences and dreams can also inspire students, educators and classrooms. Below are some ideas for turning youth-created art, poetry and commentary from the Special Issue into conversations, model texts and multimedia projects.


Poem: the future is a choir by Ash Tré Phillips

Phillips, a 2015 and 2016 Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam finalist uses rhythm, repetition, metaphor and accessible language to write about the force of love that unites humanity. The poem is both a model text and conversation starter for middle and high school students alike.

Essay: A Space of Our Own by Kadijah Means

Means, a Black Lives Matter activist and UC Santa Cruz student, writes about the importance of a “unique and exclusive place for self-expression” for black women. With explicit connections to Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” and a conversation between two celebrities at a film festival, Means discusses the rarity of such safe spaces and their vital importance. Older high school and college students will find much to discuss and respond to in this thoughtful, multifaceted text that explores historic and current questions of intersectionality and identity.

Photo essay: Dum Spiro Spero by Ashley Sanchez

Sanchez, 20, has studied photography since 10th grade. Her powerful photos explore her relationships with her mother and siblings, along with overcoming the struggles of coming out. The powerful, often stark black-and-white images tell a story and provide a model for middle and high school students to explore their own family relationships and identities with images. (For more on communicating with digital photography, check out this course on KQED Teach)

Short films: Mock Identity by Megan Aubry, The Window by George Relyea, CO2 by Logon Rosson and Madelyn Anne Willardson, and Dancing with Thorns by Mary Nejatifar and Peque Curiel.

Four distinct short films by Salt Lake City high school and college filmmakers from the Spy Hop digital media program examine identity, wellness and the connection to the past, present and future. The films, suitable for mature middle school and high school students, start conversations surrounding these topics and can be used to analyze film-making techniques.

Lesson plan: Creative Lens Autoethnography Sessions by Andrea Juarez

Juarez is a San Francisco artist, philanthropist, student and educator whose work centers on participatory action research. This lesson plan for youth ages 16-24 introduces students to the basic concept of autoethnography and creative research methods using PhotoVoice and Digital Ethnography. An introduction to grounding meditation and self-reflective practices is also a key part of this lesson.

Explore all of the Special Issue, which also includes a lesson plan on lowering the youth voting age from KQED and articles from educators that explore tools, ideas and theories all centered on the importance of youth media creation.

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