Leaving Independence is an episodic feature that follows an eighth grade class on an adventurous journey of self discovery, character growth development, and independent thinking.
We set out nearly a year ago to document the unique teaching style of Dave Vixie a multi-award winning educator; using one of his simulations to be the canvas of our project. The one we chose was Dave’s simulation of the historical American wagon migration from the East to the West via the Oregon and California trail. The pinnacle of this simulation is Dave taking his eight grade class in authentic covered wagons, dressed up in 19th century clothing and retracing the footsteps of America’s ancestors in an attempt to bring to current life the history of that great migration.
Mr. Vixie uses the wagon trip experience to create an environment where young people are given reigns to make their own decisions as they embark upon a great adventure. A teenager coming into the eight grade year enters upon a monumental time of their life; as the cords of parental control start to loosen, their life journey of real world decision making starts to become more prominent.
What we sought to capture in this wagon trip experience exceeded our expectations. It became immediately clear that we weren’t just filming wagons rolling across a desert trail but the reality of individual experiences, decisions and consequences that followed. There was a lot of joy, laughter, tears, fear, and overcoming, which is precisely the experience of the early pioneers. Watching these teenagers reminds us that no matter what time of earths history you were born into, we all share simlar struggles, failures, triumphs and joys.
We feel that this is a project that every student, teacher, parent, and American for that matter NEEDs to see. It is not only our heritage, but it is who we are and what we have become as a nation.
Who is Dave Vixie
In short Dave Vixie is an Eighth grade teacher out of Northern California. The long, well, its going to just take way to much time to really tell you about him. Nevertheless it is not too often that you come across an educator who is so passionate about learning that he will do what it takes to get that “ah-ha” moment even if it’s only out of one student.
It was was in seventh grade that Dave made the decision to be a teacher, why because he wanted to help young people. At the time Dave’s visual of a teacher and his methods were “black and white”, rigid, and very traditional. Influenced by some key moments in his growing life he adopted an unorthodox way of educating young people. What do we mean by ‘unorthodox’? Education as it stands, programs students with predictable, testable knowledge, memorize and you pass the class and move on. Do the students really learn and understand the subject matter? Have they become solid, innovative independent thinkers, enabled to critically and logical navigate through life’s situations or are they just mere reflectors of another man’s thoughts, learning the minimum there is to learn. Dave wanted to move past this conventional way of educating and desired his students to gain more than just a head knowledge, he wanted them to have an experience.
What does this experience look like?
While Dave’s teaching methods have evolved and become more elaborate over the years, one of the consistent implementations into his curriculum is that of simulation. Where the students are put into a historical context, a full immersion into place, time, and lifestyle. The rows of desks go away (temporarily) and are replaced with time period structures, wagons, maps, animals and clothing. Do the students still learn their math, science, english, and other subjects? Of course, but now they learn in the context of history. While they may have only learned from the textbook a paragraph or two on a particular subject they are now learning by experience, an experience that goes way past a 2D picture, a few words and a letter grade. Dave guides them on a journey to think for themselves, to make decisions, that have consequences which teach, nurture, and mature students to better decisions. We thought this was brilliant enough to capture on video.
This is where you have the opportunity to become partners with us in this project, to share in this heritage and bring this history back to life. This project is already shot, in fact we have already captured hundreds of hours of footage, now we need your help to finish the film. We originally set out to film a documentary but after capturing all the footage we realized that we had captured so many amazing scenes and scenerios that drastically cutting away the “fat” to make it into a documentary would compromise the whole end product experience. Therefore we decided to turn Leaving Independence into an episodical feature. Check out our Kickstarter page:
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