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Digital Moviemaking Projects for Geography Globetrotting

By Alycia Zimmerman on December 11, 2013
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Geography has the reputation for being the stodgy maiden aunt of the social studies family. Previously, I wrote about five low-tech but high-impact projects to teach geography in relatable and hands-on ways. Now, several years later, my students’ geography projects are far more tech-oriented. Check out three new ways my students use digital moviemaking to share their geographic knowledge.


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Inspired Moviemaking

As a preteen, I religiously watched Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego on public television, and all of my geographic knowledge of the world came straight from, (and only from) those whodunit globetrotting capers. I recently downloaded an old episode from YouTube to share with my students for our world geography unit. I was pleasantly surprised that the show stands the test of time, even if some of the countries did not, (Yugoslavia, Zaire, huh?!) My kids were smitten with the format of the program — particularly with the giant-map country-identification challenge at the end. (If you’re unfamiliar with the TV show, you can watch a final-round challenge and many old episodes on YouTube.)

In fact, they loved the show so much, they wanted to create their own updated Carmen Sandiego-inspired game show to share with the world. Not only did this mean that they’d be learning a lot of world geography, they’d also flex their creative problem-solving skills and learn about digital movie editing. (They edited their videos using iMovie on an Apple computer.) Check out their homemade “Carmen Sandiego-style” game show videos below!


Mobile users can access the Asia video here.

Mobile users can access the Europe video here.

To create the giant floor maps used in the videos, my students taped together the free printable wall-maps from National Geographic Education’s MapMaker Kits.


Me on the Map Movies

Geography can seem impersonal at first. Sure, we live on those landmasses drawn onto maps, but how does that really relate to our students’ lives? Each year, as one of our first geography activities, my students research where in the world their families originally come from. Here is a sample interview form that I created with my students.

In past years, we used pins and string to create a map display of where everyone came from:

This year, I decided to add a technology component to our heritage map to introduce the students to green screen movie making and QR codes. Check out fellow blogger, Christy Crawford who has great ideas for using green screens in Go Green (Screen) in October as well as using QR Codes in the Classroom. For our project, we used the easy-as-pie iPad app Green Screen Movie FX Studio*. I demoed the app for five students, who turn-keyed the instructions to small groups of their peers. Here are some of their movie attempts, filmed without any adult guidance or help.

Mobile users can access Allesandra's movie here.


Mobile users can access Eli's movie here.

(*It turns out that my students and I actually prefer iMovie for green screen movie editing — it’s not really any more complicated, and the results are better, as you’ll see in the World Tour movie below. However, for very simple and basic green screen movie making, the Green Screen Movie FX Studio app is definitely an inexpensive and easy, if less customizable, solution.)

For our first green screen movies, we just taped a piece of bright green bulletin board paper to the wall. It was a decent and free solution, although the green screen effect was spotty in places. So I decided to invest in an actual green screen — really just a sturdy color-saturated sheet. It cost $20 from the ubiquitous online retailer of everything. I stapled the sheet-screen to a corkboard in the hallway for our green screen movie studio.

We posted the students’ green screen geography introduction movies online, and then created QR codes for the links to the movie. Our new techie heritage map display uses QR codes to direct people to the students movies. Good-bye pins and string!


Green Screen World Tours

After making their short “Where My Family Comes From” videos, my students are obsessed with green screen movie making – it’s magical, playful, and kids love the process. Three girls put together this movie with information about six countries around the world while also developing their green screen cinematography skills.

Mobile users can access the Green Screen World Tour here.

While they are still working out the kinks of filming green screen footage, the girls filmed and edited this movie on their own. Yes, it really is so easy that kids can do it on their own. Don’t believe me? Watch this short video tutorial that shows how to make an iMovie green screen movie in less than two minutes.

Mobile users can access the Green Screen How-To Video here.

Questions about digital moviemaking? Suggestions for other digital moviemaking projects? Tips from the trenches? Please share any questions or suggestions in the comments section below. And for updates on my future blog posts, follow me on Facebook or Twitter!

Comments (6)

I am so impressed with this project and excited to give it a try in my own classroom! Thanks for sharing!

My pleasure, Holly. It's so great to connect with other classrooms and teachers. Thanks for your comment! :)

My first reaction to watching this was "WOW!!!" I am new to ipads. This is the first year that I have had one for myself and one for my classroom. The kids already love them, but I know this will knock their socks off when they see these video clips. Thanks for the sharing this information about green screen movies.

Hi Libbie, thanks for writing! My students will be so proud to know that their work is inspiring another class. It's a lot of fun to watch how our classrooms change as we turn over the technological reigns to our students. I've only been teaching for seven years, and in that time my teaching has changed so much! As far as movie-making with the iPads goes, both iMovie and the FX Studio app are easy enough for the kids to use and mostly figure out on their own. Good luck and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions! All the best - Alycia

I love the idea of students producing green-screen videos. I can't wait to show them your samples and see what creativity it inspires in them!

Thanks so much for the feedback, Mary! I'd love to hear about what your students end up creating. There are so many curricular possibilities!

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