Media Education: For Teachers and Students

Media Education
Integrating Media Arts into Classroom Learning

Utah Film Center’s Media Education programs benefit over 12,000 students each year. We introduce students and teachers to the power of film as a teaching and learning resource and work to improve students’ media literacy through film screenings, discussions, workshops, and classroom lessons that will increase student engagement, comprehension, and critical thinking while supporting core curriculum requirements for arts education.

SHIFT: Professional Development

Workshops and curriculum for grades 4-12 educators that provide immersive, high-quality professional development that supports the integration of the filmmaking process into educational settings.

In Your Classroom

Catering to Utah public school students, these free in-classroom interactive presentations help students develop the habits of inquiry and skills of expression to competently apply literacy skills to media and technology.


Festival Field Trips

Free Tumbleweeds Festival Field Trips for grades 1-12 as part of our Tumbleweeds Film Festival for Children and Youth. Each screening is followed by a discussion and all participating teachers will receive a study guide packet.

Film Spark

Documentaries paired with study guides to help the development of communication, critical thinking, media literacy, social action, and media creation.

Work for an educational organization, school district, or theatre and interested in offering educational resources to educators? Click here to see how we can help!

SHIFT: Professional Development

SHIFT changes how teachers teach and students learn.

Utah Film Center’s SHIFT program offers grades 4-12 educators immersive, high-quality professional development and curriculum that supports the integration of the filmmaking process into educational settings. Workshops and instructional materials provide comprehensive, standards-linked lesson plans to guide educators on how to produce documentaries, public service announcements (PSAs), instructional videos, personal narratives, and other short film projects with their students. The SHIFT model is committed to strengthening teacher practice, increasing student achievement, and developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills.

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Welcome educators and youth leaders!

If you work with youth in school or out-of-school, and are interested in integrating the filmmaking and other digital storytelling strategies into your instruction, SHIFT can train and guide you on how to produce documentaries, public service announcements (PSAs), instructional videos, personal narratives, and other short film projects with your students.

Our workshops and ongoing trainings are most often grant funded (and therefore at no charge to you). We work with school districts and partner with community organizations to customize professional development experiences for educators to fit the needs and geographic location of desired participants. Please check our upcoming workshops page to find a workshop that works for you.

Our Goals


Inspire teachers and increase the use of creative technology integration.

Stimulate classroom climate and excite students through the learning process.

Increase student achievement through enhanced instruction.

SHIFT Workshop Models

We understand that teachers’ plates are most often full. For that reason we offer distinct professional development workshop models to accommodate busy schedules.

Year Long
Intensive Model

Begins with a 2 to 3-day intensive training followed by quarterly or monthly trainings throughout the school year.


Customizable to fit your schedule and training needs. Typically it is a stand-alone hands-on 2 to 3-day workshop that walks educators through the filmmaking process and how that integrates into content instruction.


1 to 3-hour experiences typically at conferences and festivals that start with a youth media overview and introduces educators to the digital storytelling process and resources.

Workshop Objectives

Understand the fundamentals of the filmmaking process. Integrate creativity and relevant new technology to enhance teaching and learning.
Design standards linked lesson plans involving the cinematic process.
Celebrate the vision and voices of an emerging generation through digital storytelling.
Feel more confident with project-based learning. Integrate critical and inventive thinking in the classroom.

Participant incentives vary depending on the commitment level – all workshop participants receive a standards-linked SHIFT Filmmaking Curriculum Manual and eligible educators receive professional development credit for participating. To apply or register, please consult our “Available Workshops” tab.

2017-18 Annual Report

Click image above to see full report (will open in new tab)

How do I get started?

How is filmmaking relevant and helpful to delivering the necessary content to my students? SHIFT’s highly praised and teacher-friendly curriculum guide makes implementing media arts in the classroom accessible and relevant.

The 244 page resource guide, Learning in Focus: A Curriculum Guide to Engage, Teach, and Inspire Students through Filmmaking, contains five instructional units broken down into succinct lesson plans and a supporting thumb drive containing over 30 youth-produced short films, and digital versions of every handout.

These units are:

  • Unit One: Filmmaking Bootcamp
  • Unit Two: Personal Narrative
  • Unit Three: Instructional Video
  • Unit Four: Public Service Announcement
  • Unit Five: Documentary
Curriculum Guide: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Guide: Grades 9-12

Curriculum Guide: Grades 4-8
Curriculum Guide: Grades 4-8

Each media-rich unit consists of an average of seven lesson plans and two assessment rubrics and each lesson has been linked to relevant academic standards, including:

  • Common Core State Standards (CCSS): English Language Arts
  • International Society for Technology in Education Standards for Students (ISTE-S)
  • National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
  • New Media Arts Standards

Click below to preview the Table of Contents and curriculum samples from Unit One: Filmmaking Bootcamp and Unit Five: Documentary from this highly regarded instructional resource.


TOC Curriculum Sample


Filmmaking Bootcamp Sample


Documentary Curriculum Sample

Order a copy of Learning in Focus: A Curriculum Guide to Engage, Teach, and Inspire Students through Filmmaking.

*SHIFT provides a complimentary curriculum guide to every teacher who participates in their professional development training.

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Below is an ever-evolving list of resources we find useful and believe you will as well!

Click ‘Show Resources’ under header to view resources.

Filmmaking Essentials: Information about filmmaking equipment and general elements of the filmmaking process (also refer to the Curriculum and Resources section at the bottom of this page)

Filmmaking Apps: Filmmaking applications to use on mobile devices and/or computers

Audio Making Essentials: Podcast Sites & techniques for capturing good audio in film production

Copyright For Educators: Resources that explain the legal issues related to the music, video, and pictures in digital projects.  Note: These materials should not be understood as legal advice.  For legal advice about a particular problem or concern, always consult a qualified lawyer.

Copyright Free Resources for Video, Music, Sound Effects & Images: Refer to each site for copyright related to the site’s media.

Editing Software & Tutorials: Tutorials on multiple software platforms used in post-production stage of filmmaking

Distribution & Exhibition: Resources about sharing student work with a larger audience and sites for uploading student work.

Movie Media Galleries: Movies and other media projects produced by students, teachers, and professional filmmakers.

Media Literacy: Resources to help teach and strengthen students’ understanding of media literacy and their role as media consumers and producers.

Project-Based Learning: Resources to help teachers construct and implement project based learning experiences in the classroom.

Curriculum Resources & Lesson Plans: Digital media curriculum and lesson plan ideas for teachers to use and modify in the classroom.

Professional Development:  Sites with workshops or opportunities to enhance your teaching profession.


In Your Classroom Presentations for Students

The In Your Classroom program helps students develop the habits of inquiry and skills of expression to competently apply literacy skills to media and technology. Catering to Utah public school students, these in-classroom interactive presentations are free of charge and can be booked at any time during the school year. This program is made possible by the generous support of our sponsors.

Behind the Animation

We take students on a journey of storytelling by going in-depth into the behind-the-scenes process of an animated film. A professional animator leads your students through the creative process with specific attention paid to storytelling elements, construction, impact of message, and the collaborative nature of this art form. Click here to check out our pre-event materials.

This 50-minute interactive presentation is designed for 3rd – 12th graders. Based on your available room capacity, this presentation can be done for groups from a single class to a moderately-sized assembly.

All School Year
Available in the following school districts:
Salt Lake City, Granite, Murray, Jordan, Canyons, Alpine, Provo, Nebo, Park City, Tooele

October 7–11, 2019
Available in the following school districts:
Juab, Nebo, North Sanpete, South Sanpete, Sevier, Tintic

April 22-24, 2020
Available in the following school districts:
Garfield, Kane, Piute, Wayne

Moving Stories: VR and AR in the Classroom

*This presentation uses Oculus Go headsets. Oculus recommends these headsets for ages 13+ due to the size of the headset and the spacing of the lenses.

We bring the latest in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to your classroom to show how these immersive technologies can be used to create impactful stories. Students will learn the differences and similarities between traditional films and VR films, both from a filmmaking and an audience standpoint. After watching a VR documentary filmed in a Syrian refugee camp, students will create AR content to delve into their own personal stories.

This 50-minute interactive presentation is designed for a single class of 6th – 12th graders, that does not exceed 26 students.

All School Year
Available in the following school districts:
Salt Lake City, Granite, Murray, Jordan, Canyons, Alpine, Provo, Nebo, Park City, Tooele

October 7–11, 2019
Available in the following school districts:
Garfield, Kane, Piute, Wayne

April 19-25, 2020
Available in the following school districts:
Juab, Nebo, North Sanpete, South Sanpete, Sevier, Tintic

Real to Reel

Real to Reel is a classroom presentation that explores various styles of documentary film. Students will learn to interpret intent, understand how filmmaking techniques affect our perception of the content, and apply criteria to demonstrate how these choices convey meaning to the audience.

This program is on hiatus for the 2019/2020 school year.

2020 Tumbleweeds Festival Field Trips

Registration now open!

Monday, March 9 through Thursday, March 12
Library Square in downtown Salt Lake City, Viridian Library & Events Center in West Jordan, and SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem

Utah Film Center is pleased to offer FREE Tumbleweeds Festival Field Trips to grades 1-12 as part of our Tumbleweeds Film Festival for Kids. Field trips are curated with an eye toward introducing young audiences to the joys of international and independent cinema, creative thinking, and storytelling.

Scroll below and click on the type of field trip, Film or Workshop, you are interested in attending to see available venues, date, and times. Please note Workshops are only available on Monday, March 9 at The City Library in downtown Salt Lake City.

Underwriting for bus/transportation support is available, email mwalker [at] for information.

All film screenings include a post-film dicussion and a curriculum-linked study guide created by Utah Film Center’s Media Education department for educators to continue the conversation inspired by the film as part of their classroom activities.

Animated Shorts Program
with pre-film presentation and post-film discussion with a professional animator who graduated from BYU’s Animation Program.
Program runtime (film + discussion) is 75 minutes

A selection of animated films from around the world programmed specifically for youth film-lovers.

SCERA Center for the Arts
600 S 400 E

West Jordan
Viridian Library and Event Center
8030 S 1825 W

We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest
with post-film discussion.
Program runtime (film + discussion) is approx. 100 minutes

Directed by Amy Schatz
67 min | 2020 | USA | TV-G

Follow students from schools across Oakland, California in the months leading up to the 40th annual MLK Oratorical Festival as they hone their speeches, hoping for a coveted spot in the finals. From Emmy-winning director Amy Schatz and executive producer Mahershala Ali.

SCERA Center for the Arts
600 S 400 E

Salt Lake City
The City Library
210 E 400 S

with post-film discussion.
Program runtime (film + discussion) is 120 minutes

Directed by Frederike Migom
102 min | 2018 | Belgium/Netherlands | Not Rated
Cast: Bebel Tshiani Baloji, Mo Bakker, Joke Devynck, Baloji, Caroline Stas, Noa Jacobs

Twelve-year-old Binti dreams of becoming a famous vlogger like her idol Tatyana. But when the police raid her home, and try to deport her and her dad, they are forced to flee. Together with her friend Elias she now plots the perfect plan to stay in the country.

Presented in Dutch with English subtitles – reader provided.

To enhance our young viewers’ appreciation of foreign-language movies, we have readers read subtitles aloud. We play the readings through individual headsets, to allow those who do not require the service to experience the film without hearing the reader.

Salt Lake City
The City Library
210 E 400 S

Workshops connect kids directly with experts in animation, augmented reality, and virtual reality filmmaking. These workshops are designed to deepen students’ appreciation for storytelling while introducing them to media literacy concepts and the technology driving current and future forms of storytelling.

Workshop 1: Behind the Animation with Stop Motion Workshop
Instructor: Nathan Lindsay, Professor of Animation at BYU, animator for Disney Studios and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Program runtime 90 minutes.

An expanded version of our In Your Classroom program of the same name, this workshop will walk kids through the process of making an animated film. A professional animator who has worked for Disney/Pixar will lead this workshop.

Workshop 2: Augmented Reality Treasure Hunt on the History of Film
Instructors: Dane Christensen and Carol Dalrymple; VR filmmakers
Program runtime 90 minutes.

Explore the history and behind the scenes nature of film using Augmented Reality! Students will go on an Augmented Reality treasure hunt to learn about how cinema comes together and comes to life.

Salt Lake City
The City Library
210 E 400 S

Workshop 3: Virtual Reality Documentary Clouds Over Sidra
Instructor: Karem Orrego; filmmaker
Program runtime 60 minutes.

This workshop is modeled after our In Your Classroom Moving Stories workshop. Students will be taken on a virtual journey through the life and thoughts of a young Syrian girl named Sidra who is living with her family in a Refugee Camp. The use of VR headsets will take place in this workshop and an in-depth discussion on the film will take place after viewing the short documentary. Because of content, discussion, and advanced technology use, this workshop is designed for grades 6th and up.

Salt Lake City
The City Library
210 E 400 S

Film Spark

Documentary films are powerful, multi-sensory experiences that help students build social and emotional awareness and connect to current events, cultures, crucial social and political issues, and beliefs beyond their own. Addressing important themes such as identity, resilience, dedication, equality, and courage, the Film Spark documentary collection helps build empathy and showcases new voices and topics relevant to young people today. These curated global stories are selected to initiate meaningful classroom discussions and activities, and ultimately lead young people to develop their own voices and become more successful students and productive citizens.

Providing engaging video content and supporting the development of communication, critical thinking, media literacy, social action, and media creation, the Film Spark series is also paired with Educator Study Guides for grades 6-12.

Each Film Spark volume includes 12 DVDs and a standards-linked study guide for each film.

Film Spark was originally developed for Utah’s Youth-In-Custody education services. We are currently working on making this program and/or its elements available to all teachers. Please stay tuned!

To see the films included in volume 1 and 2, click here.

Stay Connected

Meet the Team
Education Manager

Michelle Walker

Michelle Walker is a teacher, writer, artist, photographer, and public speaker. She grew up in Fairfield, California and moved to Utah where she attended Brigham Young University. She received her BA in English Teaching with an accompanying minor in Art Education. She has had incredible experiences teaching literature and art to thousands of students grades 6-12 at Mapleton Junior High School and American Fork High School. Her greatest passion as an educator is to inspire students to authentically share their stories and to listen deliberately to the stories of others. As a result of this desire, she and some wonderful colleagues began and facilitated a slam poetry club, a school-wide annual storytelling slam, and an anti-bullying organization called ‘Be The Change’ that brought the student body into greater unity. She is dedicated to creating spaces where disparities can be bridged and humans can genuinely connect.

Part of what makes Michelle a unique, powerful, and versatile educator is her ability to collect of words, images, colors, stories, and experiences. She has travelled the world (and plans to continue these explorations), lived in Alaska leading groups of people into pristine areas of the state avoiding Brown Bear attacks, and hiked countless miles of Southern Utah’s desert washes. While her first love will always be the Pacific Ocean, there is something about the varied, arid, wide-stretching landscape of Utah’s red rock regions that captivate her. Her paintings, writing, and photography reflect her experiences along the Pacific Coastline and the time she has spent wandering Southern Utah. She is very excited to be a part of the Education Team at the Utah Film Center. She is a true teacher at her core and nothing makes her come alive like inspiring and empowering fellow teachers and students.

Education Producer

Danny Schmidt

Danny Schmidt is a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and instructor based in his hometown of Salt Lake City. He graduated from the University of Utah in 2005 and went on to get his MFA in Documentary Film from Montana State University in 2012. At the Utah Film Center Danny teaches courses in documentary, editing, and cinematography, actively updating curriculum and searching for new ways to get students and teachers engaged with the filmmaking process.

Danny works actively in the film industry, regularly traveling to far-flung corners of the globe telling stories about people, places, and wildlife. His work has appeared on Netflix, National Geographic, PBS, Smithsonian Channel, and many others.

He is happy to bring his professional expertise and teaching experience to teachers and students around Utah.

Founder / Instructor

Rick Wray

Rick Wray was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. His university education took him to Seattle and the University of Washington. Back in Utah in 1996, Rick brought an educational vision to fruition when he co-founded Higher Ground Learning (HGL), a creative tutoring and mentoring center focused on creating customized learning models based on students individual learning needs. While at Higher Ground, Rick realized the dynamic nature of digital storytelling and its enormous untapped potential after designing and teaching numerous media arts workshops. In 1999, Rick passed on the reins of HGL and founded Utah’s only not-for-profit youth media center, Spy Hop Productions. In 2003 he was the recipient of the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Service to the Arts Award and in 2010 was a Utah finalist for the Ernst and Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2010 after serving over 10,000 Utah youth with innovative audio, video and interactive programming as Spy Hop Productions’ Executive Director, Rick Wray stepped down to launch a full time teacher-training organization focused on integrating filmmaking and digital storytelling into classroom instruction. In September that year, Rick founded SHIFT and was the Executive Director through to 2015. In June of 2015, SHIFT joined the Utah Film Center and Rick is currently the Director of Education.

Major Funding and Support Provided By

POPS Logo FINAL blue  

Utah Film Center Media Education programs are supported by POPS

About POPS
POPS (Professional Outreach Programs in the Schools) is an educational outreach program in the fine arts that provides a mechanism for Utah’s professional art organizations to assist in teaching the Utah’s fine art core curriculum in the public schools. Professional organizations match state revenues to support and enhance the delivery of art education through demonstrations, performances, presentations, and educational activities in the schools. The program ensures that each of the 41 school districts have the opportunity to receive services in a balanced and comprehensive manner over three years.

Utah Film Center POPS 2018-19 Final Annual Report

For more information contact Utah Film Center’s Education Manager Michelle Walker at