Integrating Media Arts into Classroom Learning

Utah Film Center’s Media Education programs bring arts education into the classroom by introducing teachers and students to the transformational power of film. Our programs demonstrate how an arts education is important and beneficial for students, by helping them improve their media literacy skills, increasing their engagement, and building their critical thinking abilities. The free film screenings, workshops, and lessons we offer help students achieve these goals while supporting the core curriculum requirements for arts education.

Behind the Animation graphic
Our FREE classroom workshops offer an opportunity to have a professional in the filmmaking industry teach students about what goes on behind the scenes in ...
Free Films for Teachers
Our library of films and short films are available to stream in the classroom for FREE along with study guides to enhance student learning, exploration, ...
Teacher Professional Development
Our FREE teacher professional development program offers a high-quality curriculum and professional development for educators to integrate filmmaking and the filmmaking process into their classroom ...

In Your Classroom: Behind the Animation

Virtual Classroom Presentations for Students

The In Your (Virtual) 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 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

Behind the Animation is an introductory program that takes 3rd-8th grade students on a behind-the-scenes journey into the magical world of visual storytelling. Guided by a professional animator, this workshop will illuminate elements of visual storytelling with specific attention paid to the use of color, shapes, and facial expressions, and body language.

Click here to check out our pre-event materials.

This 40-minute interactive Zoom presentation is designed for 3rd-8th graders.

All Behind the Animation sessions are booked for spring 2021. Please check back in late summer for fall dates.


The two programs below are on hiatus for the 2020/2021 School Year

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.

This program is on hiatus.

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.

Film Spark

Curriculum Aligned Films & Study Guides

Film Spark collections are selected to initiate meaningful classroom discussions and activities that ultimately lead young people to deepen their understanding of the content and further develop their own voices. We believe strongly in the power of film as a teaching tool to build empathy, unlock new worlds and help kids build a strong sense of self. Please enjoy these free teaching resources, and as always, if you have themes you wish to explore reach out to us as we continue to be a partner to teachers in this unique teaching environment.

Film Spark Shorts

Film Spark now offers short films! Study guides are available along with four new short films exploring themes of adventure, breaking barriers, family bonds, and more. Click on the titles below to watch the short films and download study guides.

The Present

The Present

The story of a boy who would rather spend his time indoors playing video games instead of discovering what’s waiting outside the front door. One day his mother decides to


Deep in the Norwegian forest, there is an old man, living an orderly and quiet life. Closed off from the rest of the world, he spends his days together with
Iron Hands

Iron Hands

Iron Hands (Tie Shou) tells the story of a determined 12-year-old girl who finds an unexpected ally in her bid to join the traditionally all-boys Chinese youth Olympic weightlifting team.


JessZilla is about a ten-year-old with a fire in her heart for boxing and a dedicated father caught between supporting her dreams of becoming a professional fighter and worries about

Film Spark Documentaries

Click on the film still below to watch trailers, learn where to stream, and download study guides.

All curriculum is standards-aligned and supports pre and post screening discussions and hands-on activities.



A social worker works to share their important discovery – that listening to music can unlock the memories of people suffering from dementia.


The Anthropologist tells the parallel stories of famed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead and Susie Crate, an environmental anthropologist currently studying the impact of climate change. Mead and Crate’s daughters are


A young man from Pennsylvania decides to change his life after he visits an HIV orphanage in India.


The story of a young woman who used her experience with being cyberbullied to start a worldwide anti-bullying crusade.


A candid look at the effects of bullying on teens in America’s heartland.


Making the case that the obesity epidemic in America’s children isn’t due to lack of exercise, but to excessive sugar intake.


Explores the life and tragic death of Matthew Shepard, the gay student murdered in Laramie, WY.


An analysis of the growing problem of food insecurity in America.


Follow four young men as they attempt to prove the value of mustang horses by riding them from Mexico to Canada.

*Study guides are property of the Utah Film Center and require written or electronic consent before sharing or distributing. Please respect the law and the artist(s) behind the work when exhibiting documentary film work, and if you’re not showcasing the media in a lawful manner purchase the appropriate screening license from the filmmaker or distribution company.


A documentary film is a nonfiction movie intended to chronicle reality. Documentaries are made to instruct, or to create a lasting record of their subjects. They are often used to inform people about social issues, showcase historical events, or celebrate memorable lives.

Some styles of documentary film include expository (meant as an authoritative voice, explaining something to the viewer), observational (fly-on-the-wall), poetic (experimental, impressionistic), and reflexive (draws attention to the filmmaker and the filmmaking process).

As soon as motion pictures were invented, people used them to document their lives. The first publicly screened film and documentary was an 1895 movie titled Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory. It showed crowds of people flowing out of the factory at the end of the workday. This subject not only showcased the movement this new medium could capture, but provided a look into the lives of the workers at the Lumiere’s photo equipment factory. Twenty seven years later in 1922, the first feature-length documentary, Nanook of the North, was released.

Some successful contemporary documentary filmmakers include Davis Guggenheim (He Named Me Malala), Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), Laura Poitras (Citizenfour), Lucy Walker (The Crash Reel), and Michael Moore, whose Fahrenheit 9/11 is the top-grossing documentary of all time.

The “Activities” section of the Film Spark Study Guides include Making Art and Making Media activities that may require either accessing online resources (most often a website), some further explanation, or, for the media-making activities in particular, acquiring a new skill set. Here we have provided some guidelines and links to supplemental resources to help you and your students successfully navigate these activities efficiently and effectively.

Making Art Activities 

We highly recommend that the Making Art activities be done in a sketchbook that we refer to in the Study Guides as a “portfolio.” The sketchbook should be approximately 9×12 inches and contain blank, unlined pages for sketching and drawing.

Making Media Activities 

Infographic Posters
Infographics are visuals that help you share information. The websites referenced below and in the Study Guides not only provide users with multiple examples and ideas, but also makes the process much easier, requiring little to no graphic design skills. Once you enter either of these free infographic sites, you can choose a poster template that you can then edit and customize according to your data needs and layout ideas. |  piktochart

Audio Mixes
An audio mix, or sound collage, is a mixture of voices, sound effects, and music (optional) that have been recorded on a device, such as an iphone, then put into audio editing software (we recommend downloading Audacity (free) for Macs or PCs) and edited to create a complete audio piece. The strength of the message derives from the multiple perspectives (many people speaking to any given topic). These stories can be podcasted on itunes for example, or posted to sound platforms such as, where anyone can share their audio pieces. The site below, also referenced in the Study Guides, is not only a sound platform where anyone can post, but also contains a “resource for educators” section that takes you through the steps of creating audio stories with your students.

soundcloud | Radio Rookies

Public Service Announcement (PSA) Campaigns
A PSA is like a short commercial and is sometimes presented as a video (typically 30-60 seconds), audio piece (heard on the radio), or found in print form in magazines, billboards, or newspapers. A PSA attempts to raise awareness about a problem or issue and persuades the audience to take action to solve a problem. The key to a good PSA is a clear and concise message intended for a specific audience, accurate facts, and figures, a catchy tagline such as “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute,” and a call to action that directs the audience to additional resources where they can help solve the problem. When creating video PSAs, it is important to have students carefully plan, including storyboarding their piece, before shooting and keeping track of research sources for the credits. Video editing software comes free on Macs and PC’s and can be used to edit films. For PSA tutorials check out YouTube,, or Vimeo Video School. Consult the Ad Council website for many print examples and to understand the history of PSAs. For a selection of student-produced PSA video examples go to the SHIFT Media Gallery and scroll down to the PSA section.

Photo Films
Also known as audio slideshows, this format is popular with journalists and combines audio narration (a story told and recorded) with photographs. Together, they can resemble a film as the still photos progress with the audio story. A few good examples done by Amy O’Leary for the New York Times can be found through the link below. Adding sound effects, and/or a soundtrack is optional and a bit more advanced, but is something to aspire to as they enhance the story and create ambiance. For guidance, consult the Vimeo School “storytelling with sound” link.

StoryTelling with Sound | Amy O’Leary Step-By-Step and Audio Slideshow Examples

Stop Motion Animation
Stop Motion is a technique that brings inanimate objects to life by taking a series of photographs and stringing them together to create the illusion of motion. The How-To-Do-Stop-Motion site has a series of “how to” videos that not only show you technique but provide specifics on how to animate certain objects. If you are looking for a step-by-step guide, the Adobe Education Exchange website under the youth media category has an eight-session stop motion animation curriculum called “stories in motion” that will direct you through the process.

Media Literacy Project: This site contains some of the best media literacy curricula and action guides to help teach and strengthen students’ understanding of media literacy and their role as media consumers and producers.

PBS Learning Media: A media-rich website that lets you search by subject matter, grade level, and media type to find standards-aligned digital resources and professional development experiences. Also explore for curriculum-aligned resources for students to further explore topics of interest.

HandHeld Hollywood: Known as HHH, this is great site to research affordable gear, the newest filmmaking-related iOS apps, and to find inspiration.

Vimeo Video School: An amazing resource that hosts a variety of software tutorials in Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, and Windows Movie Maker, as well as shares other Do-It-Yourself (DIY), low-budget, high-quality production tips. They also host thematic “weekend challenges” that students can participate in.

KQED: This public media station out of San Francisco, California has a robust education section that includes professional development opportunities, digital tools that are usually free, easy to access and use, and media-making tool kits. Check out their twitter feed as well: @KQEDedspace for a plethora of ideas and inspiration.

ProjectED: A site for students and educators that hosts contests for students and creators, and contains videos and lesson plans for teachers.

Spy Hop Productions: A nationally-acclaimed youth mentorship digital media arts organization where young people can take classes, participate in digital media driven community events, and step into their creativity. Their Vimeo channel has a plethora of inspiring, high-quality youth-produced films.

Adobe Education Exchange: This site has endless digital media resources for teachers to execute digital storytelling with youth. Beginning through advanced digital media professional development classes are also offered, as well as an extensive youth media section that features a huge media gallery from around the world where youth have created meaningful works on a range of issues important to them and their communities.

The Study Guides that have been created to accompany each of the Film Spark films have been aligned to multiple curriculum standard areas, including: Utah Fine Arts Core Standards-Secondary Media Arts, Utah Core State Standards for English Language Arts-Secondary, Utah Standards for Library Media-Secondary, and the Film Foundation’s National Film Study Standards for Middle School.

The key relevant “Anchor” and “Strand” Standards from each discipline are listed below, but to see a comprehensive list of supporting Sub-standards and Objectives, please click on the appropriate title link below.


Anchor Standards (grades 7-8)

Respond–Students will perceive and analyze artistic work and process. They will interpret intent and meaning, and apply criteria to evaluate artistic work and process.

Connect–Students will synthesize and relate knowledge from personal and collaborative experience to make and receive art. They will relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

Anchor Standards (grades 9-12)

There are three “Levels” and Anchor Standards of “Respond” and “Connect” are identical throughout each Level, but with differing Sub-standards by ability.

Level One

Respond–Students will understand, evaluate, and articulate how works of art convey meaning for the observer as well as the creator.

Connect–Student will relate artistic skills, ideas, and work with personal meaning and external context.


College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening

Comprehension and Collaboration

  1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.


Strand II Literacy: Information and Research

Students need the lifelong skills of selecting information from a wide variety of sources, assessing its worth, and applying newfound knowledge to problems, preparing them for learning, doing, and problem solving in college, career and throughout life. Teacher librarians will instruct students in a multi-step research process that is adaptable. As students gain research skills, they develop self-confidence in solving information problems in an environment where information resources and technologies have become increasingly complex.

Standard 4–Students will engage with and extract information.

Strand III Literacy: Media Engagement

In order to make informed decisions, students must successfully discern and interpret the messages surrounding them in media. Teacher librarians, in collaboration with classroom teachers, can integrate these skills into curricular units throughout a wide range of core and elective subjects.

Standard 1–Students will demonstrate that media literacy is a life skill integral to modern citizenship and informed decision-making.


Standard 1.0–Film Language

Standard 2.0–Historical and Cultural Contexts

Standard 3.0–Production and Creative Expression

Standard 4.0–Viewers’ Response and Aesthetic Valuing

Standard 5.0–Cross-Curricular Connections

Already have a printed Film Spark volume? Access the password protected study guide pages below.

Volume 1: Study Guides Volume 2: Study Guide

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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 2019-20 Final Annual Report

For more information contact Utah Film Center’s Media Education team at