A group of Cave Creek middle school students received more than grades at the end of their summer school class — they got film credits.
Eight Sonoran Trails Middle School students spent the past four weeks learning about preservation efforts in the Sonoran Desert as they made a half-hour documentary on the subject.
The film, “Beyond the Four Walls,” features interviews with about 10 people who live and work in the Sonoran Desert.
Students interviewed Cave Creek’s mayor, activists, developers and others about how they work to protect the environment, said media arts teacher Bill Watters.
“It was a very holistic look at our community,” he said.
The project, funded by a grant from Phoenix, also took the students on four field trips to different parts of the desert. Subjects were interviewed on location.
Brenna Leech, 12, said her favorite interview was with Tonto National Forest ranger Scott Wood because he “really knew a lot about what he was talking about.”
She also said the film had an important message.
“If you don’t protect the desert, sooner or later there’s going to be no desert left,” Brenna said. “We live in one of the most amazing environments, too, and if we don’t protect it, soon it will be gone.”
But the class wasn’t just about nature — it was also about making movies.
Students were involved in every aspect of the production, Watters said. They developed interview questions, ran cameras, edited film, and even created digital graphics and sound effects.
While the students knew some of the basics — they all had been in media arts with Watters during the school year — they hadn’t done anything this elaborate.
“They discovered their own creativity,” Watters said. “Some of them found talents they didn’t know they had.”
The film will soon be on the Cave Creek Unified School District’s Web site, www.ccusd93.org, and will air on Phoenix’s education channel, Know99, although Watters isn’t sure yet when it will run. It was shown Thursday night in the Cactus Shadows High School Fine Arts Center.
Brenna said she had mixed feelings before the event.
“I’m a little bit nervous. I’m hoping that we did OK,” she said. “But (I’m) proud, too.”