If It Makes You Want to Learn

Creativity in the Classroom: This documentary, originally shot in 16mm in 1970, was inspired by a Saturday feature story on an innovative education project written by its director, Greg Guma, then a reporter for the Bennington Banner. “We’re trying to give them a spark of creativity,” teacher Jeanne McWaters explained in the article. “We’re fighting a trend in society, to try to make them feel a sense of gratification in making something.” 

The 25 minute film follows the process of creativity-based learning in an elementary school. Specifically, it focuses on Geo-Boards (for geometry) and Fraction Boards, learning tools constructed from scratch by the students. Opening in the morning and concluding at day’s end, it shows the students making the two devices, with advice from teachers, then handling math and geometry problems with them. On the sound track, students, teachers and parents meanwhile describe the wide range of subjects to which these same methods can be applied, and how they enhance the learning process. The newspaper feature article that inspired the film follows the credits.

The project began in 1966 with a grant from the Ford Foundation and was subsequently supported by federal Title III funding. A video transfer was completed in 2021 by the Media Preserve, with assistance from Fred Pond and Rachel Onuf, and support from the John M. Bissell Foundation and Vermont Historical Society. 

The project’s aim, according to coordinator William Steele, was to provide an active approach to education that built in and integrated eye, hand and mind activities in the classroom — and an opportunity to bring students into contact with craftsmen and the materials they use in the world of work. As McWaters put it, “The idea was to make school a place where students wanted to come. Once you overcome the obstacles, the task of the teacher becomes much easier.”

  • Greg Guma
    Fragile Paradise
  • Mark Rogers
  • Greg Guma
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    25 minutes 5 seconds
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Greg Guma

Greg Guma grew up in New York City and moved to Vermont in 1968. Since then he has been a newspaper journalist, magazine editor, college educator, public administrator, community organizer, federal projects director, bookstore owner, historian, and CEO of the Pacifica Radio Network.

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