Putting Distractible Students in Cardboard Boxes? Mill Valley Said Yes in the 1960s
While researching documentary topics for their major semester project, Tam High film students discovered a little known, odd education practice at Ol' Mill School, circa 1960s — putting students in cardboard refrigerator boxes. (VIDEO)
Juniors and seniors in the AIM Film class worked for a month-and-a-half on their documentary projects last semester, and one group says they hit the jackpot when they discovered this bizarre story in the history of Mill Valley education.
"The late 60s in Mill Valley were a free and easy time. Considered a symptom of the era, Old Mill Elementary School underwent a major education reform. This sparked a heated dialogue among the townspeople," the film preface explains, "Kids were put in empty refrigerator boxes in an effort to foster creativity, individuality and focus. To say the least, there is a lot of controversy on what actually happened in the classroom. Ol' Mill School School in Mill Valley, Ca embraced the nationwide trend of alternative education by replacing traditional classrooms with large rooms full of cardboard boxes, couches, books and the occasional goat. More distractible students were put in empty refrigerator boxes, or study hotels, in order to promote self discipline and focus."
"I am passionate about making films," said senior Hana Dahl, who worked with Paula Veneables and Max Bayer to create this documentary, "Our assignment was to 'tell a story', and we were so lucky to get find this great subject that was really a reflection of the time period: groundbreaking and radical."
The students spent more than eight-hours interviewing teachers, students and parents in Mill Valley who had experience with the method of classroom segregation, followed by about 20-hours of editing to create the 12-minute video.
"We would really like to thank our interviewees, they were all great," said Dahl, "We wanted to portray their colorful palates while demonstrating a well rounded opinion of what happened in this bizarre practice."
The Tamalpais High School Academy of Integrated Humanities and New Media (AIM) is a challenging, two-year, three-subject program for juniors and seniors. It blends required social studies and English courses with a media elective, Computer Applications, providing students with the opportunity to get hands-on experience using digital video and audio production, web design, and other media applications through rigorous, inter-disciplinary projects.
"We are so lucky to live in a community that supports arts in education, you need something to connect with as a student, for some it's trigonometry, and some it's drama, but that is how school prepares us for the rest of our lives," explained Dahl, who says she would ultimately like to be a filmmaker. "When I grow up, of course, I would love to have my own production company, but we all have to start somewhere, so I think I will start with advertising and commercials, I like the blend of creativity and commerce."