My name is Heath Hamrick, and for ten years I’ve been
fighting the good fight: trying to
convince high school students that history wasn’t completely boring. I’ve been a teacher, mostly at charter
schools, working with the at-risk, and working against the conception they all
have about my subject. I can’t really
blame them: History does its best to be interesting and relevant; history
teachers, now, there’s the problem. I hate to turn on my own, but few people on Earth can put me to sleep
faster than a dose of Nyquil, and all of them teach history. History is as loaded in drama, death, destruction, love, fear, hate, and bad fashion as
television melodrama, and yet, and yet,
history teachers insist on ignoring these elements and focusing on what’s
really important: dates.
Welcome to sarcasm, friend of high school teachers
A few years ago, I realized that sometimes History teachers
need a little helping hand...and History students a quick, relatively simple
and visually interesting look at what's gone down. So I started making little two-to-three
minute videos to help my kids find a little interest and humor in a subject
they love to hate. At first I scraped
together footage from films and documentaries so I could illustrate my points,
and my little cartoon avatar changed as I started making more of these little
“History By Hamrick” videos. My Vimeo
page, the School of Imagication, gets thousands of loads weekly from schools
across the country, which is odd considering I haven’t ever advertised these
little videos. Even thrown together by a
teacher with no disposable income and very little free time, who has never made
ANY effort to advertise them, this videos are proving successful. Now I’d like to take it to the next level.
Hence, my idea: a
webpage for History videos, little two or three minute vignettes, that don’t
suck the life out of the subject with dry dates and a bare recitation of
facts. We’ve got sites like Khan Academy
for the Math and Sciences, but History is the most reviled subject out there,
and students and parents both need a resource that’s short, simple, clear, and
damned entertaining…and did I mention, free? I don’t want to make a profit; I want kids to come away from these vids
thinking history is a lot cooler than they thought.
Which is where you fine folks come in. I’m looking for funding to produce the
footage necessary to make History By Hamrick a reality. I’m a teacher, so I’m used to doing a lot
with a little, so I’m not asking for the moon; funds are going to be used to
purchase costumes and props and help feed my actor friends a little pizza so
they don’t completely hate me for making them dress up in heavy armor or wool
uniforms in the Texas heat. The result
will be an absolutely FREE resource for students, teachers, and parents
As for me? I’ve
been shooting and editing digital video for over a decade, using it in the
classroom as much as humanely possible. I’ve won two teaching
grants, from Lockheed-Martin and Best Buy, and lectured or presented at
multiple statewide educated conferences, including the Texas Charter School
Association Conference, the Texas Association of Alternative Education
Conference, and the Region IX Technology Conference. I’ve got the skills and experience to pull
this off, and help a lot of kids while I’m at it. I just need your help.
Risks and challenges
After we achieve our funding goal, the challenges are those facing normal "independent" film-makers; obtaining costumes and props, finding actors and locations, arranging shoots, etc. It takes very little to make a successful tutorial video: passion for the subject, wit, some visuals that aren't simple pictures or maps, and a nice under-score. Fortunately, we have all of these things in abundance...all we need is the funding to get the costumes and props!
We also face a unique challenge: historical events become harder to re-enact the closer to modern times we get, Our funding level may enable us to get through a large swathe of history, but as we get closer to the World Wars, we start running into some pretty hefty needs when it comes to costuming, props, actors, and even CGI graphics. At this point, we'll focus on the beginning and work our way forward, and we anticipate reaching at least the American Civil War before the need for additional funds (or creative camera-work!) becomes an issue.
Of course, any endeavor in education runs a simple risk: will this resource be used or tossed aside? Will it reach students? Will it engage them? Will it clarify a point? Nothing would be worse than a series of unwatched web videos. However, consider a few mitigating factors: the creator is an grant-winning teacher with a gift for education. You can see testament to that in his multiple speaking engagements at teacher conferences in Texas, and by a decade's worth of the praise of students and parents. He is also a published author, with two published books under his belt; AND he has been working with students and digital video since his first years as a teacher. In other words: he can write effectively, he can teach effectively, and he can film and edit effectively.
Originally, the funding amount was closer to 30,000 dollars, but we've made a few cuts: we'll film as many History By Hamrick videos as we can before the money runs out, focusing on Ancient History (Greece and Rome) first, and then working our way forward. It's possible we'll have to go to the Kickstarter well twice: once for History Part One, and once for History Part Two!
We're big fans of the History Channel's latest endeavors (the programs America, Mankind, and The Men Who Built America), and the increasing amount of "docu-drama" programs out there. Especially for the younger generation, it isn't enough to TALK about history while showing pictures of statues and video of the open fields where something famous happened. Students need to SEE, to HEAR, to FEEL, as much as possible, what a certain point in time was like. Our videos will be 360 seconds of summary about certain time periods or events; the video will be re-enactments funded by this project, with narration that's simple, clear, and a little bit witty;)
Our goal is to be a resource for students in High School/Middle School classes, and for that to work, we need many short videos on different topics rather than longer documentaries. These videos will last 360 seconds or less. Sample topics might include "Feudalism in the Medieval Age" or "The Persian Wars". We'll work chronologically, starting with topics in Ancient Greece and moving forward.