There are so many things to learn in this world, and so much of it can be found outside of the classroom. Though, not every student has access to those opportunities.

For students farthest from opportunity – such as those who experience socio-economic challenges – many aren’t given the same resources to flourish and grow like others who do have those additional resources. Many of those inequities were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Benefits of Expanded Learning

The goal of expanded learning is to give students access to resources to meet local educational standards while simultaneously providing learning opportunities outside of the traditional classroom setting.

In San Diego Unified School District, Level Up SD programs are designed to give students farthest from opportunity the additional opportunities and resources they need to succeed. Since its launch, Level Up SD has resulted in 130-plus  nonprofit partnerships, more than 30,000 student opportunities and served more than 25,000 students.

Research has proven expanded learning initiatives work and lead to higher student test scores, improved vocabulary skills, and better student social skills among their peers.

‘Through Our Lens’

In partnership with San Diego Foundation (SDF), students in Media Arts Center San Diego’s (MACSD) Level Up SD film camp recently explored firsthand what expanded learning looks like in the San Diego community. The camp was not only its own expanded learning initiative; it gave students a chance to learn about other initiatives in the area.

‘Through Our Lens’ gave a voice to a dozen young, local student filmmakers to create short films highlighting local Level Up SD expanded learning initiatives – from Guitars in the Classroom to Reality Changers to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and more. The various themes of the videos covered topics and issues like community sustainability and accountability, environmentalism, arts and culture, and STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Student Impact

“I knew that going in I wanted to create a documentary that focuses on a problem I care about, focuses on my community,” said Trúc Nguyen, a MACSD student filmmaker. “This filmmaking experience was a way for me to use my abilities and create something that could speak for me.”

Nguyen was just one of the 12 student filmmakers involved in the 2022 Level Up SD film camp. She credited the program as a fuel to her success, and an incredible learning experience vital to her future. Without it, she said she never would have tried filmmaking at all.

“Growing up in a community like City Heights, everything I had was a hand me down,
she said. “I grew up first generation. We wouldn’t have money for me to pursue my dreams. What this program did was allow me to do just that.”

Each student’s short film can be viewed in its entirety on the MACSD YouTube channel.

Learn more about Level Up SD and other SDF expanded learning initiatives.