Rise Documentary to Spotlight Student-Led High School in Boise, Screen at The Egyptian 

click to enlarge 20190328_100514.jpg

Lex Nelson

The trailer for Rise: Voice of a New Generation, a brand-new documentary from seasoned filmmaker Jon Long, opens with a shot of students sitting at outdoor picnic tables, chattering away against a backdrop of dramatic music. Then, the camera zooms in on Elise Malterre, a senior at Boise's One Stone high school. Egged on by a friend, she chants, "I solemnly swear to disrupt for good! I solemnly swear to disrupt for good!" The kids around her throw their hands into the air, and their cheers and screams drown out the soundtrack.

"Distrupt for Good" is one the mottoes at One Stone, a private, student-led high school in Boise. Located just off of Miller Street in downtown, it's far from the typical learning environment. Two-thirds of the school's board is made up of students, and there are no letter grades or bell schedules. Classes start at 9 a.m. instead of 7:45 a.m., and they lean into exploration: Along with tackling typical topics like math and physics (albeit in unusual ways, with "coaches" rather than teachers), students work on welding projects, cook, design their own businesses or record music in the in-school recording studio.

click to enlarge One Stone teaches a method called "design thinking." - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • One Stone teaches a method called "design thinking."
"One Stone was kind of the best example that we could see anywhere where they really put the students in a position of decision-making power," said Long, who came across One Stone while working on another, global-scale documentary about the future of education.

Over more than a year, Long and his team of documentary filmmakers embedded themselves at the school, acting, he said, as "flies on the wall" to create Rise. He put work on his other documentary, School, temporarily on the back burner, but said it will debut in April, shortly after Rise, and also include shots from One Stone.

"We heard about One Stone and we came to film for just a few days initially, and we ended up staying about six days on our first trip and came back five or six more times," said Long, who in the past has created films for Universal Studios, IMAX, Disney, Universal, Entertainment One, National Geographic and PBS.

click to enlarge In the Foundry, One Stone students weld, saw, hammer and build. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • In the Foundry, One Stone students weld, saw, hammer and build.
"It's just a super-interesting experience to go about your school day and have people filming you and pretend like they're not, because it's just an interesting reminder that what we're doing is not what I would be doing if I went to Boise High," said One Stone senior Bennett Huhn, who studies contemporary music and helped construct the school's recording studio.

Rise is set to screen at The Egyptian Theatre in Boise on Tuesday, April 2. Long will be in Boise for the debut, and speak to the theater crowd as part of a Q&A with students from One Stone, including Malterre, who is on the school's Board of Directors and helped workshop the film during production.

click to enlarge A One Stone coach teaches a morning physics lesson. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • A One Stone coach teaches a morning physics lesson.

Despite its private status, there is no tuition cost at One Stone—a combination of grants, private donations and income from student-led initiatives keeps the school afloat. Started as a nonprofit, service-oriented after-school program, it evolved over the years into a year-round school for more than 100 10th- through 12th-graders. Neva Geisler, one of the few adults who helps keep One Stone running, said the process of securing accreditation for the school is ongoing, but that hasn't held the students in its 2019 graduating class (the school's first) back from college. Neither has the lack of traditional transcripts.

"I think a lot of colleges see innovation in education going in this direction, and they're excited to be a part of that," said Geisler.

click to enlarge In its design studio, One Stone offers students a wall of supplies to experiment with. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • In its design studio, One Stone offers students a wall of supplies to experiment with.
Malterre, for example, has been accepted into the Rhode Island School of Design, California College of the Arts, Parsons School of Design and University of South Carolina, and is still waiting to hear from several other schools.

"It's a certain type of kid who even wants to go to that school," said Long, noting that the student-driven approach doesn't work for everyone. "... I get the sense that if these are the next leaders, then we're going to be in good shape."

Tickets to see Rise at The Egyptian at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, cost $10, and are available at One Stone's website.

"The film is not about One Stone," said Geisler. "The film is about the power of student voice. And that is a movement. That is a movement that we're very excited to be at the forefront of, and I think we're going to see some real traction." 
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