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When Words Fail

Spring Valley Academy, CA

3900 Conrad Dr, Spring Valley, San Diego, CA, USA
LaMesa Spring Valley School District
Director: James Villegas
Category: Miscellaneous Multimedia
Award: Gold, 2020

Project Description

This is a video created by our school district highlighting Sonic Expressions, the inclusive GenEd SpEd general music and performance program at Spring Valley Academy.

Target Audience

The target audience are community members in the East County Area of San Diego County, school district faculty and supporters and families interested in enrolling their children in the Sonic Expressions program

Overview of planning and execution process for this project

Working with district administration, and in particular Meg Jacobsen, the Executive Director for Innovation and Engagement in the LaMesa Spring Valley School District, we sought to bring better public awareness of our program. In January of 2019 we were awarded the gold medal for Engagement with Administration in the creation of our program. We knew then that we needed to “get the word out” on the student accomplishments.

Although we knew my March we would be filming, I chose not to inform the students, instead relying on their spontaneity and energy. So the only planning was in the message we wanted to convey: Music is for all, regardless of ability, mental or physical capacity or social/economic status. As several of our students are non-verbal it made sense to emphasis that “When words fail, music speaks”, a quote attributed to Hans Christian Andersen.

Sponsors/charities/volunteers/ other groups involved in the project and the benefits to each.

I brought in two members of our Tri-M Musicians Honor Society to help out with any equipment and asked them to “officially” host our guests (the videographer and his wife). No other outside groups were involved.

Community Impact

Our program is now considered important and a permanent class at our school. It is being used as a model for other district sites to emulate and for special education offers a better way to “mainstream” students with special needs.

The project has also created a permanent record of the students accomplishments, a recruitment tool, a goal setting reminder to future students, and a feature for our campus in an increasingly competitive atmosphere; our school enrollment is in decline due to area specialty schools and charter schools.

As an added bonus, after showing the video on campus a number of students requested schedule changes for next year, changing their 2019-2020 electives to join Sonic Expressions.

Overall budget


Specific Budget Breakdown

Approximate cost of the videographer

New or recurring project?

New Project

Challenges/obstacles that were encountered

Finding a date that fit our block schedule, a date on which all the SpEd students would be in attendance, Dr. Lindstrom from our Special Ed department chair with whom I set the class up with would be available (a site sub would be necessary as our schedules conflict), and a target date that the students prepare for without being especially nervous or exceptionally excited proved to be frustratingly difficult. The date also had to fit within the school testing schedule.

(Mobilizing the marching band takes less effort then mobilizing our staff and district)

Selecting a date by which the middle school students would be most confident and professional, needing minimal guidance took the most planning however. We had had a successful concert on March 12th followed by our two week spring break, and so were able to record in the second week of April.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

Feedback from the community told me the project was successful. I have been contacted by several other teachers asking for tips on how to duplicate the program. The video was used by my co-teacher, Dr. Carolyn Lindstrom, at a special education conference in Zambia over the summer.

Another indicator of success was the pride the students shown in their work. They originally had no idea what they were getting into the fall of 2018, but after seeing THEIR video there was no doubt; they knew they had worked hard and accomplished something good.

And finally, after showing the video on campus a number of students requested schedule changes for next year, changing their 2019-2020 electives to join Sonic Expressions.

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

Find something unique about your school or program and make a professional quality video that is shareable over several platforms. I must advise again: professional quality. Work with your administrator and district to make it possible. Once the entire administrative structure “buys into” the project they will do the “heavy lifting” and support you.

Supporting Materials

More Miscellaneous Multimedia Submissions