And I was scared as hell.”
I stood near the entrance of the Gryphon Theater in Laramie, Wyoming, on a cold fall afternoon and watched as line after line of tiny humans filed into the large auditorium for a Mountainfilm for Students show. In the crowd: the entire student body of Spring Creek Elementary School and students from Slade Elementary. It looked to be about 600 kids, plus their attendant teachers. The whole scene was almost overwhelmingly cute.
And I was scared as hell.
Let me explain. I’ve been presenting for Mountainfilm for a few years — moderating coffee talks, hosting tour shows and emceeing festival programs. I’m by no means a natural on stage and experienced major stage fright the first couple times, but by now I’m comfortable enough to enjoy being in front of a crowd with a mic.
But this was different. This was children. What if they grew bored with the program and rebelled into a squirming mass that I couldn’t control? What if they hated the films? Would they boo? Would they judge me? Would they pull out their phones and start playing games in blatant disregard of the program?
I’m not sure where my unfounded fear of kids originates, but I had successfully avoided hosting an education program until Laramie, where I had signed on to host two nights of shows organized by the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources under the University of Wyoming. The week before I left, Mountainfilm for Students Tour & Education Manager Cara Bunch informed me that an education show had been added to my tasks.
“Eeek,” I thought. “They’ll devour me.”
She and former Education Director Jessica Galbo assured me I would be fine. They offered me a little coaching, a few tips and sent me on my way. I didn’t feel so fine watching the theater fill up that day, however, as the din of hundreds of little voices grew while they took their seats. But then our introduction reel started, and the voices hushed to utter silence. And when I took my place at the front of the crowd, I saw faced rapt with curiosity and interest.
“Who likes movies?” I asked into the mic, and the response was an enthusiastic “MEEEEEEEE!”
My nervousness vanished, and from then on it was pure fun. I sat in the back of the theater and got more enjoyment out of their responses to the films than I ever would have from the films alone (and they are great films). The students shrieked and gasped in unison, laughed out loud, watched intently, watched from the edge of their seats and clapped loudly following every single film. When we paused for a stretch break and I asked if they were having fun, they roared their approval. And at the end of the program, when I asked if anyone wanted to tell me one thing that inspired them, a forest of arms shot up. Children strained toward me with their hands in the air, wanting so badly to share and listing everything from giant waves to skateboarding girls. My only regret is that I didn’t have time to take all the answers.
Looking back, my fear of kids was incredibly silly. In children, you’ll find the most receptive, engaged and non-judgmental members of our species. They haven’t grown cynical or distracted, they aren’t thinking about a doctor’s appointment or impending deadline or how they forgot to email someone back. They are kind and grateful and hungry for stories from around the world. And best of all, they can’t wait to share their inspiration with everyone.
—Katie Klingsporn, program director
— Mountainfilm for Students is offered at no cost to K-12 schools worldwide, wherever Mountainfilm on Tour has already scheduled a show. The program's playlists are customized by grade level for educational, entertaining and inspiring content. Educational materials accompany some films in the program with filmmaker interviews, extensions, discussion questions, activities and more. In addition to traveling worldwide, Mountainfilm for Students also plays year-round in Telluride and is part of the annual Telluride Mountainfilm festival in May.