Brian Fuller, a Calvin College communication arts and sciences professor, was intrigued by what he had heard about Mustard Seed School in Hoboken, N.J.
When someone told him that the school’s curriculum is anchored in the arts, he wondered if that were really true. He visited the school in 2009, prepared to be disappointed. “But I wasn’t,” said Fuller. “They really did integrate art into everything.”
Fuller was also impressed by the school’s student demographic: “They were somehow attracting a really diverse student body.” The school, headed by 1989 Calvin graduate Christine Metzger, draws students from a range of ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Deciding to make a documentary about the school, Fuller scouted locations and returned with three Calvin students to Hoboken during the January interim of 2010 to film it. The project was funded by the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning.
For three weeks the film crew worked long hours. They captured students learning Spanish through sculpture, mathematics through calisthenics, and the history of western migration through building covered wagons. The Calvin students also taught the rudiments of filmmaking to the Mustard Seed students.
This past summer, three more Calvin students were hired to sift through the 131 hours of raw footage and to find a story to be told in a short documentary. The completed work, titled A Shared Space: Learning from the Mustard Seed School, shows urban Christian education that runs counter to existing stereotypes. The film premiered at Calvin in February.