MAPS Media Lab

The Statewide Educational Outreach Program of MAPS Media Institute
Established in 2017

In 2017, with generous multi-year funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Greater Montana Foundation, the MAPS Media Lab (MML) program was launched to bring our nationally awarded program to more students across Montana. Students develop the skills necessary to plan and produce various media art projects through intensive media arts workshops as they collaborate with professional, compassionate teaching artists using state-of-the-art equipment.

The MML puts the power of media arts into the hands of youth around Montana and gives them the tools they need to find their voice and tell their own stories. Our programs – film, design, technology, and music – are provided to communities with little or no access to the media arts. We work with these communities to design programs that fit their unique needs, ranging from short intensive workshops to multiple week-long projects.

MAPS Media Lab plants seeds that lead to success. Students develop necessary skills to plan and implement their creative journey through our programs which are designed to have fully-realized professional outcomes. Projects often have real-world implications, such as addressing a social issue or promoting a positive program in the community. We enable students to use the media arts to tap into their innate creativity and empower communities to work towards positive change.


This map shows every location where the MAPS Media Lab has helped vision become reality…


MML projects often have real-world implications, such as addressing social issues or promoting positive social or cultural messaging. Students tap into their innate creativity, amplify their voice, and work together towards positive change. We partner with local organizations, tribal agencies, and school districts to curate intentional media projects that address community issues/concerns or illuminate a vital story or person. Our role is to teach the technical and creative skills necessary to tell those stories effectively.

With every project, and within varied learning levels, we teach students how to communicate issues to a general audience. They learn to educate, entertain, inspire, and propose solutions to real problems.

2023 MAPS Media Lab Projects:


RISE (Resilience In Something Else) is a Youth-Designed and Youth-Led group focused on personal culture, heritage, leadership development, and relationship building. Launched in 2020, RISE was a way to support and connect youth during the global pandemic. Through regularly scheduled meetings, workshops, and conferences, RISE is leading a statewide commitment to ensure that Native Youth have the support and tools to thrive. Through this powerful work, RISE is also cultivating the next generation of Native leaders.

This video was produced by MAPS Media Institute and was made possible with generous support from: RISE, Montana Office of Public Instruction, Greater Montana Foundation, and The Steele-Reese Foundation.

Blood Quantum

After meeting virtually for several months, MAPS facilitated an intensive one-week film workshop hosted at Aaniiih Nakoda College in the Fort Belknap Indian community of north central Montana. Students interviewed tribal and cultural leaders, parents, and one another to start a community conversation about Blood Quantum – a topic affecting past, present, and future generations.

“Blood Quantum” was produced in partnership with Fort Belknap Students, Harlem students, and MAPS Media Institute. This film was made possible with support from Craig Todd – Milk River Productions Advisor, Aaniiih Nakoda College, Montana Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Harlem High School, Greater Montana Foundation, The Steele-Reese Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts.

2022 MAPS Media Lab Projects:

Amp Ska Pi Pikuni • Nizi Puh Wah Sin
(Southern Blackfeet • Real Speak)

The Piegan schools are all called Nizi PuhWah Sin meaning, “real speak” referring to the language of the people. To “real speak” means to speak the Blackfoot Language very well and poetically. People who “real speak” are known within the tribe and the language as Nizi ta piks, or “real people”.

The sole purpose of the Nizi Puh Wah Sin program is to teach children to speak the Blackfoot language without passing judgment on their intellectual abilities. The schools are commonly referred to as Cuts Wood School.


Under the skilled instruction of Hip-hop Artist Shadow Devereaux & Filmmaker Colter Olmstead, Flathead Reservation & Lake County 8th to 12th Graders created “Rain” – the product of a 6-week MAPS Music Video Class where students: collaborated on ground up idea generation, song creation, and video production while learning new software, composition techniques, and multiple methods for capturing video.

Special thanks to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Greater Montana Foundation for jointly funding this MAPS Music Video Class. CSKT Tribal Council and Chairman McDonald, and Michelle Mitchell, head of Tribal Education, both backed the initiative.

2021 MAPS Media Lab Projects:

Peaceful As a Buffalo

Peaceful As a Buffalo is MAPS second collaboration with The Buffalo Unity Project, a program created by Poplar Middle School on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.

The continued goal of The Buffalo Unity Project is to connect students to the importance of the buffalo for the Dakota and Nakoda people. This project aims to teach students that communities thrive when they are united in a common purpose. 

Waking the Generations

In this film, Harlem High School students shine a light on the painful and hidden details of their ancestral past as a way to help others understand why their heritage should never be allowed to fade away.

Filmed during Native American Week, this socially relevant film connects how cultural identification today not only honors the past but also has the ability to save and preserve an entire way of life for future generations.


In this intensive 5-day crash course first time film students learned the basic stages and techniques of filmmaking, from conception, to pre production, production, post production and distribution/screening.

On the first day, students explored idea generation and story to collectively arrive at a concept for their film. Dragonfly was born out of the reflections and observations of the year which the students experienced during the worldwide pandemic.

Through Your Lens…

MAPS Media Institute, with the support of Ronan High School, The Greater Montana Foundation, and the NEA, was excited to present:

“Through Your Lens…” – a photojournalism class specifically for Ronan High School students, taught by nationally commissioned photojournalist, and Ronan graduate, Tailyr Irvine (

2020 MAPS Media Lab Projects:

A Look Back at 2020

In 2020, MAPS Media Institute expanded our horizons and set a course for a vibrant future. This short Media Lab film explores ways that MAPS, and out students, faced challenges head-on.

In these challenges MAPS found created new ways of engaging and connecting with the youth of Montana. Our students found it was still possible to have a voice when you are isolated.

MAPS Media Lab Behind the Scenes

Because a pandemic can’t stop creativity, students used this new-found space to give MAPS viewers a look behind the scenes.

In this compilation of MAPS Media Lab projects students talk about what it’s like to make films, what motivates them to tell their stories, and what they value in the creative process.

2019 MAPS Media Lab Projects:

In This Together, We Are One

In This Together, We Are One is MAPS first collaboration with The Buffalo Unity Project, a program created by Poplar Middle School on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.

The goal is to connect students to the importance of the buffalo to the Dakota and Nakoda people, and to teach them that communities thrive when they are united in common purpose.


EAST follows a day in the life of three teenagers from East Helena, Montana, in a story about a sense of place, hard times, and the bonds of friendship.

The film was written and filmed over the course of just four days in 2019, with a crew of young artists, many of whom had never operated camera, audio equipment, or acted. The results are an amazing testament to their talent and commitment.

Looking Forward From Yesterday

The Aaniiih and Nakoda People work in large and small ways every day to preserve – and in some cases resurrect – their culture in modern-day life.

Conceived, filmed, and edited by high school students at Harlem High School in northern Montana, this film is a powerful and intimate story of the struggle to preserve a way of life that many thought to be lost.

2018 MAPS Media Lab Projects:

Harlem Rap – Montana Style

MAPS instructors recently facilitated a 3 day professional development workshop with the inspiring staff and students at Harlem High School. Please check out the video of hyper talented Harlem student Hunter Gray – produced by first time filmmakers in just one day!

Special thanks to Montana Gear UP and Greater Montana Foundation, and MAPS heroes, Hope Speak Thunder, Kate Web, and Craig Todd for making this workshop possible!

Art For Survival: Our Story

Art for Survival is a program of the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, Montana. This is their story of surviving life’s tough times through the creative flow of art and community.

This film was made by a partnership between the Holter Museum and MAPS Media Institute.

Browning Rising Voices

Rising Voices Poetry Club is an extraordinary program at Browning High School, Montana, where students write and perform original spoken word.

Students are encouraged to find their own voices in this innovative program, led by Browning librarian and poetry club advisor Amy Conrey Andreas. Visiting artist Tahj Kjelland of MAPS Media Institute and Express 2 Speak met with students to explore the art of self expression, writing, and performance.

Aisitsimstā (Imagination)

What we achieve can be realized through what is imagined. A science classroom becomes the catalyst for students imagining their dreams. Aisitsimstā is a conceptual work on the power of daydreaming and our ability to work towards our goals.

The film was created from start to finish in 5 days by Browning middle and high school students as a part of the MAPS/Montana GEAR Up filmmaking workshop. With a special message at the end from Supaman.

2017 MAPS Media Lab Projects:

The Last Day

What would you do if, on the first day of summer vacation, your best friend told you she was moving – that day? That question provides the story line of this film, created by high school students as part of the 1 week filmmaking workshop offered by Montana GEAR UP-Browning and MAPS Media Institute.

In just 5 days, students brainstormed the story, wrote the script, acted, learned camera, audio and editing and even hosted a community screening. What an inspiring and talented crew!