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COLUMBIA – Thousands are pouring in Columbia for the annual True/False Film Festival.

And thanks to a grant from two groups, that number is a bit bigger.

The Columbia Public Schools Foundation and Ragtag Film Society are bringing students from across Columbia to the festival as part of a Media Literacy Initiative grant to promote creative and critical thinking.

Around 1,300 10th graders in the Columbia Public School district will view a screening of the 2017 Oscar-nominated documentary film "I Am Not Your Negro" on Friday.

After the screening, students will participate in a live question-and answer session with the film's producer and partake in a series of hands-on workshops, learning media-making skills from filmmakers, artists, musicians, storytellers and actors.

Lynn Barnett is president of the Columbia Public Schools Foundation, a group of volunteers who raise funds to support the local public schools.

She said she hopes the grant helps students think outside of the box.

“I think it’s an opportunity through the arts really to help students really be critical thinkers,” Barnett said. “Critical thinking is a higher level thinking skill rather than to just answer yes/no questions.”

Barnett said she hopes the film and discussions with professionals will prompt more questions that teachers can build upon when they get back in the classroom.

“We hope it causes them to ask the why questions, like ‘why do you think this film was developed?’ and ‘What are the themes?’ ‘How do you react to those situations that you’ve just seen?’ So it’s developing higher level thinking skills in our students which all students need, but it’s done through the medium of drama, arts and film.”

The grant is a tiered initiative over a three-year period that also trains CPS teachers in media literacy, instructional strategies and provides extracurricular cinematic opportunities.

CPSF Secretary Sally Silvers said, "taking this written grant from paper to the big screen is incredibly rewarding. It’s designed to provide students with the skills to become thoughtful consumers of media at a time when nearly all young adults are active Internet users and media consumers.”

Barnett also said giving Columbia students an opportunity like this can help make students more creative and imaginative.

“I think for students here in Columbia, who are a long way from where films are made typically, it gives them the experience of knowing what other careers are,” Barnett said. “It shows more opportunities for their own lives can be developed through this opportunity.”

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