It’s no secret that project based learning has a positive impact on test scores. American History Film Project challenges children in grades K-12 to create a 3-10 minute film about their hometown history, a local event or person, and in doing so, U.S. History becomes alive for students and they exercise communication skills. Learning becomes fun.

Teachers can announce the American History Film Project challenge as an extra-credit assignment, a video report, or a group project. Parents can also submit a child’s work done as a hobby, vacation project or youth group activity. Home school leaders can exhibit either group or individual works. It’s free to enter the exhibition and films can be shot with a smart phone, home camera or other electronic device.

Films are not judged on technical merit. They just have to tell a good story and cite historically accurate sources. The American History Film Project provides a way to showcase the student’s talents annually in the Washington, D.C. area and call them heroes for putting your town on our digital map. They can interact with our audience via Skype or in person.

Who We Are

Martha L. Barnes, Founder American History Film Project

Martha has worked for Fairfax County Public Schools as a registrar for almost 25 years.  From her daily contact with students, parents and administrators she saw a need to empower students and find ways to make them feel connected to the community both local and national.  The concept came to her in 2006, and then in 2011 she gathered a team to make a prototype documentary short film in Annandale, Virginia with the goal of inspiring students to research and report the stories of their hometowns. In 2014 a film screening was held at the George Mason Regional Library in Annandale and in 2015 the first American History Film Project Exhibition (with other states participating) was held at Annandale High School.  In 2016 the project was embraced by local historians and a national exhibition was held at the Historic Blenheim House in the City of Fairfax with opening comments by the City’s Historic Curator.

Kelly Garcia, Central States Representative

Kelly Garcia’s search for unique, project based learning activities brought her to the preliminary website for the American History Film Project two years ago. After experiencing the 2015 Exhibition as a teacher representing Nebraska and earning a teacher travel stipend, Garcia decided to join the American History Film Project Board in 2016 with the goal of reaching out to other teachers in the Central States and doing special outreach to underserved populations such as school districts on reservations serving Native Americans. Prior to joining the AHFP Board, she presented at the ACTFL teacher’s conference in 2014 (San Antonio) and 2015 in San Diego and was slated to present at the Nebraska Language Association Conference in October 2016.

Garcia, a Spanish/World History teacher residing in Nebraska, has taught for 17 years. Although she teaches Spanish in a public high school, she taught English in Mexico in a private school and lived in Mexico five years. Her teaching experience ranges from homeschooled preschool students to octogenarians at the community college level. Born in Virginia, Garcia began her formal education at Radford University and then completed her Master’s in Education at University of Nebraska, Kearney.

Garcia is a member of NILA (, ACTFL ( and AATSP (; she sponsors the school chapter of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispana (Spanish Honor Society).

Doortje Legrand, Eastern States Representative

Doortje Legrand has been a Music Educator in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area for more than 20 years . She brings to the board a wealth of experience working with children and also in organizational management having earned a Masters Degree- Arts Management at American University in Washington, DC. Her BA was in- Music Education- Catholic University, Washington, DC Doortje loves to study history. She was a volunteer at Gunston Hall, the colonial home of George Mason, for 2 years.

Mark A. Barnes, Western States Representative

Mark A. Barnes, is a resident of San Francisco, CA. A member of the California Bar Association, Mr. Barnes is a retired US government Attorney who earned his MBA from Virginia Tech. His sister Martha explains, “My parents, both WWII veterans, taught my brother and me life lessons from their own history. They taught us that history can help shape good behavior in people.”