It has not only been a pleasure to work alongside David as a co-teacher, but also to observe his work with the students. He empowers students on the Reservation in a unique way and gives them ownership of their communities through photography and reflection. During an intensive summer course, we combined photography with writing to prompt students to think critically of their surroundings and themselves. His process allows students to engage with hands-on activities that give them true knowledge of what they're doing. David displays tremendous patience with the individuals that he works with and ensures understanding before moving on to the next step of the learning process. The photographic process instills a sense of individual pride in the products students create.
- Alexander Herlich, Salish Kootenai College Upward Bound, Pablo, Montana

Our Community Record Two Eagle River School

Central to our work at A VOICE is the project Our Community Record Two Eagle River School (TERS). Our Community Record is a collaborative project between photographer David J. Spear and Two Eagle River School in Pablo, a Tribal middle and high school serving Native American students living on the Flathead Reservation in Northwestern Montana. Through storytelling and photographic studies, Our Community Record, seeks to teach these students to explore and document their community, culture and history. This learning process broadens student interest in their surroundings, builds self-esteem, encourages creative expression through the arts and prepares them for higher education.

Photography has become a popular aspect of the school's curriculum, and has been used to supplement science, history, government, writing and art classes as well as the curriculum of the 7th and 8th grades.

Our Community Record TERS runs the course of the academic school year. Beginning with each year school administrators and teachers meet to discuss the direction and ways in which photography programming can be most effective. A term-by-term plan is then carried out with established goals in mind. Programming for each new year of Our Community Record/TERS is tailored to compliment the activities and plans for that academic school year building on the structure and foundation established in earlier years of the project.
David provides cameras and equipment for photographic instruction. Processing and printing of photographic works takes place in the school darkroom, and digital imaging is done on computers using the latest imaging software. Students learn about visual communication and photographic technique through classroom instruction, field trips and camera work. Image lectures on photography include special emphasis on social chroniclers of culture. Students are encouraged to reflect upon family and community and become their own chroniclers, incorporating their unique views into their creations.

Each year students travel to the larger communities of Missoula and Kalispell, Montana where they experience artwork showing in area galleries and museums. Additionally, local photographers are invited to show and discuss their work with students, and frequently invite students to visit their studios.

At the end of each term students, individually and as a group, review, discuss, and evaluate what they have learned and produced in the project with David and their primary teachers. The learning achieved by each student is evaluated by the work they generate. An exhibition of student work produced during the term is hung at the school at the end of each of these four terms. The work is installed so that school board members, parents and community members can experience, evaluate and comment on the resulting work of this program.

In an effort to make student work more visible within the greater community, we have started moving it outside of the school. In 2003, 2004 and 2008 Two Eagle River School student works were included in exhibitions at Sandpiper Gallery in Polson, Montana. Their work has also been exhibited in the rotunda gallery of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council complex. Student work from the project has been posted on-line and published in tribal and community publications. In 2005, 2006, and 2007 student work and a description of the project was printed in the S&K Technologies (a tribally owned company), company calendar which was distributed throughout the United States and in locations around the world where the company does business. Each year a selection of photography from the project is included in the school literary magazine Bitterroot. This publication is distributed reservation-wide to students, family and community members. Tribal, local and regional newspapers, including Char-Koosta News, Lake County Leader, the Valley Journal, and the Missoulian have run stories on the project, interviewing students and reproducing their work. A VOICE is currently producing a high-quality monograph that will feature photographic works from the first ten years of Our Community Record TERS. In addition an archive of original work from the project is housed with the intent that it is a photographic resource to be shared with the community, this unique body of work is being produced by Tribal youth of and for their community.