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Channing Hall digital media students learn filmmaking through public service announcements

Mar 01, 2018 11:48AM ● Published by Julie Slama

At Channing Hall, digital media students create public service announcements to learn how to produce their own films. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Thirteen Channing Hall students enrolled last term in the digital media course learned filmmaking through creating their own public service announcements (PSAs).

“They wrote the script, found actors, arranged locations to shoot, edited, produced and essentially, learned all the roles of how to create a film,” Channing Hall teacher Rosanna Juarez said. 

Through the assignment, the students split into two groups so each student could have an active part in writing as well as directing the three-minute PSAs. Then, they worked together to identify topics for their films.

“It was an opportunity for them to go with their heart and convey a positive message to their peers and community,” she said. “I wanted them to be passionate and have a purpose to their film and this was an introductory experience to learn that.

The students explored ideas from spending time with their family to not texting and driving before settling on the topics of alternatives to electronics and lending a hand to prevent bullying.

“The PSAs also allowed them to be creative and their films tied in with our MYP principles,” said the first-year Channing Hall teacher, who also teaches computer software applications and technology.

Channing Hall’s International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme is designed for sixth- through eight-graders and provides a framework of learning that encourages students to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers and to make connections between their studies in traditional subjects and to the real world. It includes 10 traits for the students to be thinkers, open-minded, principled, balanced, reflective, inquirers, caring, courageous, communicators and knowledgeable.

The films were titled “Be Balanced” and “Be Principled.”

In the film “Be Balanced,” students actively used their electronic devices in front of a peer who didn’t have his own phone. They also talked about television shows he didn’t have access to, making him feel left out until a classmate offered an alternative.

“Be Principled” shows a young student who had his class work taken away from him and set in the ceiling tile. Unable to reach his assignments, the others made fun and laughed at him. In the end, an older, taller boy helped him reach his book.

During each 45-minute class period, they worked on pre-production, learning about the film industry. They created a script and a storyboard, they decided on their message and had a cast call to select actors — including the school director Heather Shepherd — before beginning to direct. 

They also had to be creative in how they videoed since the school doesn’t have all the usual filming equipment.

“We used a pallet on a scooter to create a dolly so we could move the camera while filming,” Juarez said.

After filming, there were post-production editing sessions.

The filming also piqued students’ interest in possibly pursing film careers, and other students became interested in learning more about film, as well. Many younger students are now excited about enrolling in the course when they need an elective in eighth grade, she said.

“The other students are excited about going around filming,” Juarez said, adding that it would be fun to create a film festival or film club at the school. 

Before the students called it a wrap, they held a classroom premiere and showed their films.

“Their expressions on their faces told the story,” she said. “They were so proud of their work.”

Education, Today

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