Healthy Journalism

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A night at the movies

Last summer, they were just rising eighth graders with Flip Cams. But on May 18, students who participated in the University of Georgia/Greene County Schools "Picture of Health" project were celebrities.

Youth citizen journalists who were part of the project dressed up, walked the red carpet while cameras flashed, and picked up certificates and medals during Greene Movie Academy Awards Night. Fifteen other teams won awards in system-wide categories including creativity, use of technology, communication, best overall and "people's choice." Some competed within their own school, others across grade levels. All brought cheering fans to the high school auditorium.

Marona Graham-Bailey, Grady grad student in journalism and lead teacher for the project, handed out the certificates. Also on hand were researchers Ruthann Lariscy and Brian Reber and this reporter, Patricia Thomas. We put on our party duds -- or an academic approximation -- and drove to Greensboro on a lovely late-Spring evening.

Our night at the movies was a revelation. We knew that Greene County Schools were using movies as a hands-on approach to learning, but we had no idea what the students were accomplishing with help from their coaches -- teachers, media specialists, and technical experts who volunteer to help.

"One Voice, One World" was the program's theme, and students raised their voices -- some in original songs and poems -- to assert themselves as citizens of the world. The earthquake in Haiti, famine in Africa, environmental pollution and other global issues were dramatized by the young filmmakers.

The complexity of the films was guided by the language arts objectives for different grade levels. A charming first-grade video about the life of Benjamin Franklin pulled facts from a short list of sources and used hand-drawn illustrations; one high-school team staged a newscast complete with a "field report" from Haiti.

Middle school students, including those who worked on "Greene County: a Picture of Health from Our Youth," were finding credible information online, shooting original footage, and editing for story.

If we're lucky, some of these young people will bring their storytelling talents to Grady College a few years from now.

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