Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Lights, Cameras, Action on the iFilm Student Festival Red Carpet

Rumination from the Rock and Beyond

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of students’ creativity and achievements, so I try to attend or participate in as many as possible. There are amazing opportunities that turn the spotlights on CCPS students and really make them shine. Especially the iFilm Student Festival on April 5th in the large auditorium at Barron Collier High School. Wowza!

This year there were 28 entries in the student film category and 21 entries in the student film poster category and, believe me, they were impressive. Here’s how this STEAM project started (STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).

Six years ago, Arthrex funded a grant to Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) called “Teach Me My World” for $200,000, which placed additional technology in high schools for the Biology and Marine Science programs. This was the catalyst that inspired Superintendent, Dr. Kamela Patton, Principal, Leslie Riccadelli and Science Coach, Missy Coleman at Lely High School to propose student film-making. Mary Marshall from the Instructional Technology (IT) Department became an integral part of the support the students needed.

The first student attempts were like dipping one’s toes into cold water, but each year the expertise and quality has improved and the number of high schools participating has skyrocketed. Now, the present coordinators of the iFilm Student Festival, the CCPS Science Department, has had to limit the final entries to five per school because there is so much interest! After preliminary judging at each school is completed, you can imagine the top five. No more shallow water!

In addition to the film-making experience of the festival, there is an additional artistic component. Students from Career Tech Education (CTE) classes (math, technology, advanced computers and Adobe software) and students in graphic design classes roll up their sleeves to create large advertising posters for the films, much like the posters you see in the movie theaters. The graphic artists watch the films when they’re completed and use their imagination and skills to portray them. What a great way to hone their design skills, create relevant products and receive feedback – just like real life!

Fast forward. Six years later, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Science giant, Discovery Education, continue their initial sponsorship along with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s resources and support for the high school students that are researching, writing and creating documentaries for the first time

This year, as in the intervening years, the criterion became more rigorous. Students used iPads to film in the first year and imported music. Graphics were elementary. Today’s documentary criterion include making a fact-based environmental statement, writing original dialogue and text and producing original music and photos. WOW! How many of us could do that NOW, much less as a junior or senior? (Oh yeah, I forgot that we’re the dinosaurs and the students today are the technology whiz kids!)

Here are some of the titles of the documentaries: Sustainability (by Alexander Barbosa), Irma’s Wrath (by Ben Galbraith/Cameron Galbraith), Beach Litter (by Tegan Lanier/Sierra Rincon/Dominic Bozza), The Effects of Plastic in the Marine Ecosystem (by C.J. Addison/ Dylan Doria/ Lilly Metsch/ Shey Kirwin), and Bees (by Bersain Hernandez/Elviz Velasquez). I’ll tell you some of the facts I learned while watching these films at a later date – that’s another whole article believe me – and some of the research will amaze you!

Did I mention that there is a red carpet with the appropriate background for photos of the participants and award winners? And did I mention that there are “Oscar” trophies presented by Science Department gurus Ryan Westberry and Ted Borduas with congratulatory handshakes all around? Fun and recognition partnered with learning – what could be better?

The most important part of this endeavor is the work of the science teachers, art teachers and CTE teachers in these high schools and their commitment to spending extra time beyond their working day to mentor and assist the students that want to delve into a project like this. Their teaching expertise and incentive is commendable. I wish I had room to include all the names of the teachers who go above and beyond every day to make our communities and country a better place for all.

Teaching: The profession that makes all others possible.

Jory Westberry has been a dedicated educator for over 40 years, the last 14 as Principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary, where she left her heart. Life is rich with things to learn, ponder and enjoy so let’s get on with the journey together!

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