Scary Movie: From the Creative to the Concrete, Students Are Using Digital Video to Learn Lessons of Science, Math and More

By Pascopella, Angela | District Administration, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Scary Movie: From the Creative to the Concrete, Students Are Using Digital Video to Learn Lessons of Science, Math and More


Pascopella, Angela, District Administration


PICTURE THIS: Walking on a street, a man meets a woman who appears to be homeless and hungry. He invites her to his house to feed and befriend her. He thinks he knows this ghostly woman from somewhere.

At his home, she tells him a story that one night she had met a man who was down and out so she took him into her house to help. But her kindness became her death sentence as he ended up killing her. The man then realizes the man in her story is actually him.

Suddenly, the woman, evidently a ghost seeking vengeance, grabs the man and covers his mouth. The candles blow out.

Enter Nick Epperson. He's a 17-year-old senior at West High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the filmmaker behind the story.

His Deadly Memories film took second place for best short film at the Utah High School Film Festival last spring. He sums up filmmaking as a mixture of talents that create a story that should swallow the audience.

"I think a lot of people want to say that movies are bad ... that it ruins your imagination," Epperson says. "But I think it helped my imagination because it's always interesting to see other worlds and that can help with your own creativity.... A movie could create a world through visual style. And the acting can bring you into that world depending on how powerful it is in the context of the story."

It's Not Just for Film Class Anymore

With recent technological advances, more students now are involved in making films or videotapes for educational purposes and learning not only the patience and technical aspects involved in filming, editing and compiling a film or video, but also assimilating film to lessons of math, physics and media's role in society.

The California Student Media & Multimedia Festival, the oldest student media festival nationwide, was born 36 years ago with the idea that media plays a major role in instruction and students can create their own projects using film, according to Hall Davidson, director of education services of KOCE-TV, the PBS station in Orange County, Calif., that coordinates the festival. The festival now caters to more than 7,000 students and hundreds of teachers.

"What we have done was make sure media is integrated and multimedia is integrated into basic core curriculum areas as opposed to just being a specialized media" class, Davidson says.

Filming is Learning

"When you do a project, guess what? You are forced to synthesize," says Davidson. "You can't simply cut and paste yourself on tape. You are forced to make up your own dialogue, make your own drawings. You are forced to come up with scenarios. I think most people in general understand that. If you really want to learn something, you do it."

Janet English, a seventh-grade science teacher in Lake Forest, Calif., created Schoolhouse Video for K-12 students. It empowers students to use cutting-edge technology to create videos. She adds that children learn certain concepts about physics using simple machines, for example, through videos. The science students learn physics while video production students learn to tell a story about physics with cutting-edge technology.

"They learn more by doing it and then having someone film it," English says. "They also share the good lessons of teaching regarding standards."

The New Language

Epperson is among 10 students in Sheridan Prince's advanced TV production/independent film class at West High School in Utah. He also took part last summer in the Sundance Institute Gen-Y Summer Film Camp, which is an intensive two-week workshop for Salt Lake County high school students interested in documentary filmmaking.

Last year, the Utah High School Film Festival, where Epperson also took second place for best documentary about a young graffiti artist, attracted 300 15- to 18-year-old students, Films included a Palestinian student having dinner at an Israeli student's home and vice versa.

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Scary Movie: From the Creative to the Concrete, Students Are Using Digital Video to Learn Lessons of Science, Math and More
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