Revisiting the Wonder at DeWitt Middle School

Posted by Matt Fee on Tuesday, April 29, 2014

By Jackson Eagan '14

Since the beginning of Fall 2013, I have been going every Wednesday to DeWitt Middle School with a group of other Park Scholars (Mia O'Brien & Samantha Towle in the fall, and Steven Brasley & Jesse Rolfe in the spring) to run a film/media club with middle schoolers. This has turned out to be an amazingly fulfilling and educational venture which has both taught me a lot about creating media, and has given me a fresh perspective on my own journey as a media creator during my last year of education.

Previous to this year, the Park Scholar Program had never operated in a middle school, so DeWitt was something new. In the program's experience, elementary schoolers are young enough to have a complete lack of inhibition in terms of acting, idea creation and general participation. High schoolers are old enough to be skilled technically and to have advanced teamwork skills. Students in middle schools, who have a reputation of being awkward and shy, were an unknown. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the kids who joined the club at DeWitt, some goofy and some timid, ended up forming a diverse team that worked well together.

During our two semesters at DeWitt, we worked with the students first to make a short film about a Greek god who falls from the sky, and then all of us collaborated with the school's theater group to make a promotional video for its upcoming production of Thirteen. Both videos were quite successful, and the kids had a great time making what for some of them was their first movies ever.

Throughout the semesters, we often reviewed other types of media, such as print media, video games, websites, music, television, and others. The students showed a lot of interest in these other types of communications, which was great to see.

For me, what is most inspiring about working at DeWitt was that it was my chance to “revisit” the joy that I found when picking up a camera for the first time. It's not that I don't enjoy my work today—I do—but nothing compares to that first moment when I found I could tell a story by just putting images next to each other. Watching the kids framing up for a scene, we would often see their eyes light up when they composed an especially nice shot, or caught an amazing moment on video, or listened to a shotgun microphone's sound through headphones.

Working at DeWitt was a terrific reminder for me to still look for that wonder in creating my own media, and a lesson on the importance of passing my knowledge on to others.

A big thanks to Penny Boynton of DeWitt for helping to organize and facilitate the club meetings every week!