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Posted March 11, 2014

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Washington Filmkids Post Captivating Videos about Middle School Life

The students in Dominic Pettine's film classes are telling their stories while crossing the digital divide.


Want to know what life is like in middle school? Ask middle schoolers. Better yet, give them a camera and let them show you.

And while you’re at it, why not ask them about peer pressure, bullying, being an English Language Learner and labels.

That’s what Washington Middle School teacher Dominic Pettine did, and the results are inspiring. Seventh and eighth graders who call themselves The Washington Filmkids have created more than a dozen short videos that are smart, creative, thought-provoking and fun. They’ve posted them to YouTube and have shared them through social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

Here's a look at their greatest hits:

Pettine was a science teacher with a passion for filmmaking when he got a $5,000 technology grant in 2012 to buy a couple of video cameras and some editing equipment.

“I was trying to come up with a way to bridge the digital divide for these kids. I knew they had rich, amazing stories but they didn’t have access to technology to tell them. I wanted to help them become fluent in technology so they could share their stories.”

Even before he got the money, students gave up their lunchtime to brainstorm ideas and work on scripts. When the equipment arrived, the filmmaking club became an elective class and students had their first assignment from the school administration – create a film that would get elementary school students excited about going to middle school.

The end product is a four-minute video titled  “This is Life: Middle School” featuring students who “share their secret to making middle school a beautiful chapter in their lives.”

“Exciting, wild, stinky, dramatic. This is pretty much middle school,” the young narrator says in the video set to the Coldplay song “Paradise.”

“No matter how big your dream is, this is where it starts. Every day you walk these halls, every step you take, you’re one step closer.”

Pettine, who now teaches two film classes and health, said the students work on the videos from start to finish. “They are one hundred percent authentic. They are all original scripts. The kids work very hard on the writing. They work collaboratively on the filming and editing. The process is arduous but engaging and awesome.”

The messages in the videos are relevant and strong: don’t exclude, help and accept others, be creative and drug free, exercise, thank your teachers.

Pettine would like to expand the program and has applied for a grant for additional financial assistance. Right now, he has two cameras and two editing stations for 46 students in two classes. He also is working on partnering with film programs at APS high schools.

“My goal is to help kids cross the digital divide and become technologically and academically literate,” Pettine said. “We’re giving kids what they need to be confident and competitive in the world.”

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