Glendaal student filmmakers premiere February 1

Turning life experiences into movies

“This movie shows that even in your darkest times, some people can light up your world and show you the path to happiness.” -Jaxon Staalesen, fifth grade student

students in classroom making a movie, one is holding a boom mic, others are behind the camera or actors

Get ready to be inspired by the amazing work of the fourth and fifth grade students at Glendaal, who are using storytelling and video production to make a difference in their community. These young filmmakers have created three short films that address bullying and day-to-day pressures that can have lasting psychological and physical damages. Fourth grader Mason Thompson says that he hopes when his peers watch, it will make them stand up for each other and be better people. The whole school will watch the films at Thursday’s assembly.

Instructor directing student production crew with clip boards and actors

“I was thrilled to have Mr. Mike come back to where the anti-bullying film series started many years ago,” said Principal Tom Eagan. Glendaal first partnered with local filmmaker Mike Feurstein (Mr. Mike) of the DON’T WAIT to Unmake a Bully program about a decade ago. Mr. Mike has helped deliver impact in students’ lives by teaching personal responsibility and filmmaking in schools across the country.

students standing in the hallway holding papersFifth grade student Gracelyn Schinnerer said this was “one of the best experiences of my life and taught me a lot. I enjoyed working with everyone and building new friendships.” Her classmate Mason Houghton added, “I felt like the movie taught people that not everyone is perfect and it’s ok to just be yourself. The movie also taught people to effectively communicate with our peers.” Another fifth grader, Matthew Spencer said one of the videos they created “teaches people that it is ok to miss out and I think the expressions of the characters really help people understand that.”

young student with long blonde hair holds clipboard and other students prepare for actingTo effectively convey problems that cause hindrance, students shared their feelings and personal experiences. That collaboration led to identifying possible solutions. As a team, they essentially produced three Public Service Announcements on the topics of FOMO (fear of missing out), tattling vs. telling, and taking pranks too far.

According to Carly Beers, a fourth grader, “Learning something through watching something fun helps kids understand not to prank people.” Her classmate Luca Pedone added, “Making our movie will make kids not prank people and make them a better person.”

On the concept of fear of missing out, fifth grade student actor Sarah Taylor said, “We try to teach people that not everybody is here for everything.” Her classmate Anthony Mazzone said, “FOMO isn’t one person, it’s everyone” and David Sserunkuma said that their film will, “show you how FOMO can cause conflict.”

classroom turned into movie set and students are running the show

During these lessons, Mr. Mike connects with kids and gets them thinking about relevant concerns of their peers. “Each movie is student driven, giving students ownership and an authentic learning experience, making strong connections to the theme,” explained fourth grade teacher Mrs. Potts.

Fourth grader Avery Haldeman said, “I hope kids who watch our film realize that sometimes it’s important to speak up and not to be afraid to tell; it’s for the better.” Her classmate Abby Dunn added, “I learned that being nervous is okay; being an actor on this film helped me face my fears.”

one student with a camera, another in a director chair and other film propsThe students took on various roles like writing, directing, producing and starring in the films. Fourth grader Kennedy Rush enjoyed the work behind the scenes saying that it was “good to see how we made the movie.” Classmate Alice Letterman called it a life changing experience and says she definitely wants to do it again. “The actors did a good job because we didn’t have to do a lot of takes for scenes,” said fourth grade student Damon McKone. Another fourth grader, Kyle Houghton said, “As the sound person, the most rewarding part was always trying to get better and better, even when you think you have it.”

The productions are incredibly heartening and informative. Melissa Clark, a fifth grade teacher, said, “I have always been impressed with the way that Mr. Mike gets the students interested in helping with the films, from acting to directing to working with the camera. Not only are they learning the ins and outs of filming, but also how to be kind and work together.” Fifth-grade teacher Mr. Olson added, “It is such a great experience for our students and helps carry positive messages forward to other students around the country and even the world! They learn so much throughout the process as Mr. Mike is a wonderful teacher and is exceptional with our students!”

“It felt like magic seeing the change from 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon. The change was shocking to me. Overall, I loved and enjoyed every bit.” -Penny Newfrock, fifth grade student

students standing on chairs to see behind video camera and other crew preparing for filmingMr. Mike is credited with being incredibly effective in helping children deal with emotions and behavior. “One of the coolest things about it,” according to Mrs. Case, a fourth grade teacher, “is watching our students support each other. They took their roles very seriously and are so excited to share their messages with other students.”

The students themselves have also expressed their appreciation for Mr. Mike’s program. Fourth grade student Harper Schrader said, “Mr. Mike taught me that you should never try to be like someone else because the best person you can be is you.”

“This was a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn what it takes to make a small film and how they can take their messages of anti-bullying and kindness to a larger audience through their film.” – Principal Eagan