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Irvington Middle School Students Premiere PSAs

Irvington Middle School seventh-graders demonstrated the power of media to impact social change when they presented their public service announcements during the fifth annual Irvington Middle School and Jacob Burns Film Center Movie Premiere
Irvington Middle School seventh-graders demonstrated the power of media to impact social change when they presented their public service announcements during the fifth annual Irvington Middle School and Jacob Burns Film Center Movie Premiere Photo Credit: Irvington Union Free School District

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Irvington Middle School seventh-graders recently demonstrated the power of the media to impact social change when they presented 36 public service announcements during the fifth annual Irvington Middle School and Jacob Burns Film Center Movie Premiere.

The students had been working on their digital projects for weeks as part of a unit study on visual text and persuasive argument in Kelly Kozak’s, Caroline Lehoczky’s, Allicia Rios’ and Thomas Sandler’s English language arts classes.

The PSAs focused on a variety of current social issues, including bullying, drug abuse, peer pressure, stereotyping, body image, technology addiction, nutrition and pollution.

“They were encouraged, within the parameters they had, to use symbolism and metaphors to showcase their call to action,” said Sandler, who added that students were allowed to film their projects in classrooms or on school grounds only. “They learned an assortment of camera angles and shots. Their responsibility was to use facts in their PSAs and mix them with creativity.”

The projects began with a visit to the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, where seventh-graders collaborated with staff members, including JBFC educator Brandon Shenkman, and learned about the world of visual text. The visit was made possible through a grant from the Irvington Education Foundation, which also funded the iPads that the students used to make and edit their movies.

The students then worked in groups to create storyboards for their films, learn how to use movie-making software and understand the powerful process of editing. The projects also allowed them to collaborate with their peers, solve problems and engage in critical thinking.

Seventh-grader Nicholas Papapanou and his group created a PSA about peer pressure.

“Everyone finds themselves in a situation of peer pressure at some point in their life, but you shouldn’t give in easily just because you don’t know what to do,” he said. “I liked being creative and building off of our first idea to make something we’re proud of.”

As a culminating activity, each student wrote a persuasive business letter to an organization with a call to action about his or her chosen social issue.

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