Maryville High juniors’ premier documentaries on U.S. history

For one night, Maryville High School juniors were in the movie business.

The annual American Studies project challenged 11th grade students to create documentary films around topics in United States history. On March 31, the students showed off their handiwork to parents, fellow students and family members.

Mark White and Dr. Penny Ferguson led the initiative. Creating movies is something many of the students are very good at doing. “A lot of them it plays to their strengths,” he said.

Websites like You-Tube and software like I-Movie for Apple computers allow individuals to create and/or post homemade movies. These technologies have helped students become more proficient at the craft.

White said that after they obtained a very generous grant from the Maryville Schools Foundation, they were able to buy additional equipment so more students could make movies.

With the accompanying portfolios, White said they wanted to challenge the students to explain their hypothesis behind their documentaries. The teachers also wanted the students to learn how to think critically. “I wanted them to be able to explain their editorial choices and to understand the ‘sins’ of omission and commission,” White said, referring to how the students decided what to include and not include in their projects.

Junior film maker Victor Medina said his movie was about the Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark May, 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

“We learned a lot about racism and integration in schools,” he said. “The toughest part was gathering everyone together and putting film together and adding actual footage and music.”

Luke Cox dressed as a Union solder in the late 1800s West because he and his team created a film about the Indian Wars of the American West. Their question was, what if the major Indian tribes - the Sioux, Comanche, Cheyenne and Apaches, had joined together. “Our hypothesis was if this had happened it would have forced the American government to grant the Indians their own nation,” he said.

Cox said challenges in making his film included the weather. “It got real cold some days, but it was a lot of fun,” he said.

Rob Booher said he learned a lot about planning video productions. “For every two to three minutes, it’s two or three hours of planning,” he said.

Chris Miller said the challenge his team dealt with was working late and convincing team mate Chris Gildrie’s mom that they didn’t have to go to bed. When she saw the team’s edited work on Andrew Carnegie, she allowed them to stay up later to finish. “She said, ‘I’ll excuse you,’” Miller said.

Principal Mike Casteel was impressed with the aptitude the students to use the technology needed for the films. “Every year we get better technology, and they get better at using it,” he said.

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