GASD students learn valuable lesson

By ALISSA SCOTT

alissa.scott@recordernews.com

Greater Amsterdam School District elementary students have been learning the art of film making and humanity during the past two weeks, while creating a public service announcement commercial entitled "How to UnMake a Bully."

The district partnered with The DON'T WAIT Project, an organization that uses media to educate students about how they influence bullying behavior, but also about public service and how to write, produce, direct, film and act in a PSA.

Mike Feurstein, creator of the How to UnMake a Bully program and who students call "Mr. Mike," visited each of the four elementary schools and by today, students will have completed four separate commercials.

Monday, students created the story line and script for the PSA. Stacy Damphier, fifth grade teacher at Marie Curie Institute of Engineering and Communications, said the students were a part of the production from the beginning.

"Mr. Mike drove the conversation, but the ideas really came from the students," Damphier said.

Day two involved the completion of a job chart. Each student was able to choose what role they wanted to perform, from actor to director to sound engineer. They were also responsible for securing the locations for filming, like a school bus or the gymnasium.

"The students are being extremely patient and even the students who might not have a role right now, like three students signed up to be cameramen, they're waiting patiently for their turn," Feurstein said during production.

For Marie Curie, Wednesday was film day. The students buzzed around the gym, each in their roles -- one student held a large boom microphone, while another student ran around with her clipboard and another documented the behind-the-scenes action.

The scene they filmed in the gym involved a game of capture the flag, but when one student's team lost, she became angry and jealous, bringing that emotion back into the classroom -- the next scene.

The student in the role of camera director decided the direction of which he wanted the dolly holding the camera to be rolled, the actors rehearsed their lines, and students helped Feurstein remove any signs that would indicate the students' true identities.

"And why do we do that, students?" Feurstein asked as a student removed a large poster with all the students' names on it. "That's right. If the viewers see us, and see our faces, they know we go to Marie Curie Institute and if they know our names, those are stranger names. They can go online and because they know our name, our faces and where we go to school, then we're not safe."

Soon after, they began shooting the scene -- though they were 10 minutes late.

Feurstein taught the students about punctuality, a life lesson, he said.

"Mr. Mike," one student called out. "We're late."

Feurstein explained the debit time system, if they're 10 minutes early, they have five minutes debited. "If you're on time," Feurstein said, "you're actually late."

Damphier said she was proud of her students and how well they worked together.

"They all have cooperated to get their message across about bullying and how it will not be tolerated at school," Damphier said.