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Reid Students Premiere Veterans Day Documentary
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
09:20PM / Thursday, November 08, 2012
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The students found a local veteran to interview as part of their research.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — For the last month, students at Reid Middle School have been putting their new TV studio to use in making a documentary about Veterans Day.

On Thursday, they shared the final product with city officials, parents and  war vets.

Students in Julia Sabourin's Grade 7 reading and writing class embarked on a massive research project about Veterans Day. It started with a presentation from the city's Veterans' Services Officer Rosanne Frieri and from there it grew into a larger project with individual students picking out wars to study.

"This was really intensive," Sabourin said at the premiere of the student's documentary. "After her [Frieri's] presentation, the students were really inspired."

For student Zachery Barnes, it was World War II that piqued his interest.

"I was doing World War II and what interested me the most was how everyone got into the war," Barnes said, recapping the history of the how each nation joined the fighting.

The students broke off with their topics and hit the books and later interviewed a veteran from their particular war - from the Persian Gulf to Vietnam to Afghanistan.

Sabourin partnered with the eighth grade writing workshop class taught by Debra Guachione. The eighth-graders helped the seventh-graders turn their research into a video that featured the interviews from nearly a dozen local veterans in all branches.

The showing drew a large audience of parents, city officials, students and veterans.

The interviews covered a wide range of topics from post-traumatic stress disorder to Agent Orange to how the soldiers felt when they returned home. The veterans told stories of battles and revealed their personal feelings — some becoming emotional over as they relived their days overseas.

The students did everything from filming to cutting down more than 16 hours of footage to just 25 minutes.

"It was fun," said student Salvy Nataro, who studied the Vietnam War and helped edit down the footage.

The goal fits in with the curriculum framework that calls for students to analyze identity — Sabourin said the veterans focus was to show how events change identity — but also to incorporate speaking, listening and project-based learning.

The end result is exactly what the teachers hoped to have when first installing the television studio during the summer.

"This is the first time we've done a research project presentation on TV and their enthusiasm was amazing," Sabourin said.

The studio has been utilized earlier this year for smaller projects in the Grade 8 workshops as both teachers and students got acquainted with the technology. For Guachione, she has already seen an increase in engagement because the various tasks required to produce a film helps invigorate student interest.

"We're finding that students across the spectrum are eager to be on camera," Guachione said. "It's really promoted personal interest."

The studio is also intended to teach digital integration into projects, which aligns with the state's push for an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and math in the classrooms.

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