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From the beginning of time, stories have been passed down from generation to generation. Whether they are told orally, in print, or digitally, the art of storytelling helps frame who we are and what we value. The most interesting thing about storytelling is that depending on who is telling or writing the story, it is bound to change based on the speaker and interpretation of the audience. While students are constantly exposed to storytelling, they are not always taught how to effectively tell their story through various forms. Teaching this art is quite the undertaking; however, once learned by students, the stories they produce will help shape our future.

As I observed our Media Department and talked with our teachers over the past few days, I learned that despite the differences in classes and projects offered, their main focus is always the art of visual storytelling, and wow... our students do an awesome job sharing various stories about our school. Ms. Lisa Traut and Mr. John Gelsomino, our media teachers, explained to me that they teach the art of visual storytelling through the creation of commercials, documentaries, short films, trailers, news stories, and more.  In addition, they create multiple video series for our school that include spirit videos, NV Pulse, and our school's news program, Wildcat Weekly. Ms. Traut and Mr. Gelsomino not only teach our students how to do all of this, but they also coach them through the process and act as mentors for many of their students who go on to pursue this profession in the future. During my observations and conversations with Ms. Traut and Mr. Gelsomino, I learned a lot about the instructional process when teaching the art of storytelling and creating/producing visual media.

Planning and Purpose
Before the students share their stories, they must have a vision for what story they want to share. In addition, they must consider their audience and how to capture their attention and keep them engaged. This task is easier said than done, especially in a school of our size. Students must collaborate and brainstorm different options, which will vary depending on their current project. In Ms. Traut's Journalism classes, her students are on a rotation throughout the year and are tasked with different projects each week. I learned that students start the process of creating a Wildcat Weekly episode weeks before it actually airs. One student explained to me that they must brainstorm stories and then propose them to the coordinating producer, who then must also check in with Ms. Traut. Students must have a purpose for their story and also a clever, engaging idea for how to shoot, edit, and portray the story through visual media. There are deadlines for everything, and it really forces the students to take ownership of their work in order to share interesting, relevant stories with their peers. Mr. Gelsomino explained to me that in his production classes that produce commercials, short films, spirit videos, and more, the students eventually get to choose their paths for projects after learning the basics and completing assigned stories. After students are equipped with the skills needed after practice and instruction, they get the awesome responsibility of sharing what they think is interesting with others, which puts choice and voice in their hands. As with Ms. Traut's class, in order to do this effectively, they must think through the process ahead of time and make a plan before executing. As our teachers coach the students through this process, the students are learning real-life skills that will continue to aid them in sharing stories and shaping the future. 

Bring on the creativity, critical thinking, and patience. Once the planning is complete, it is time to get to work and create the story. I learned from various students that they spend a lot of time filming different videos/shots in order to make their stories stand out. Wow...there is a lot to consider when creating these awesome projects: lighting, angles, captions, music, transitions, volume, and time. As I watched the students, their focus, patience, and critical eyes were quite impressive. Both Mr. Gelsomino and Ms. Traut helped them as needed and also provided some great suggestions in order to take their work to the next level. Students asked for feedback from one another too, and with this, they came up with some great ideas just through collaborating with their peers. The creation process takes time, and I now understand why the teachers and students are so proud of their work once it is complete. Another student proudly showed me her digital portfolio - a website that houses all of her projects and reflections from various media classes. It was very impressive to see her work and how she decided to showcase it for future viewers of her website. Wow....this is an awesome artifact of learning that she can utilize in the future as she applies for college and other endeavors. 

Review and Editing
After their stories are created, the job does not end. Through my observations, I would argue that one of the most difficult parts of this process is reviewing, editing, and learning from past mistakes in order to produce a wonderful story. Some of this happens during the creation process, as they continuously play back parts of their videos in order to revise and improve. For example, Mr. Gelsomino's Production classes furiously rewatched and edited their commercials and tutorial videos for multiple class periods to get them just right. For a large project like an episode of Wildcat Weekly, the class puts significant time and care into reviewing and critiquing the show before it airs. The process is quite impressive, as the students who created the show, and another group of students from the class, sit and watch each segment and assess various aspects of it. The students complete a Google form in order to provide written feedback; however, they actually talk through it in the moment, after each segment. I was so impressed with the feedback offered by students and the reflections made by students who actually created the segments. One student explained to me that he loves hearing from his classmates because everyone has a different perspective, and it forces him to think about things in a different way, which aides him with future projects. Ms. Traut also offered her feedback, and it was clear that her opinion and suggestions were very important to the students.  It was evident that the students took their jobs seriously and really considered how they could improve their work in the future. No wonder Wildcat Weekly is so powerful and popular with our students; the energy and passion of the students telling our school's story is nothing short of extraordinary. 

Now comes the good part....students get to share their stories with others. Our media classes capture the heart and soul of our school by sharing our story throughout the year. As you know, the art of storytelling is timeless, and our students' work will always be a great reminder of the awesome people, places, events, and experiences that make our story special. #neuqua #whatsup

Check out the Neuqua Media Website and the Neuqua Media YouTube Channel to see our students' work!