Middle School Students Premiere Civil War Vodcasts with Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area

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Students participate in Award-Winning Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® Premiere their Civil War Films in Gettysburg Prior to 150th Commemoration.

Gettysburg Area Middle School students participate in an "inside the filmmakers studio" panel after the screening of the six Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student vodcasts.

From beginning to end, the students serve as scriptwriters, actors, directors, choreographers, set designers, costume creators, videographers, and film editors to gain a deeper connection with our national history.

Over 260 seventh-grade students at Gettysburg Area Middle School have taken a different approach this year to learn about the history that took place right in their own community. They are part of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s nationally award-winning Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® service-learning project, a groundbreaking initiative that engages middle-school students in interpreting the history within their own backyards. The students use primary source documents, humanities scholarship, music, dance, dramatic readings, role-playing and digital technology to create vodcasts or mini-movies for Gettysburg National Military Park. From beginning to end, the students serve as scriptwriters, actors, directors, choreographers, set designers, costume creators, videographers, and film editors to gain a deeper connection with our national history.

The project began on Patriot Day, September 11, 2012, when the entire seventh grade class travelled to Gettysburg National Military Park for the program’s Immersion Day, an opportunity to learn from the park’s rangers, historians, and Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership educators regarding numerous aspects of the war, including life as a soldier, leadership, transportation, the African American experience, and technology. After that, the students conducted in-class research on potential topics for their project, writing their scripts, creating storyboards, and developing the framework for their movies. Thirty-six teams ultimately pitched their concept ideas to their fellow peers, teachers, and a panel of judges. Ultimately, six vodcasts were selected to be made on topics such as the Gettysburg battle, its legacy, civilian life, and the African-American experience, including: Signal Corps, Barlow and Gordon, Gutzon Borgium, Markers in Time, Shriver Family and the Black Ducks.

In December, students began filming their project at Gettysburg National Military Park, the Shriver House, and other sites around town, engaging fellow students as actors, crew, and in key behind-the-scenes roles. The editing process took place during the months of January through April. The vodcasts were screened May 22nd as part of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s annual conference, with filmmaker Ric Burns providing keynote remarks and addressing the student’s work directly. On May 23rd, an official premiere took place at the Majestic Theater in historic downtown Gettysburg 6:30 p.m. Several students participated in a panel discussion afterwards. The vodcasts have debuted in time for the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg and will become official interpretative material for the National Park Service. They can also be viewed on YouTube, SchoolTube, Comcast on Demand, Teachinghistory.org, hallowedground.org, and other sites.

The Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® program has engaged students at E. Russell Hicks and Springfield Middle Schools in Maryland; Stonewall Middle School, Smart's Mill Middle School, and Sutherland Middle School in Virginia; as well as Harpers Ferry Middle School in West Virginia. The resulting mini-movies have become part of the official interpretative material for the National Park Service, including Manassas National Battlefield Park, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Antietam National Battlefield and C & O Canal National Historical Park. In addition the JTHG Partnership has brought the program to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA and Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park in Leesburg, VA.

Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student has been recognized by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, won the 2010 WOW Award from the American Association for State and Local History, and received the 2009 Freeman Tilden Award, in recognition of “outstanding contributions to interpretation or education at a National Park”. The award is designed to recognize interpreters that develop, revitalize or deliver an innovative, pioneering or otherwise worthy interpretive or educational program.

This project has been made possible with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, History, the National Park Service, Learn and Serve America, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, the Rust Family Foundation and the National Parks Foundation. For more information about the Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® project, or the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, visit http://www.HallowedGround.org/education.

The JTHG Partnership is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the unparalleled cultural, natural, and historic heritage within the swath of land from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to Gettysburg, Pa. With 400 years of European, American and African-American heritage, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground is a National Heritage Area with a National Scenic Byway running through it. Known as the region Where America Happened®, it contains more history than any other region in the nation and includes: World Heritage sites, over 10,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, 49 National Heritage districts, nine Presidential homes, 13 National Park units, hundreds of African American and Native American heritage sites, 30 Historic Main Street comunities, sites from the Revolutionary War, French-Indian War, War of 1812 and the largest single collection of Civil War sites in the nation.

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