Inspired Storytelling

School News
April 2, 2018- You never know where you may find inspiration. It comes from everywhere, and this year, VMS 5th graders spotlighted a dog, athletes, humanitarians and others closer to home in the 4th Annual “Stories of Inspiration” Film Festival.  

Driven by a desire to amp up the language arts curriculum and engage students in more powerful and personal ways, this project evolved from an informational writing unit where students were asked to write biographies about U.S. Presidents. Over the last four years, fifth grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Stavisky, in collaboration with Technology Integration Specialist, Ms. Zimmer, rewrote the curriculum to empower students with the choice to find inspiration in individuals relevant to their lives, and with the technological tools to express their ideas.

As a result, the research writing process at the core of the language arts curriculum was transformed into a storytelling journey as 5th grade students became true documentary filmmakers. As a departure point, students were challenged to reflect on questions such as, "How and why is this person inspirational?" and "What actions prove this?" or "What does being inspirational actually mean and how could this story influence or inspire others?"

Students were pushed to go beyond successes, medals, and even athletic prowess and focus on choosing an individual or group who is making a difference in people’s lives.  Students researched, took notes, outlined, transferred to a storyboard, and generated images to illustrate their words. As filmmakers, they edited films down to a manageable size and produced powerful documentaries.

Mrs. Stavisky also recruited the outside expertise of Brian Hall, a longtime local and masterful producer who runs Beaver Creek Children’s Theater. "The focus of the workshop is for the students to create an inspirational film about someone or some cause that has impacted the world in a positive way,” says Hall. “We want them to reach past creating just a biography about their subject and tell a story through the film that will move the audience - inspire the audience to hopefully take some kind of action, to get involved."

“Mr. Hall’s creative talents as an actor, teacher, storyteller, and filmmaker really guided and enriched the process and we are fortunate to have had his help over the years,” noted Mrs. Stavisky. “Mr. Lambert, the 5th grade writing teacher, also joined the production team this year and was a tremendous resource to the kids and the process as a whole.”

“This is a step up for the students and a capstone project for our eldest lower school students. They’ve developed skills in research and factual writing, but we wanted to now give them an opportunity to infuse their work with their own unique voice and style, and share what they produce with a greater audience, says Stavisky. “They had to distill and prioritize, much like the writing process, but it was a real challenge to break from the wrote form and truly become storytellers and not just research writers.” 

And so, two weeks ago, it all came together in front of an audience of parents, peers, and admirers who sat glued to the screen as they watched and learned. The films, which can be seen through the link below, tell the stories of inspiration, but these student reflections show the result. 
  • “It was awesome! I really think I impacted my audience! I got to see their faces…” (Jason)
  • “I can do anything if I have the right mindset! I am so proud of myself.” (Hayden)
  • “It was the most wonderful feeling to watch my own film and hard work on the big screen!” (Andie)
  • “I underestimated myself! I am proud of my film.” (Gus)
  • “I hope my audience felt inspired by how selfless Diana was…” (Izzy)

Reflecting on the Film Festival, Mrs. Stavisky offered the follwing in closing, “Our filmmakers dug deep and recognized how impactful their voice and work can be. They shared stories that were personal, and whose selflessness and generosity helps others and impacts the world. These amazing readers and writers became stronger, more confident, and discovered more of themselves through this process.” 

View 5th Grade Films

Password: inspire