In a tiny green screen alcove tucked away in the Academy360 Lower School building, a student stands at a lectern waiting for the director to call “Action” and begin filming their part of “Morning Announcements,” the daily video shown in all classrooms that kicks off the day with facts and familiar smiling faces.
COVID-19 brought about many changes to the academic landscape, and put the daily tradition of students visiting the main office to lead the Pledge of Allegiance over loudspeaker on pause. Inspired by the Upper School’s weekly “A360 News,” the idea of bringing video projects to the Lower School struck Principal Gina Catania as a great way to bring teachers and the student body together.
Just outside the spotlight’s glow, Middle School students wait for their turn before the camera as Carley Snack, Academy360’s art and film teacher, directs students in their dialogue.
Carley came to the Lower School in late 2019 as a part-time art teacher with a burgeoning interest in film studies, which made her a natural fit at Spectrum360 where its FilmAcademy360 program has for several years been has worked with students at the Upper School with an interest in work in front of and behind the camera.
As she was settling into her role, the pandemic hit and with it came many changes. To augment her virtual classroom teaching, Carley connected with FA360’s director David Diianni, who had continued the Upper School’s weekly “A360 News” feature throughout lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions by having students film their segments at home and which were edited together by his team at their own homes and later back in the Upper School’s fully decked-out studio.
As they brainstormed projects that would help Carley expand her skills, Principal Catania was actively working on ways to unify the student body; when she learned of Carley’s interest in film studies, she reached out and offered the opportunity to add to her part-time position, making her a full-time staff member.
Thus arrived Morning Announcements! Cleverly edited using student on-screen talent, classroom footage and often roving reporter style interactions with others, the video delivers updates on birthdays, school events, any meaningful holidays, and of course the Pledge of Allegiance.
In addition to being fun and informative, Carley, David and Gina agree the biggest plus in creating the videos is building life skills.
“The opportunity for our students to be on the morning announcements is priceless.” says Carley. “With support, they are able to practice career readiness skills such as public speaking and digital file management, all while having fun! The students gravitate towards the camera; they want to be in front of it, behind it and they want to know how it all works. This is a very real setting for students to practice their skills and they look forward to it.”
Prior to launching Morning Announcements, Carley had spent months conversing with and shadowing David and his team. Seeing so much potential with having a studio at the Lower School, he provided curriculum guidance and identified some basic skills-building that would help students as they progress through the Middle School and into Upper School.
“Introducing digital media to our younger students creates awareness and concrete skills for the future.” says David. “Carley has already made such an impact by using her artistic and technical knowledge to teach her students important 21st century skills.”
“Our students have a love and knack for technology,” Gina adds. “The film studio provides a platform for us to meet three unique goals: First, it would provide our students with an opportunity to learn video and film readiness skills that would support their experiences at the Upper School. Second, it would enhance their skills in not only reading, speaking and writing, but also interviewing, editing and animation skills. Third, our announcements teach and highlight diversity and inclusion based on monthly themes.”
Students are enjoying their time in the school studio and the opportunity to be mini A360 stars. But the enjoyment is shared by all, with something new and engaging to set the tone for each day and introduce instruction themes in the classroom.
Feedback from parents has been tremendously positive with responses such as:
I’m so proud of her! That was amazing, thank you for sharing. It made my day, she’s come such a long way!
And to think when he was 4 he had NO WORDS. Thank you so much – we needed a boost!
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful video!
Film studies at Academy360 and FilmAcademy360 receive support from generous donations made by the Spectrum360 community. Your support enables us to give students opportunities beyond traditional classroom instruction and therapies. We are so grateful for your enthusiasm about our schools and programs, which helps us achieve our greatest goal: a fulfilling education experience plus a lot of fun!