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Video project takes aim at childhood obesity, too

Student-produced work was shown at Ragtag Cinemacafe.
Sunday, May 28, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:30 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Creating multimedia projects is nothing new for Jonette Ford and Stephanie Wightman’s fifth-grade classes at West Boulevard Elementary School. In March, they created a civil rights museum and made four or five short films.

“It is the 21st century, and our students need to know how to use technology because most of the professions they will enter will require it,” Ford said.

So when Beth Federici, director of Columbia Access Television, and Melinda Hemmelgarn, a nutritionist, came to the school, the students were ready to produce a 15-minute video on nutrition.

The students listened to information about nutrition and then wrote a script, directed and produced the video.

“It was really fun because you got to write a script and then pick the people who will be on your part of the segments so it made you feel independent,” student Jennifer Kennedy said.

The project is a component of a federal Healthy Eating by Design grant awarded to the PedNet Coalition, West Boulevard and the Columbia/Boone County Health Department. The video was screened Thursday at Ragtag Cinema­cafe.

“We had mini crews for different shots,” said Federici, who, like Hemmelgarn, has been involved before in teaching students media literacy. “One person would work the camera while someone would hold the microphone and listen to headphones for audio, and someone would act as the floor director by positioning shots and yelling, ‘Quiet on the set!’”

Hemmelgarn said media literacy needs to be included with nutrition education because previous techniques have not reduced child obesity.

Over 20 years, not much had changed because we were still telling students to start exercising more and eat more fruits and vegetables, but those messages are not enough, Hemmelgarn said. “Child obesity rates are continuing to climb.

“The beauty of media literacy education is that it teaches youth to think critically about media messages,” she said. “They learn to recognize, analyze, evaluate and produce their own media.”

Federici said that since the students started working on the video, they have been analyzing what they see on TV more and not taking all information they receive from the media at face value.

“I’ve been reading nutrition facts nonstop,” Jennifer said. “It is a total hobby right now. Every time I pick something up, I read the facts.”

The project will be repeated in the fall with Ford’s new fifth-graders. Federici said she would like to see media literacy incorporated into other classrooms throughout the Columbia Public School District. She and Hemmelgarn plan to collaborate in more media literacy outreach under the name Media Literacy Matters.

“You can do media literacy with civil rights, to discuss an event in history and as an (English as a Second Language) tool to teach English,” Federici said. “Media literacy teaches students how to be critical viewers while portraying healthy eating habits, stereotypes, body image or whatever you want to teach.”


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