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Mount Vernon Elementary School Students in Chicago Produce a Video on Youth Violence

The News Literacy Project’s fall semester at Mount Vernon Elementary School in Chicago wrapped up with the production of a short documentary by Anjanette Lipsett’s 7th-grade English class.

“Our Own Actions” tackles the issue of youth violence in five parts: “Innocent Victims,” “Youth Violence in Sports,” “Teen Violence,” “Then and Now” and “Who is Responsible?”

The class split into teams to approach the topic from several perspectives. Students were responsible for the entire process, from selecting their sub-topics and sources to writing interview questions, shooting interviews and b-roll footage, and directing post-production.

“Working with News Literacy Project and creating a documentary was an incredible experience for my students and me,” said Lipsett. “The cross-curricular and real-world learning was evident throughout the process of planning, filming, interviewing, and editing.”

The students shared their work with the 3rd through 8th grade classes at Mount Vernon as part of a special winter assembly that was also attended by parents and community members. “We got everybody’s help and their feelings about youth violence,” said Mercedes Jenkins, one of the student filmmakers. The challenge of making the video was “amazing,” she said.

“I think people could learn from the video we made,” said Justin Prater, another student filmmaker. “We could inspire people to do things to make a difference.”

Prater’s hope could soon come true. Students taking the News Literacy Project’s unit at Lindblom High School will watch the film in class at the end of January. The screening will be followed by a videoconference question-and-answer session with the filmmakers at Mount Vernon.

The video caps a semester-long news literacy unit — the first component of a two-year partnership aimed at helping Mount Vernon develop a school-wide focus on news and information literacy.

Lipsett said she believes that the unit and the video project not only boosted the class’s news literacy skills, but also offered “a bold steppingstone to our further work in and out of the classroom with understanding and creating digital media.”

The News Literacy Project’s partnership with Mount Vernon Elementary School is made possible by a grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.