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Harwood Union eighth-graders create Irene documentaries



Yellow, Red, Green and Blue are the very simple names of the documentary DVDs that Harwood Union Middle School made to chronicle their experiences during and in the aftermath of Irene.

From their unique perspective, students interviewed each other about their experiences, utilizing images of the rain and river rising, the flooding, the destruction and the cleanup. The students used pictures and video clips from The Valley Reporter, Facebook, YouTube and other sources to illustrate their films.

The films are short and poignant. In each film students interview other students about their experiences during the flood, their reactions and their actions after the flood. The interviews are brief but thorough. One student who lives in Moretown talked about watching the water rising, leaving her house and barely making it back. Others talked about heading to the Waitsfield covered bridge to see if it was still standing.

In some student’s voices there is fear in retelling the story. In some tears can be heard to lurk. Others speak in a very matter of fact manner – almost like reporters – describing what they saw and what they did.

They talk of heading into the mess and helping to clean up in Warren, Waitsfield, Moretown and Waterbury. They talk about community and their sense of it. The only criticism this reviewer has of these DVDs, which document such a significant event, is that the students who were being interviewed were not shown by their interviewers (with the exception of one student.). To be able to see their faces as they talked about the flood and aftermath would have been amazing.

But that is a minor complaint about an otherwise important and historical recollection of the impact of Irene on Vermont last August. The DVDs debuted at Harwood Union last month and will air on MRVTV this month. Students are also working on another DVD about Moretown’s community response and lobster festival a week after the storm.

The DVDs were created by the middle school’s Irene Ethnography project. The project began on the first day of school, which was delayed for a week due to Tropical Storm Irene. Students in Sarah Ibson’s eighth-grade social studies class, in collaboration with Jacki McCarty’s language arts classes, took on the Hurricane Irene Flood Project: An Ethnography of Our Experiences. The project aimed to answer the essential question of how to preserve students’ stories about the flood so that future generations will understand the devastation and the aftermath.

To help the students, their teachers contacted the Vermont Folk Life Center in Middlebury and two ethnographers came to the school to conduct a workshop on ethnography. They helped students understand the difference between a traditional interview and an ethnographical interview.

According to McCarty, the central goal of the project was to use the experiences of students and their families to create an archive of memories, stories and history from the flood of 2011.

 

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