Forget Cruz and Clinton, the 8th graders at Hannah Gibbons STEM were creating commercials for today’s trumped up rivals, Batman v. Superman! After weeks of instruction in English/language arts and social studies and defining and debating what makes a true hero in our lives and communities, I sat down with one of my favorite partner teachers, Leora Rhodes, to plan a video production residency. It suddenly became clear in the midst of the this crazy political season that the Dark Knight and Man of Steal needed to be reevaluated not as super heroes but as national leaders.
Students would be charged with creating commercials for a mock presidential election to be held in May. The students asked thoughtful questions: “Superman wasn’t born here. Don’t you have to be a U.S. citizen?” “Does Batman have too many demons to be a good leader?” Character became a leading factor in determining which man was better for the job. Three groups created a :30 or :60 commercial for Superman; and three groups were in the Batman camp. Of the three groups, one created a commercial for the lower grades, one for the upper grades and the third a “negative” ad against their opponent.
Like politics, video production is a team sport. Working in groups can be hard for junior high students. They get easily distracted and would rather talk about each other than the work at hand (sound familiar?!) but they thought hard about promoting their caped-candidate in a mere minute or half-minute.
It’s always so gratifying to hear their ideas and watch them use professional equipment to execute them. In the short time I work with them, I am always amazed at how they direct each other on camera, dive into editing software, and pick appropriate text and music to persuade their audience. I’m hoping this project will make them feel more empowered during an election season gone awry. If only there were more real heroes vying for the White House. At least the students of Hannah Gibbons will get to cast their vote.
Check out one of the Vote for Superman ads below: