Ecker Hill Middle School Spanish club to host student film festival
When the Sundance Film Festival rolled into town a couple weeks ago, the students in the ¡Hablemos! Spanish After Hours program decided to hold a film festival of their own.
The after-school program at Ecker Hill Middle School is set to host a festival of student films on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. All films will be in Spanish. The event is set to take place in the school’s auditorium.
Patricia Muñoz, a Spanish teacher at the school and a co-founder of the club, said the goal of ¡Hablemos! Spanish After Hours is to provide a space where students can practice their Spanish language skills while doing fun activities. Student leaders came up with the idea for a film festival a couple weeks ago, and students in the club have spent several hours storyboarding, filming and editing — all in Spanish.
At the film festival on Wednesday, one professional short film in Spanish and the top 10 student films will be screened. Muñoz and William Hocking, who has worked in the film industry for several years, will determine which films will be shown. Attendees will be able to vote for the best films, and awards will be given at the end of the evening.
Zachary Minter, a seventh-grade student and president of the club, said he is excited to see which films get selected. He said he and the members of his group put in weeks of work to create a film about a student who goes through his daily activities and “falls into some peril or doom, but it narrowly misses him.” He said some of the members of his group learned to step out of their shells while filming the short.
“I’m proud of all my friends and proud of myself for making a film come together. It would be great to see all of us on the screen and have that feeling of accomplishment and pride,” he said.
Olivia Oveson, a sixth-grade student and vice president of the club, is eager to walk on a red carpet that the club is rolling out, and to see which group wins. Her team made a stop-motion film using Legos.
She has enjoyed the process of filming and editing. She said she has learned more Spanish words and phrases related to filming.
Increasing the students’ Spanish vocabulary and fluency is exactly why Muñoz started the club at the start of the school year. She wanted her dual-language immersion students to have a place to practice their Spanish outside of the classroom.
“I felt like we needed a forum where students would be able to do oral language in a very non-threatening way where there is not a grade,” she said.
By doing activities like making blankets for a homeless shelter or cooking, the students have learned new words relating to topics they might not regularly discuss in class.
“It is amazing what happens to them when you are guiding an activity that they love so much,” she said. The same was true for the last few weeks as students learned to communicate about filming entirely in Spanish. Hocking, who Muñoz met through a connection at the Egyptian Theatre, volunteered to teach students filming techniques in Spanish.
The club has had continued support from parents as well. They helped raise money to get the club off the ground at the start of the school year. Muñoz recently received a $7,500 teacher grant from the Park City Education Foundation to keep the club going. But, she said, parents continue to help by volunteering their time to help run the after-school program. She said both Hispanic and non-Hispanic parents attend, and it seems to be uniting the community.
Muñoz said the film festival has also helped bring the 67 student members together. They are divided into groups, and they must collaborate with each other to get the project done.
It’s work, but Muñoz said most of the students don’t see it as such. As Oveson said, “You just get to talk to your friends and learn more vocabulary.”
The arsenic-and-lead-containing soil has been a contentious issue for the district, which piled it onto the junior high campus in actions that were later discovered to be in violation of a covenant with the Environmental Protection Agency.
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