McCool 5th grader named finalist in White House film fest

by Media release
DODEA Pacific

SANTA RITA – With more than 2,000 nationwide entries in the first White House Student Film Festival, McCool Elementary/Middle School fifth-grader Stella German overcame long odds to be named a finalist on Feb. 26, earning an invitation to screen her film at the White House.

I am looking forward to meeting the president, Mrs. Obama and their kids. I also look forward to watching my video in the White House theater,” said German, who will fly to Washington DC to visit the White House in a special ceremony for the finalists.

This is the first year for the nationwide contest which ran from Nov. 25 to Jan. 29. The competition was open to all K-12 students in the U.S., including students attending Department of Defense schools worldwide.

Entries could not exceed three minutes and had to answer specific questions: “What’s your education story and how does technology and connectivity fit into how you learn at school or on your own? How do you imagine technology will change the educational experience for kids in the future?” according to the White House blog.

Film entries were uploaded to YouTube and underwent an initial round of judging by a panel of White House staffers. Finalists have been invited to a special screening at the White House where the panel will select the top winners based on creative expression, originality and technical quality.

Student winners will receive a special certificate and their films will be featured on the White House website, YouTube channel, Vimeo and other official social media pages.

“I think that it is a great honor because there were over 2,000 students who entered this competition, and my film was selected to be viewed,” German said.

While German did most of the work herself, she did receive some assistance from McCool music teacher, Nicholas Trosclair, including separate sessions to record the song and video.

“This was new territory for us, so we had to get creative. The hard part was figuring out how to align the video with the audio,” said Trosclair. “After our two meetings during winter break, I transferred all the files for the music video to Stella's computer. Stella edited the actual music video all by herself. I was blown away when I first saw it.”

Fusing music and technology is a powerful approach to learning according to German.

“I really enjoy music and technology because music really cheers me up,” she said. “Since I'm used to making music videos, I can use that skill to make projects in school.”

Trosclair agreed and said hands-on, active participation is more important than ever to how students learn today.

“I feel as a teacher, I need to be sure not to get in the way of their potential,” said Trosclair. “Students need to be equipped with the skills to be imaginative and creative in order to use what we teach them in ways we can't even imagine today. I try to create an atmosphere that allows students to use their imagination and be creative.”

DODEA provides a wide range of courses and extra-curricular opportunities in visual and performing arts across the Pacific including special intercultural exchange concerts and art exhibits, the Far East Honor Music Festival, Far East Jazz Festival, Far East Creative Expressions and the Far East Film and Entertainment Arts Festival.

DODEA Pacific also provides a variety of free musical instruments and sophisticated, industry-standard recording equipment and software for all schools. The recording capabilities are used regularly by music teachers to help provide students prompt feedback on their musical performances for reflection, analysis and improvement.

Trosclair said such resources were not available in other school systems where he taught prior to joining DDDEA a year ago, “This project would not have been possible in those other school systems. We did not have the resources or the technology. I feel very grateful to work in a school system that provides students and teachers with the tools they need. Without these resources, we will never know what our kids are truly capable of. I hope this video shows adults what kids are capable of.”

For her part, German is taking the exciting news in stride and remaining focused on the big picture.

“I really want to be a doctor and also a professional singer,” she said, “but I really need to study more math, science and other subjects so that I can be a doctor.”

Whatever the outcome of the final competition at the White House or her chosen career path, German will have a very special highlight on her resume to treasure for years to come.

Watch Stella German's movie on YouTube.

About the White House Student Film Festival:
The White House Film Festival will feature official selections chosen from more than 2,000 student videos showcasing creative ways technology is currently being used in schools and innovative ideas about how technology should be part of their education in the future.

About DoDEA Pacific:
The first organized schools for the children of U.S. military personnel serving in the Pacific were established in 1946 during post-World War II reconstruction. Throughout the decades, DoD schools evolved to become a comprehensive and high-performing K-12 school system solely dedicated to educating the children of America’s heroes. Today, DoDEA Pacific’s 50 schools serve over 23,500 children of U.S. military and eligible DoD civilian personnel families stationed throughout the Pacific theater. The DoDEA Pacific teaching, administrative and school support team includes more than 3,400 full-time professionals. The schools are geographically organized into four districts: Guam, Japan, Okinawa and South Korea.

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