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Heroes' Tales--A Seventh Grade Rite of Passage Continues to Evolve

Tutt Stapp-McKiernan

For a number of years, 7th graders at Wakefield have combined the dual skills of storytelling and visual communication in the production of videos depicting a family story as a “tall tale”—the kind of story that gets passed along through the years and, sometimes, grows in the telling. These complex projects, months in the making, involve interviews, transcriptions, original writing, the recording of the author’s narration, the daunting search for visuals to accompany and support the narrated text (both stock material found online and photography and video footage created by the students), and the eventual assembling of words and images into a final video of the finished tall tale.

This year's version continued the project's evolution by incorporating students' study of the Odyssey as a hero's journey, and then working on a family story as a hybrid of both a hero's journey and a tall tale, incorporating elements of both. The name of the project morphed from "Wakefield Family Tall Tale" to "Wakefield Family Hero's Tale," and its results in its new form debuted on May 18.

When the projects were completed, this year’s students got to vote on awards for the best videos in four categories—and as a special incentive, the four winning videos would get to have their work shown to family and peers “on the big screen,” in the new GLO Theater’s technologically and atmospherically sophisticated setting, on "Wakefield Family Hero's Tale Night."

And the winners were…

·         Best Use of Technology: Naiya Gonzalez, "The Trial of the Hill"

·         Best Family Story: Addison Cobert, "Hidden Story"

·         Best Use of Exaggeration: Patrick Reidway, “The Cliffhanger Cat”

·         Best Overall Video: Alex Campos, “810 Alpha”

Each of these winning pieces featured both inspired storytelling, and cleverly-devised visuals to underscore aspects of that storytelling: the path of a hilly bike ride shown as vertiginous, near-vertical drops via Minecraft; a family story’s relationships conveyed by a series of stills at the end featuring a wide range of facial expressions from the student actors; a mom (an actual mom!) playing the triple roles of mom, cop, and jailer (no explanation needed there!); and in a kinder treatment of the profession of police officer, the story of a policeman’s heroism that included both tribute and humor.

Congratulations to all of the 7th graders on completing this important rite of Wakefield passage, and for embracing the evolution of a project that neatly links skillsets begun in Lower School with the type of integrated work that will culminate in the students’ future Senior Theses.