Last fall, freshmen at Elkin High School took part in a new project, Authoring Action, funded through a Winston-Salem Foundation grant secured by Watershed NOW (Nurturing Our Waters), a local conservation group whose efforts are to project the Big Elkin Creek watershed.
Through several workshops from Authoring Action writing coaches Lynn Rhoades and Nathan Freeman, the ninth-graders learned to express their feelings about water and its impact on society, and society’s impact on water. Those writing exercises were then turned into a 15-minute film, with all the directing, writing and production work done by the students.
On Thursday, members of Watershed NOW, school and community members and parents were invited to a short presentation, which included the screening of the film, displays of posters created by the students and a question-and-answer session with three of English teacher April Swarey’s freshmen involved in the program.
One of the unique features of Elkin High School’s campus is that a creek runs through the campus, which is accessible for students to use for classroom projects, and Big Elkin Creek can be seen in a bird’s-eye view from some of the classrooms in the building, evident by a couple of the shots in the film where flooding and orange water can be seen flowing downstream behind the students as they share their words on water’s importance to the world.
Freeman explained, after the screening of the film, that the staff at Authoring Action helped edit their pieces, but “every word they’d written were theirs.”
Music in the film, including a song whose words include “She’s my Yadkin River … She makes me smile,” mostly was written by divinity students of Elkin Presbyterian Church pastor, Dr. Stuart Taylor, who is part of Watershed NOW.
“One day we will realize how much we are damaging the water. I fear that one day it will be too late to do anything about it,” shares one student in the film.
“Water passionately provides for us, and still us humans bite the hand that provides for us,” another student says.
“All life is made of water,” yet another student points out.
These same students last year as eighth-graders participated in Creek Week at Elkin Municipal Park and were able to help with creek restoration near the ball fields by staking out plants that help protect the soil from erosion.
Savannah Collins, who was joined at the presentation by classmates Destiny Garcia and Abbey Dumas, said in her writing she shared how she doesn’t think people will listen to the youth when it concerns something important like water and its protection.
“Sometimes adults don’t want to hear what the kids have learned in school or see,” Collins said. “They laugh, and say you don’t know because I’m 20 years older.”
But Woody Faulk, Watershed NOW member, explained to them that people are listening. Their involvement in programs like Creek Week and Authoring Action is being publicized. “As you students are doing things at the creek, the pictures have been in the paper,” he said. “Over the last three months, some of the landowners and farmers upstream have started modifying what they do.”
In monitoring the effects of changing the way land is being used and cared for upstream, Faulk said a decrease has been tabulated in 3,000 tons of soil less going into the creek. “In huge measure, that’s because of you kids,” he said.
Dumas said she was glad to hear it is making a difference.
Garcia, who codirected the film, shared one of her poems prior to the screening of the film.
Freeman said the students had their hands in every step of the process of film-making, from choosing the shoots, to boom recording and sound and more.
A new set of classes are now beginning the Authoring Action process during second semester, Swarey said. And instead of posters, there has been some discussion with art teacher Adam Beshears about those students creating some type of 3-D art with recycled materials, although nothing has been finalized yet.
The students’ film will be shown soon during an assembly at the high school introducing the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). Also, it will be shown this week in Taylor’s class at Wake Forest University, Freeman said.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.