Students premiere documentaries at Next Stage

PUTNEY — The Putney Central School eighth-grade social studies class invites the public to “Portraits of Sustainability in Putney,” a public screening of short films that highlight members of their community whose work contributes to sustainability here.

The screening is at Next Stage Arts Project, 15 Kimball Hill Road, on Thursday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m.

As part of their “Exploring Sustainability” curriculum, the Putney eighth-graders in Leah Toffolon's social studies class considered definitions of sustainability (which the Sustainable Schools Project of Shelburne Farms defines as: “when the environmental, economic and social needs of a society are met in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”)

Working with photographer Evie Lovett, who partnered with the Vermont Folklife Center, the students learned the fundamentals of ethnographic research, interviewing techniques, and media production.

Each student selected a member of the community to interview and photograph, and produced a short film, a portrait of this individual and the work they do.

Film subjects include individuals working in mental health, food, farming, education, conservation, solar power, town governance, and road and land management.

Putney Foodshelf coordinator (and interview subject) Sue Kochinskas describes the interview process:

“I was really surprised at how thoughtful my interviewers were. Being interviewed by the Putney Central School middle schoolers reminded me of just how capable they are of grasping the tough concepts of hunger and poverty that the rest of us adults continually try to figure out.”

The Vermont Folklife Center's “Discovering Community” education programs encourage students to learn to be storytellers; to explore and capture stories in their communities by doing primary source research; to listen to others' stories, thereby building empathy and compassion; and to come to see themselves as part of a wider, interwoven community.

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