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Student Film Helping to Revive Old-Time Games

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Nov. 16, 2006 — A video produced by students at Charles H. Emanuel Elementary School made its first public appearance Friday night at the UVI Little Theatre. Entitled "We are Culture Bearers Too! – Youth Preserving Traditional Games," the video documents old-fashioned children's games.
The idea for the project was sparked by teacher and program founder Joan Keenan, who was concerned by the proliferation of handheld video games among students and the decline of interactive playground games children used to play. She brought the idea to the fifth-grade video class, which began the project almost a year ago.
"Charles H," as the school is affectionately called, has been grooming future videographers, film editors, and directors for the past four years, thanks to a grant from the V.I. Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The class of 15 students, in grades four through six, prepared for the project by interviewing community elders and even traveling to St. Thomas to film their grandparents or great-grandparents. They collected film footage of their elders talking about and playing the games they grew up with.
Jadon Christian, 10, a sixth grader who has been involved in filmmaking since the fourth grade, thought the idea behind the documentary was a good thing for children. She said children of today are too involved in sedentary activities. "We don't play in the playground that much," she said. We just sit around and eat."
Another video student, 12-year-old Sarah Emanuel, said the project inspired them to pass on the old-time games to those younger than them. "We can pass on the games to the younger generation," Sarah said.
The video demonstrates games like marbles, hopscotch, ring games, and the art of making wooden go-carts, among others. Sarah explained there are several types of marble games – even ones that use cashew seeds. "There are 'keeps,' triangle, and three holes," she said. Sarah said the elders used to use cashew seeds when marbles were not available. "You dig a hole and try to throw the seed into it and knock out the other person's seed from the hole," she said.
Although Keenan retired from teaching last year, she is still involved with the project and the students. "She still lives here at Charles H," said Petrine Allen, a paraprofessional who assists with the class.
Under Keenan's tutelage the class produced several short films and commercials. Among their work is "V.I. Women Making History" and "Senses," a film about the five senses. The class also filmed and edited the Teens on the Green golf tournament and the Teen Summit. They have also produced commercials for the Animal Shelter and one on the importance of studying for the Iowa Standardized Test.
Armed with the knowledge of filmmaking, the children are confident they have a skill that could become a career path, if they choose to take it.
"My mom says I am a drama queen," Jadon said, adding that she has taped family weddings and "even a funeral." She said she always wanted to act, but "directing is fun."
Sarah said she would make films "part time" when she gets older, but added, "I really want to be a teacher."
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