Lt. Davis by Caroline Fawley

Portrait of Lt. Jason Davis of the Brattleboro Fire Dept.,
by Caroline Fawley

Caitlyn Wilkinson by Kasey Kidder

Kasey Kidder took this photo of
Caitlyn Wilkinson, co-owner of
Renaissance Jewelry.

Barbara Merfeld Campman by Ava Myette

Ava Myette snapped this picture
of art teacher Barbara Merfeld
Campman working with a student
at the River Gallery School.

Hilltop Students Look at a Slice of Local Life

Lester Dunklee by Jake Guggisberg

Lester Dunklee in his machine shop on Flat St., photographed by Jake Guggisberg

Postmaster Noreen Dunn posed with her phone to her ear, no one on the other end, as Hilltop Montessori Middle School student Hannah Zorian, 13, took her picture with a small digital camera.

In the next room, Sharon Dunn in the passport office chatted with Chloe Wolfman, also 13, about Dunn's trip to Israel.

A number of people working in the community took time out of their day on Thursday, November 15, to be featured in a documentary project, called "Life in Brattleboro: The Society Project," that the Hilltop Montessori middle school students are putting together.

Through interviews, the students created storyboards to structure what pictures they wanted to take and how they wished to portray their subject to others.

Zorian recalled a quote from Noreen Dunn, where she described herself as "a very gregarious person who believes people should live life to the fullest." She hoped to portray this attitude through her pictures.

Gail Nunziata by Tess Littledale

Gail Nunziata poses between Latchis Theatre murals across the Whetstone from Tess Littledale.

The work will be premiered at Gallery Walk, with framed photo montages on display at Amy's Bakery throughout January and the video montages on a continuous slideshow presented at the Brattleboro Museum of the Arts Center on the evening of January 4.

Refreshments will be available at both venues and the students will be on hand to discuss their projects.

More than just a school project, Zorian said, the project is a means for "learning about what the community is like." The students could learn through their interviews how each person played a role in the community. Wolfman said she'd learned how Sharon Dunn's job "is important in the community. It helps people get where they want to get."

They learned how each of the pieces in a community is important. Willow Coronella, 13, spoke with someone from Contemporary Music who supplied instruments for the local musicians and students like herself who were just learning.

"I learned a small portion, there's so many different parts. We're just looking deeper into people in the society, what their part is," she said.

Head Middle School teacher Paul Dedell explained this further: "It's the quality of being in the heart of it and yet just a small piece of it. It's so ennobling."

He hoped the students would learn the importance of community involvement. "The goal is that they give, that they understand what it means to be of service, to give to a community."

This is the first year the Society Project has integrated digital media. The students also watched "copious amounts of different films which inspire us to do our photographic essays," Zorian said.

Dedell explained that the students were using Brattleboro as a laboratory to learn about "how we belong to a place or how a place belongs to us."

"Adolescents by nature are somewhat self-involved, so it gets them beyond their boundaries," he said.

The project is part of the humanities aspect of the two-year curriculum at the middle school. In the first part of this year, they looked at man's relationship to nature, working with the land. The next part of the course will be a study of conflict, and then a study of world religions, culminating in a trip to Boston to explore the five major religions.

Next year they will study revolution and take a trip to Alabama to get a picture of the civil rights movement going on today.

Copyright 2008, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont

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