Eighth Graders Produce COVID-19 PSAs

After researching how the pandemic has affected marginalized communities in Massachusetts, students practiced virtual advocacy in their online English and history classes. 
West Roxbury, Mass.— Anthony Lio’s Public Service Announcement (PSA) lasts for 40 seconds.

The message in his video, however, creates an impression that lasts much longer.

“Wear a mask, wear gloves, and wash your hands,” says Anthony midway through his video.

“Keep our MBTA workers safe!”

Anthonyan 8th grader at Catholic Memorial School, had spent three weeks in May researching the pandemic, looking for just the right way to articulate the effects of the novel coronavirus on marginalized community in Massachusetts.

He wasn’t alone in his research either.

By the end of May, he and every 8th grader at CM had prepared their own homemade PSA videofor a different marginalized community throughout the state, which included MBTA workers, frontline healthcare workers, and the elderly, to name a few.

Ms. Ellen Eberly, an English teacher at the middle school, and Mrs. Barbara Flynn, a History teacher at the middle school, created the project to remind students about the marginalized in times of great uncertainty. The project, adopted into the middle school's online learning curriculum, gave students a virtual means of advocacy.

“It was a different aspect for the kids,” said Mrs. Flynn.

It went beyond being content driven and made them think about the world outside the classroom. In this whole situation, it can very easy to be isolated and to just think of me, myself, and I.”

Interdisciplinary in nature, the project required students to draw upon the skills and fundamentals learned and practiced in both of the faculty members’ English and history classes.

Students began their work by researching PSAs in Mrs. Flynn’s class. They examined PSAs from the 1970s all the way through the 2000s and compared their length and message. According to Mrs. Flynn, her students recognized how, over time, the PSAs switched from longer, more content-driven videos to shorter videos with only three-to-five seconds of time committed to any specific image.

In Ms. Eberly’s class, students crafted mission-driven messages with specific calls to action. They also used the, “who, what, where, when, why, and how” model to narrow their focus on a particular community affected by the virus.

“The biggest thing was getting themselves acquainted with the marginalized group, understanding how that group was marginalized at the time, and figuring out how they can either get help or how they can provide help for that group,” said Mrs. Flynn.

After completing their research, each student created their own storyboards with the images, graphics, text, and music needed for a final 30-to-60 second video.

Amazed by the work of each student, Assistant Head of School Mr. Brian Palm referred to the PSA project as one of many examples of CM’s interdisciplinary pedagogy. He said that, despite the transition to online learning in March, the faculty made a conscious effort not to separate academic disciplines and departments from one another.

Mrs. Flynn and Ms. Eberly’s project reaffirms the commitment to this interdisciplinary ethos, he said.

[Mrs. Flynn] and [Ms. Eberly] represent the professional and caring approach that is a trademark of instruction here at CM,” said Mr. Palm.

Not only do these faculty possess incredible content expertise, they are also master craftspeople in their trade; capable of building a learning opportunity like the one the boys received in these classes during the month of May. 

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Catholic Memorial, the Christian Brothers School of Boston, prepares boys for college, manhood and a world full of unknown challenges, ambiguity and complex problems and the importance of relationships.

CATHOLIC MEMORIAL SCHOOL

235 Baker Street
West Roxbury, Massachusetts 02132
Phone: 617-469-8000
Fax: 617-325-0888