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News Item: Homepage

Rancho Minerva Middle Schoolers Win National Honors



*** UPDATED APRIL 30, 2017 ***


By Ray Huard


Ingenuity and a knack for storytelling won Rancho Minerva Middle School students a national award from a nonprofit organization that promotes innovation and the use of technology in education.


Students in Nichole Santangelo’s design lab and Beth Duncan’s video journalism class collaborated to produce a product and document their work on video – a joint project that made Rancho Minerva in the Vista Unified School District among two middle schools and one high school in the nation to win the Digital Promise filmMAKER Challenge.


“I was ecstatic for our students,” Santangelo said. “They work really hard and deserve to get recognition for their amazing work.”


The other winning schools were Edmunds Middle School in Burlington, VT and South Fayette High School in McDonald, PA.


Digital Promise President and Chief Executive Officer Karen Cator said that Digital Promise “engages students with relevant, inspiring, and challenging work to help them develop important skills,” among other things.


“The winning submissions of the filmmaker Challenge are demonstrations of the creativity and inventiveness that happens when students are empowered to solve problems and take action,” Cator said.


The challenge was for middle school and high school students to reinvent an everyday product, and make it into something more sustainable, beautiful or accessible, and to create a short documentary about their experience.


Four students in Santangelo’s class – Francisco Lozaro, Brian Perea Herrera, Jesus and Mariah Campos - after working through several variations, designed and produced a computer chip holder that allowed the school information technology department to load software and deploy laptop computers more efficiently.


Francisco, Brian and Jesus did the initial work and Mariah fine-tuned it and produced the finished product to meet requirements set by Sebastian Rossi, a district systems support technician. The students used a 3D printer to create prototypes and the final chip holder.


When they were done, Duncan’s video journalism students went to work, creating a four-and-a-half minute report on the project, including interviews with Rossi and DeWayne Cossey, district information technology director.


In the video, Rossi said that the chip holder that the students produced made his job much easier.


Click the photo to view the winning Digital Promise filmMAKER Challenge video


“We’re very satisfied with how it (the chip holder) turned out,” Rossi said.


Duncan said that the video was made by a team of students from the Rancho Minerva Video Journalism class.


Lead storytellers were Odalis Ramirez, Octavio Martinez, Priscilla Pagaling and Brisa Martinez. Also participating were Antonio Brady and Paola Morales Bazan.


The students shot video and conducted interviews at the district Information Technology Department and at Rancho Minerva.


Rancho Minerva Middle School video students filming their award-winning KWN Video Challenge news segment



The Digital Promise recognition is but the latest in a string of national film awards Rancho Minerva’s students have won.

Duncan’s students also won the CoSN Digital Equity Challenge, which earned them a trip to Chicago, and the KWN Kid Witness News Panasonic National Video Challenge, which came with a trip to New York City.


For the KWN challenge, the students made a video letter which interspersed segments of a 92-year-old veteran and a 14-year-old girl talking about their lives and families.


For the CoSN challenge, the students produced a video explaining how to close the so-called digital divide between those who have access to the Internet and those who don’t. The video tells how to find free Wi-Fi connections to the Internet, and urges students to help their parents and grandparents learn how to use it.


A full story about the CoSN video challenge is below.


“It’s been an extremely exciting and successful year for our Video Production Team,” Duncan said. “When my students receive such positive results for their work, they realize that all their hard work and dedication to these projects is being recognized by production specialists and professionals across the nation.”


Duncan said that the awards show students that, “They are making a difference in our world by capturing epic stories happening at our school and within our community, and share it through storytelling.”


As satisfying as it is to win the awards, Duncan said, “The change in the way my students see themselves as valuable, successful filmmakers is the real prize.”


The chip holder designed and produced by Santangelo’s students is but one of many products they’ve made. Among other things, they’ve made the bathroom passes for the school, lanyards for a local horse club, a replacement handle for an umbrella, and an iPad holder, Santangelo said.


“We also do logos, posters and banners,” she said.

Her class has created an online business, ABCPrintingBulls (www.abcprintingbulls.com) to sell what they make and take orders.


“All of the orders go to sustain the class,” Santangelo said.

Rancho Minerva students have been invited to present their work at the Bay Area Maker Faire in May and the World Maker Faire in New York in October.


“These students are getting experiences that are life-changing, that will set them on a path to future success,” said Rancho Minerva Principal Ben Gaines. “The awards that we’re receiving are a testament to the hard work and innovative approach that our teachers are taking.”


Washington, DC (March 24, 2017) – CoSN today announced that Rancho Minerva Middle School in California’s Vista Unified School District is the winner of the first-ever Digital Equity Student Video Challenge. The school was chosen among more than 50 student groups from across the United States and Canada. 


Leaders and students from Rancho Minerva Middle School were presented with the national award at the ASCD Conference in Anaheim, California on March 25th, 2017. They will also be honored and recognized at the CoSN 2017 Annual Conference, April 3-6 in Chicago, Illinois.


You can see their digital equity story and winning submission here.


“Digital equity is the Civil Rights issue of today in our communities,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “As the contest showed, school district and community leaders are increasingly committed to bridging the digital divide and helping all students be able to learn anytime, anywhere. Congratulations to the students and educators at Rancho Minerva Middle School, Vista Unified School District, as well as each school system that demonstrated their efforts and are making digital equity a top priority.”


For the Digital Equity Student Video Challenge, school systems submitted either a four-minute documentary or a one-minute Pubic Service Announcement on how digital equity is affecting students outside of school – and how the districts are addressing this challenge. The CoSN Digital Equity Advisory Panel launched the challenge to give students the opportunity tell their stories and elevate their voice in the digital equity discussion. 


Rancho Minerva’s winning documentary was developed by a 10-member team that formed two working groups to develop the video storyboard, script, filming, and post-production editing. The video shares how the school’s students and the Vista Unified School District at large are working to connect students outside the school day as well as educating parents on the importance of increased Internet access for learning.


“I am proud of our students for their stellar work on this important project. I am hopeful that educational and community leaders will listen to their voices, which are drawing attention to a critical equity issue for our nation,” said Devin Vodicka, EdD, Superintendent of Schools, Vista Unified School District.


“I could not be more proud of the hard work our students are doing to solve this relevant, real world problem. Many of the minds that worked on this project will directly benefit from the digital equity work in which they have so deeply invested. This is an exciting moment for Rancho Minerva,” said Benjamin Gaines, EdD, Principal, Rancho Minerva Middle School.


To learn more about advancing the Digital Equity movement, please visit: cosn.org/digital-equity.


The Digital Equity Student Video Challenge is made possible through the support of AT&T, Brocade, Filewave, HMH, HP, and Kajeet. 


About CoSN 

CoSN is the premier voice and resource for K-12 education technology leaders nationwide. Serving more than 13 million students in America’s school systems, CoSN provides education leaders with the tools and relationships to leverage technology and advance modern, engaging learning environments. Visit cosn.org to find out more about CoSN’s focus areasannual conference and eventsadvocacy and policymembership, and the CETL certification exam.

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District Published:3/30/17
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