By Jamar Paris
On Monday January 11, 2010, while many of you were still enjoying your vacation, NVCC was jam packed with 4th through 6th grade students from all over the state. NVCC was host to the Elementary School Leadership Conference sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Schools. More than 100 students were in attendance and participated in various workshops and activities. Several students and faculty from NVCC were also in attendance as volunteers and workshop leaders.
The goal of the conference was to teach the students leadership and communication skills. Students were divided into small groups of 20-25 and sent to different workshops located in classrooms throughout the NVCC campus. The workshops that were presented to students pertained to productive thinking, communication and decision making.
Volunteers from NVCC led two different workshops. The NVCC team was engaged in a fun maze activity and a “Media and YOUth” workshop. SGA President Paula Massey led one team that conducted the maze activity. Students were presented with the challenge of having to go through a maze without receiving any verbal help from their peers. The rules were that they could only move forward and sideways, exit the maze the same way entered if they were unsuccessful at passing through, and no talking. The goal of this activity was to teach the students on how to work as a team while using a different form of communicating. This activity was a great success. The students successfully made it through the maze after working together as a team and had fun along the way.
The “Media and YOUth” workshop was put together by and led by Lara Chamberlin. Lara did a tremendous job in engaging the students in discussion concerning the media and their age group. To start off the class, students viewed a one-minute video in which a model goes from being a regular person to being on a billboard. Students viewed how tons of make-up artists were used to transform the model and then after the photos were taken, photo shop was used to further change the model. The video ended with, “no wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.” Next, Lara explained the concept of buzzwords and presented the students with magazine clippings in which the students were asked to identify the buzzwords. The students were very successful at identifying many of the buzzwords such as “hotter, best, perfect,” and many more. Lara then went on to define culture for the students and asked them where they learn their culture from. Some of the responses were TV, Internet, radio, and magazines. This led to the question as to why the media targets the students’ age groups. Some responses were, “because we are gullible,” “they want us to buy their stuff,” “we don’t feel that confident,” and many more thought out responses.
Students were then presented with the information that a family with 2 parents who earn up to $40,000 a year will spend on average $125,000 on their children from birth to age 17 and that a single parent earning up to $40,000 will spend just about the same much on their child from birth to the age of 17. When students were asked their thoughts about this, there were a lot of great responses. One response that stuck out was that, “maybe the single parent buys their child more stuff to make up for not having the other parent around.” Again, these were elementary grade students!
Lara’s “Media and YOUth” workshop ended with an activity in which students were asked to select a page from a magazine and write about and advertisement. They had the option to write about the ad being positive, negative, or a mixture of the two. Some of the ads chosen were of women with a ton of make up on and some of the responses to them were, “this ad is negative because she looks fake, they want you to spend a lot of money on their product, and their product may not work like that.” Other ads that were chosen had women in expensive outfits with the price tag for each item. Some responses to those ads were that “this ad is negative because I added up the price of the outfit and its $129” and “this ad is negative because this outfit is way too expensive and they just want you to spend your money on it.” Although many of the students perceived the ads as negative, there were many positive responses as well. One positive response was to an ad that showed a group of girls who were not being portrayed as the super slim model dressed in fancy clothes. One student commented, “I think this ad is positive because these girls are dressed regular and look normal. They’re all different sizes.”
The “Media and YOUth” workshop was a great success in helping the students to develop the skills needed to discern the media while also getting everyone involved in critical thinking and discussion. Everyone was very impressed and sometimes surprised at many of the responses the students gave. It’s safe to say that these students will not be fooled by magazine advertisement.
After this final lesson, all the students began to leave, many still laughing at the entertainment. Others were talking about the workshops they experienced. This conference will be a memorable one for the students and they will always remember NVCC for it.