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Schoenbar students win documentary award
Schoenbar Middle School eighth-graders in Chad Frey's documentary film class won an award for their Path Finder Totem Pole documentary. Pictured from left to right in the background, Carter Effenberger-Adam, Alexander Fields, Chad Frey, Owen Grams and Gavin Hinkle. In the foreground, Alex Anderson, Lane Gildersleeve and Ryan Beer. Staff photo by Alaina Bartel

Daily News Staff Writer

If someone saw students and a teacher running away from Schoenbar Middle School and towards the downtown dock area with a few cameras on a sunny day last year, it was probably Chad Frey’s documentary film class.

Whenever it was a nice day last quarter, the eighth-grade students would go outside and sprint towards museums, iconic art and scenery in the town, working on a documentary project. They’d have to get back within less than an hour, before the class was over — hence the sprinting.

The 14-minute documentary was about the creation and raising of the Pathfinder Totem Pole, the Native history and culture in Ketchikan and more. The totem pole was raised in front of the school last year.

Schoenbar students and community members helped carve the pole in and outside of class, guided by art instructor Angel Williams and noted local carver Kenneth “Kelly” White, who was an artist in residence two years ago at the middle school.

The seven students in Frey’s class just won first place for the documentary. They submitted it to the Alaska Society for Technology Education’s IDidaContest, in the fifth- through eighth-grade Alaska documentary category. They won $100 for the film, which the students told Frey to use for more equipment for the class.

“It was kind of funny when I submitted (the video),” Frey recalled. “(ASTE) sent me an email, like, ‘Is this your documentary, or did the students do it?’ I was like, ‘No, no no no, the students did it.’ It took (them) a whole quarter.”

Those students included Alex Anderson, Ryan Beer, Carter Effenberger-Adam, Alexander Fields, Lane Gildersleeve, Owen Grams and Gavin Hinkle.

Throughout the elective documentary film class they were in last quarter, they learned about photography, the rule of thirds, shot selection, narration, editing, storyboarding, rough cut, final cut and the entire process of creating a production.

Effenberger-Adam said his favorite part about the project was editing the video and doing the voice-overs. They would take a photo or film something and either have text across the screen that explains the image or video, or do a voice-over.

“It’s a lot of work, man. It’s a lot of work. It’s an eye opener, because they begin to see the layers (of a documentary),” Frey said.

The middle-schoolers said the documentary took quite a long time, but despite that, many of them want to continue making films in the future. They said it was tough being on the same page as each other, as they all had different ideas for the film.

Students from all around Alaska submitted their work, including those from Delta, Craig, Fairbanks, Wasilla, Mat-Su Valley and others. There are several categories that they could submit their creations to — such as photography, tunes, podcasts, movie, apps and books.

Not only do the students in Frey’s class work on documentaries about the Ketchikan area, they also like to create public service announcements for businesses in Ketchikan. The students in his class are currently working on a PSA for the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad about avalanche beacons and how to use them.

Frey said any business in town that is interested in having a PSA done by the students can contact him at chad.frey@k21schools.org, so he can “get the ball rolling” with the students. They only ask that the business or organization gives them a list of what has to be in the video, and they’ll work on creating the PSA.

“It’s amazing to see kids progress from here and they go on — some go to Kayhi and they are the ones that are filming the games,” Frey said. “Part of this can go in their portfolio because of the videos they’ve created. Some go on to (applying) for jobs at (Ketchikan Public Utilities), as well. It gives them kind of that background.”