A group of fifth graders at Dryden Elementary in Arlington Heights posed for one last picture Friday - with their filmmaking awards, no less - before they finished up school.
Earlier this month, they took first place in two separate categories at the 8th Annual International Shortie Awards Festival in Washington, D.C.
"Let's Be Green When It's Time to Clean" won the Live Action category for 7- to 10- year-olds, while their other film, "Complementary in Every Way," took the Teacher Created category.
"I came up with the idea (for 'Complementary in Every Way') but I never imagined it would come to this," said Joey Lisack of Arlington Heights, the only fourth-grader in the bunch.
Their teacher, Tricia Fuglestad, flew to the nation's capital to represent them. The festivities took place at the Women in Military Service for America memorial, located at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.
"Just being selected for viewing at the festival meant that both movies were finalists," Fuglestad said. "When they both won first place, it was thrilling."
The two student films emerged winners from a pool of nearly 400 submissions created by 3,000 student and teacher filmmakers from around the world.
Finalists originated from 23 states and 13 countries, including Cuba, Finland, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya and India.
As a result of their awards, Fuglestad received a personal invitation from the Chicago International Student Film Festival to submit both movies. They even extended their deadline to accommodate the Dryden crew.
Fuglestad just completed her 17th year teaching art at Dryden and is a big proponent of integrating technology with teaching art concepts.
"Making movies to teach art concepts gives my students a rich learning experience - on both sides of the camera," she says.
Sure, they used such accessible filmmaking programs as iMovie and GarageBand on their iMac computers. But they also learned a host of other concepts in their art room, which converted to a makeshift studio last winter.
Fuglestad describes how students brainstormed over writing the script before posting images of the film on a storyboard and sequencing the scenes. At the same time, they learned to operate cameras, lights and sound equipment, edit film, artistically frame shots and creatively problem-solve to come up with the final product.
Arlington Heights student Ola Brzezinska worked on both films, but she points to the "picture in picture" special effect in "Let's Be Green" with helping make it stand out.
In it, the students were able to transfer their faces onto inanimate objects, and then do voice-overs for the dialogue while they lip-synced it during the filming. The result made it look as objects like a paper towel roll, garbage can, recycling bin and even a sink were all live characters.
"It took a while to film, and we missed a lot of recess," said Amy Kruse of Arlington Heights, "but it was worth it."
Maddy Hayes of Mount Prospect played the role of the teacher in "Let's Be Green," who tried to get her students to conserve and recycle during clean up time in the art room.
"I have to say," she said, "it was really, really fun."
Fourth graders from Fuglestad's Dryden class won an award last year for their short, "Swept Away." Four of the students who worked on "Swept Away" one also worked on this year's winners: Krzys Chwala, Kevin Repple, Olivia Rodriguez, and Ola Brzezinska.
Let's Be Green When It's Time to Clean
Complementary in Every Way