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The City Journals

Waterford Students Win Cash, Prize in International Video Contest

Sep 09, 2015 11:45AM ● By Bryan Scott

Waterford School ninth grader Matthew Buxton led a team of student filmmakers to a $250 prize in the World of 7 Billion international student video contest. Photo courtesy of Elspeth Dehnert

By Julie Slama

Waterford School ninth grader Matthew Buxton and his classmates recently received $250 with the honorable mention award for their film submission in the “World of 7 Billion” international student video contest. 

Thirteen students from four countries and seven U.S. states earned top spots in the video contest. High school students from around the world were encouraged to create videos on population growth relating to one of three topics: universal education, diminishing farmland and the sixth mass extinction.

Teamed up with classmates Ford Christensen, who provided music, Katie Beck, the team’s scriptwriter, and classmates Ellie Steiner and Tyler Cramer, the animated video —“Universal Education and How It Gives Everyone a Fair Chance”— was an assignment for their human geography class. 

“We were given a choice of topics and I thought education was a bigger problem than the others,” he said. “Education is important to me because I go to such a great school and everyone deserves that.”

Through learning about filmmaking, he hoped to spark interest in the topic.

“We learned to connect with the audience and make them aware of the issue within 60 seconds. We focused on everyone getting a better education and decided to make it fun through animation,” Matthew said.

The contest was promoted by Population Education, which reviewed film entries with a panel of 28 judges representing educators, filmmakers and professionals working on agriculture and sustainability. Population Education, a program of Population Connection, provides curriculum materials that address population issues for kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers.

“Each year we are blown away by the quality of videos and their incredible ability to relay a meaningful message in such a short amount of time,” Population Connection president John Seager said. 

The Waterford students researched their topic to find issues and problems around education and how to find solutions. Throughout the process, the teacher, Julie Ransom, reviewed the script and the group’s resources.

“We couldn’t get teacher help, but we could consider her suggestions,” he said.

Matthew, who is new to filmmaking, also learned about animation through researching websites.

“It found Moovly website, which helped a lot with learning and creating animation,” he said.

The team, which was the only one in the class to select education as a topic, completed the assignment in a couple of weeks last February and then submitted the entry. Since the competition only had space to enter one name, Matthew was selected since he was the lead producer.

Matthew’s team was included among more than 1,600 students who participated and submitted a total of 865 videos. Submissions were received from 39 U.S. states and 23 countries.

About a month later, Matthew learned through an email that the group was in the top 20 percent of entries. On April 2, he learned from a phone call that they were one of the top 10 and had an interview with the judges in early May.

“I was really nervous and excited each time we learned we were moving up. It was amazing, considering how many entries they had,” he said.

In late May at a school assembly, it was announced that Matthew’s team was named as the honorable mention winners and their submission was played in front of the student body. A certificate and check was given to Matthew, who plans to share it with the team.

“It was a fun activity and if we had the opportunity, I’d do it again,” he said.