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Walnut Elementary earns top four in state H1N1 video contest

POSTED November 27, 2009 11:50 p.m.
Sneeze into a tissue, cough into your sleeve, wash your hands, sanitize. These health-minded words along, with the catchy tune that accompany them, have been stuck in the heads of Walnut Elementary School students since they started making their H1N1 public service announcement for the California Department of Public Health.  
Voting for the best video ended Nov. 12 and Walnut Elementary made the top four out of the state.  
The adventure all started when Vice Principal Robin Swartz of Walnut Elementary heard about the CDPH launching a H1N1 PSA video contest to help raise awareness about preventing the spread of the virus, and she decided to jump on board.
“She thought it would make not only a great project, but be a useful teaching tool for H1N1 prevention at our school,” said Irene Hales, third grade teacher at Walnut Elementary and video coordinator.
Students and teachers started making the video with the brainstorming of ideas, which led to a choreographed dance by Kerry Nored, original music by Dave Sutton, Donavan Arnold and Mrs. Jorge, original lyrics by Karen Wallace and a classroom changed into a set by Sheri Sutterley, Hales said.
“With a school of over 800, we tried to script the lyrics to meet the needs of what the ‘C’ student needed to do to stay safe from H1N1 and make it fun, catchy and creative,” she said.
About 100 students stayed after school rehearsing their singing and dancing for weeks to prepare for the video taping, Hales said. The students got to use a green screen and teleprompter while making this video. Overall, there were about 140 students who participated in the project.  
In the video, students are seen dancing to their own song about washing hands, getting vaccinated, staying home if sick and covering their cough.
“It got them to wash their hands, sanitize them and it kept them from getting the flu,” she said. “They couldn’t get the song out of their heads.”
The students had the most fun when they got into the voting part, Hales said.
The students asked almost every day where their video stood compared to others. They finished in the top four with 1,896 hits on You Tube.
“The fact that the governor will see them singing and dancing and acting is a big thrill,” she said. “The students love that he does things like this to get them involved.”   
The first place winner will get $500 and the rest of the top four will receive certificates signed by the governor, Hales said. The final winner is expected to be announced soon.
“I feel the kids got an exciting opportunity to be involved in something that was fun and educational in so many ways, she said.” “We are so fortunate to have the equipment at Walnut and the enthusiasm from staff and students.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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