Cooperstown 11th-graders will have their work displayed at the Smithy-Pioneer Gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 1.
High school language arts teacher Rebecca Burk-Sciallo is having her students write either a short story or poem and create two visual pieces to be featured at the gallery.
The project is centered on the three-act play ``Our Town’’ by American playwright Thornton Wilder, said Burk-Sciallo.
``Everyone has a story and experiences to share and we want to be able to reveal some of them, ‘’ she said.
Students have been asked to choose someone from the community, including those from surrounding areas such as Hartwick, Toddsville and Fly Creek, to interview and learn more about, said Burk-Sciallo. She said those people, along with all members of the community, are invited to come see the final outcome at the gallery where there will also be food, a poetry performance and live music.
Burk-Sciallo said this is the first year she has engaged her students in a project like this. She said she came up with the idea after seeing a documentary about people who were randomly selected from a phone book. Burk-Sciallo said she also read a book that did something similar, which gave her inspiration.
Eleventh-grader Alex French said the assignment was handed out on March 26 and she decided to interview her neighbor for the project.
``She may not think her life is very interesting, but for me as an outsider, I found her life to be interesting,’’ said French. Eleventh-grader Anna Kramer said she interviewed one of her fellow classmates, Adrian Lynch.
Kramer said she knew Lynch was an ``interesting character,’’ but had no idea how impressive his life actually has been. According to Kramer, Lynch moved to the Cooperstown School District two years ago and has experienced and seen a lot for an 18-year-old.
Kramer said her fellow classmate was born in Brooklyn, moved to Baltimore and has lived in various places in Upstate New York. ``I met him at the library, got my tape recorder out and I don’t think I said another word for another 144 minutes,’’ said Kramer.
Eleventh-grader Natalie Grigoli said she thought the point of the project is to show students that there is more to people than what they already know. We talked to people we knew a little bit and got to know them better, she said.
Grigoli said she liked the project because it got her out of the classroom.
``Sure you can read about someone in a textbook, but it is not the same as going out and interviewing someone in real life,’’ she said.
The person being interviewed could lead the interview and direction of their own story, added Grigoli. French said she finds it ``kind of cool’’ to have the work featured at the gallery for all to see.
``We have been working on this for a very long time,’’ she said.
However, she said a lot of the students don’t consider themselves artists and there are art pieces that will be featured, so that can be a bit uncomfortable.
The students said the project, which involves others, has made them work harder and be more conscious about the final outcome.
It is not like taking a test or getting a bad grade on a paper where only you are affected, said French. This project is different because students do not want to disappoint their subjects, she said.
Eleventh-grader Nancy Fisher agreed and said she has been very mindful about what her subject will think about her work.
``It’s their story and I would not want to offend my subject,’’ she said.