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Middle School Students Find Satisfaction In Most Unsatisfying of Years

“What makes something satisfying?” 

Fifth and Sixth grade students were recently asked this question. While it could be assumed that the answers would be unique to the individual, teachers and students nodded their heads in agreement when one student responded: “Something is satisfying when it is predictable; when exactly what you predicted happens.” In a year when life is anything but predictable and satisfying, the fifth and sixth grade students went on a mission, and dove into a long- term learning unit, to create something that meets this basic human desire for predictability. 

TLC, or Tech, Library, and Care (TLC), is a fifth and sixth grade class that combines the subjects of health, library, technology, and study skills. The Oddly Satisfying Film Festival is the culmination of a long term unit in TLC with the goals of: learning and practicing the Middle School’s standards based grading, getting comfortable with Zoom and Google Classroom, working with filming and editing technology, and doing research. The project also asked students to engage in self reflection. They asked themselves: what is satisfying to me and what does self care look like? 

How the Festival Works

The Oddly Satisfying Film Festival began as an activity period for students in the Middle School, inspired by the popularity of ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos, TikTok, and Instagram Reels. When planning their TLC curriculum, teachers Lauren Pruitt and Beth Duffy saw an opportunity in Oddly Satisfying for a multidisciplinary and, let’s face it, fun unit. 

TLC students watched videos for inspiration. They brainstormed the satisfying visuals that they would like to create. They worked diligently to create imagery, film, edit, and upload the videos, researching and learning the technology along the way. As they worked, they reflected on the rubric laid out by their teachers. The rubrics are part of the standards-based grading system. This system of student evaluation assesses their understanding of content and skills that are laid out in a well-defined rubric. Teachers assess how well students exhibit the intended learning outcomes of the assignment on a scale of Exceed Expectations, Above Expectations, Meet Expectations, Approach Expectations, and Does Not Meet Expectations. 

The final products submitted by students included popcorn popping, slicing bars of soap, the tidying of a bedroom, and reversed marker drawing. Teacher Lauren Pruitt combined the 120 submitted videos into six different films, three per grade, that are productions filled with satisfying content worthy of viral stardom on social media.

Identifying Quaker Values

At the Festival session of class when students screened their classmates’ films, teacher Beth Duffy asked the group: what Quaker testimonies do you see at work in this project? The group agreed that the testimonies of community and simplicity most came to mind. The Festival served as a point of connection and bonding for students and colleagues. It also asked them to reflect on the everyday and realize that what’s simple is satisfying. 

Taking the Lesson Forward

At the end of the unit, students wrote reflections answering the questions: what came naturally? What was challenging? What were moments of frustration? How did I move forward when a plan for a video didn’t work?

One student, Penny Z., was so inspired by the unit that she took the project several steps further and created her own edit of the Oddly Satisfying submissions. The film is accompanied by an original score by classmate Emily L. They submitted their film to Brooklyn Friends School’s own Bridge Film Festival, a festival of student made films from Friends Schools and Meetings worldwide that is dedicated to making films that depict Quaker values in action. View their film now.

Teachers Lauren and Beth also reflected at the end of the Oddly Satisfying Film Festival unit. Lauren shared that she ”was surprised by how creative and inventive our students were with the projects. Students were able to think outside the box and create a product they were proud of.” Beth reflected that she “was impressed with how students were able to make satisfying videos out of such mundane things. Tearing a piece of paper, emptying a cup of water, or dropping something on the floor don’t usually seem like satisfying things to me, but the students found the beauty in simple things.”

Of this project, Nitya York, Assistant Head of Middle School for Academics, shared: “Technology, Library, and Care is a new course this year that prioritizes supporting 5th & 6th graders’ holistic wellbeing, foundational academic skills, and creative use of technology in their lives. Because of the pandemic, the Middle School needed to restructure some of our programmatic offerings, and this cooperative teaching model between Lauren Pruitt, Beth Duffy, Katie Ryan, and Sophia Philip (Katie and Sophia are also TLC teachers who taught different units) could not be a better example of how Middle School colleagues have turned lemons into lemonade. Their TLC Oddly Satisfying Film Festival is the perfect example of their interdisciplinary, project-based approach that teaches students how to identify what it is that they need and love most as learners, as people, and as students.” 

As our community passes one year of living through a global pandemic and the isolation and upheaval that it has caused, the Oddly Satisfying Film Festival and TLC classes offer opportunities for much needed self care, reflection, creativity, fun, and satisfaction.

View the submissions to the Oddly Satisfying Film Festival today.

Learn more about the Brooklyn Friends School Middle School.