BRATTLEBORO -- Journalism and photography students at Brattleboro Union High School are working together to explore their community, in a project organized by David Mazor, who teaches photography, and Toby Moore, the journalism teacher at the high school. During a recent interview, three journalism students and two of their partners in the photography class described their experiences.
"We're trying to create a project that emphasizes the core values as defined by the school," said Simon Reynolds, a senior.
"They are respect, responsibility, relevance and community -- within the Brattleboro community, not just the school," added Abby Brooks, a junior.
Reynolds partnered with Mathis Jahn, an exchange student from Germany, to examine Twice Upon a Time, the thrift store on Main Street.
"Mathis and I just interviewed the acting manager and talked about the process of how the thrift shop works -- but also how it's important to the community," said Reynolds. "It was an enlightening experience for me as the interviewer, because this was a person I'd never met before, and we had an engrossing conversation.
"To her, the way the way items would go through hands and come back was almost like life in its cyclical nature," he said.
"The woman was really interesting," Jahn added. "She told all her story. I didn't expect that we would really get to talk with the person and get into a real conversation."
Brooks and Ema Baldauf, her partner in the photography class, are focusing on the medical profession in the community.
"I'm doing mine on private medical practices that are joining the hospital, and how they feel it impacts them and their practice," Brooks explained.
Robyn Avery, also a junior, and Hunter Siggins, his partner, interviewed Bob Burch, a glassblower in Putney. Avery noted that Burch is a teacher as well as an artisan.
"He's taught over 100 students," Avery said. "This pertains to the core value of Community, because he gives a lot to the community by teaching."
Avery found Burch to be an ideal interviewee.
"He was really easy to interview because he had probably done it a lot of times before that," Avery said. "I didn't really have to ask many questions; he told me pretty much everything I needed to know."
Avery enjoyed watching Burch at work after the interview.
"Watching him glass-blow was awe-inspiring, just awesome," Avery said.
Siggins said that she discovered more about Burch through the project, although she already knew him as the dad of one of her best friends.
"I was surprised," she said. "I knew that he did that, but I learned how he started, and it was so interesting, because I didn't know at all about the history of his glassblowing."
She enjoyed working with a partner.
"It wasn't just an individual project like the other ones we've been doing. We got to work with others and experience other parts of photography," she said. "We got to actually talk to people and learn about them."
The students noted that working with a partner can be challenging at times.
"I thought that this project would be easier than it was," Brooks said. "I thought it was going to be more fun. You have to share ideas and have time.
"It's easy because you have someone who has questions and ideas, but at the same time it's hard because you have questions and ideas of your own," she added.
Siggins said that the project's short time-frame was a challenge for some of the pairs, and Jahn agreed that time pressures made the project difficult, especially because the days of sunlight are so short.
"It had to be daylight, because we had to take a portrait," he said.
Only Reynolds is considering a career in journalism. Brooks, who is planning to go into pediatric nursing, said that she was taking the journalism course because she likes to write. Avery said he took the course to improve his writing skills.
"I mostly took journalism so I could get information down into text well and quickly, and be concise," he said. "It's really helped a lot, because that's the type of writing we do in this class."
Jahn said that while he knew nothing about photography when he took the course, now he wants to take more photos.
Higgins commented that through the photography course she had learned not only to take photographs, but also to see them in a new way.
"Now when I take a photo, I look at it really differently," she said.
Maggie Cassidy teaches French at Brattleboro Union High School.