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Students Tell Community Stories in Windows Project

SKANEATELES, NY (May 1, 2017) – Over 30 members of the Skaneateles community shared their stories with groups of eighth graders on Monday at Skaneateles Middle School as a part of the annual Windows Project conducted by social studies teacher Jim Ryan.

Since 2004, Ryan has put his eighth graders to the task of interviewing local community members on video as a way to not only enhance their technical skills but to also better understand the meaning of civil participation and to simply tell very compelling stories.

“This program came about from a project that we once did interviewing World War II veterans,” said Ryan.  “As time went on we had to transition away from experiences of WWII, as the veterans began to age, so we decided to interview people in our local community who have helped make our world a better place.”

Among those interviewed this year include Skaneateles Central Schools Superintendent Ken Slentz, Director of Innovation/Instructional Design/Technology at SCS Paul Blair, as well as journalist Carrie Lazarus, World War II veterans Jack Howard, John Manilla, and Lew Reid, award-winning film maker J.W. Simmons, and childhood friend of Anne Frank – Lia Bates.

Former broadcast journalist, Julie Abbott-Kenan, met with students on April 27 to discuss proper interview practices and help students work toward opening windows of communication to best tell each individual’s story.

“The most important thing is to have fun and be confident,” said Abbott-Kenan.  “Do your research, make eye contact, and make your interviewee feel comfortable.”

With the development of the Zoom Room at the Skaneateles High School, put together by administration and the Skaneateles Education Foundation, students are now able to work with modern video editing components such as Final Cut Pro and iMovie to put together a polished final product.

“The goal of the Windows Project is really two-fold,” said Ryan.  “First, the students will have a better understanding of civil participation by understanding how people have worked to make the world a better place.  Second, the project gives the students an opportunity to work on video editing projects which they need to have skills in when they reach the high school and potentially later on in their life as well.”

Ryan says the project’s process, from start to finish, is a true challenge in critical thinking and time management.

“I love this project because it really challenges the students to write great scripts about people who have changed the world and lived amazing lives,” said Ryan.  “Then, they get to share those stories with their friends and classmates.  The process requires the students to use 21st century critical thinking skills as they complete the process of producing their films.” 

Students will present their videos on June 8 in the high school auditorium from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. as a part of their “Oscars” presentation. The videos will also be posted to the library website within the Skaneateles Central Schools homepage.

Keep in touch with continued Project 2021 coverage as well as events and happenings in relation to the Skaneateles Central School District by visiting online at or following the district’s Facebook page at
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Lynda Quick
45 East Elizabeth Street
Skaneateles, NY 13152