Friday, December 26, 2014

Talented Da Vinci students earn trip to New Orleans

On behalf of his fellow students at Da Vinci Charter Academy, Nick Meddin receives an award in the New Tech Video Challenge Contest during a national New Tech conference in New Orleans. His team members are, from left, Aamia Malik, Reese Woodard and Elsa Young. Behind them is a New Tech employee. Courtesy photo

From page A1 | July 28, 2013 |

When four students from Da Vinci Charter Academy submitted a video to the national New Tech Video Challenge Contest earlier this year, they almost didn’t win.

Not because there was a better video, but because the judges doubted a group of mere high school students could produce something so professional.

But after their teachers at Da Vinci vouched for their skills, the four students — Reese Woodard, Aamia Malik, Elsa Young and Nick Meddin — were named the winners, earning them a trip to New Orleans earlier this month where they presented to more 1,400 educators.

“At first they were hesitant about giving us the award,” Malik said on Friday. “A lot of them asked if we had professional help.”

But Da Vinci is known for producing students who, in turn, can produce very professional media, and this time around was no exception.

Malik said students learned about the contest earlier this year and thought, “Why not?”

The contest asked students to produce a two-minute video explaining how their school had helped them build bridges to the world.

The four Da Vinci students took the challenge literally, interspersing scenes of students building a simple wooden foot bridge with brief statements from a wide variety of Da Vinci students and teachers about their school. The video also features original music by Da Vinci student Rowan McGuire.

(See the video at

Woodard, who Malik described as a talented and experienced filmmaker, shot all of the footage around Davis over the course of a week.

“Our main goal for the video was to show how our New Tech school prepares us for the real world by supplying us with the skills necessary to benefit the community that we are all a part of, essentially, building a bridge,” Malik explained.

“We wanted to do this while maintaining a really strong sense of what we consider to be ‘Da Vinci.’ That’s why we chose to build the plank bridge through the forest and used music that was an original composition by a Da Vinci student.”

Malik, Woodard, Young and Meddin learned in the spring that their video had won the contest and earned them all a trip to New Orleans.

There they participated in the annual New Tech conference, which Malik said was attended by about half of Da Vinci’s teachers.

“We got to talk to teachers and learn more about project-based learning,” she said.

They also got to present their video, and earned a standing ovation from 1,400 teachers and staff representing 130 New Tech schools around the country.

“The students received a standing ovation this year and deservedly so,” said Lydia Dobyns, president of the New Tech Network. “Their video showed a depth of understanding for the subject matter and was expertly directed and produced. The judging panel was impressed.”

“We were like celebrities there,” Malik added.

Later, the students got to spend a day and a half as tourists, visiting the sites of the city, “and eating a lot of food,” said Malik, who along with her fellow videomakers will be a senior at Da Vinci in the fall.

“It was really fun and enjoyable,” she added.

New Tech is an organization of schools across the nation geared toward project-based learning. The concept was first introduced in Napa in 1996. Learn more at

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy




Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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