Leavitt Area High School sophomore Abby Marston interviews Martin Stream Campground owner Zach Vanier on Tuesday in Turner. Marston is with a team of students who interviewed Vanier for a video project on the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on outdoor recreation. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

TURNER — Students taking a summer course in filmmaking found that a “dark and difficult time” can bring out the positives in a community.

The project offered by Leavitt Area High School involved interviewing and videotaping businesspeople, farmers and health care professionals about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected them. The finished documentary will be available to view on The Buzz, the school’s online newspaper.

The students will earn one-quarter of a credit for participating in the weeklong course, which was funded by the Leavitt Summer Institute.

Sophomore Lindsay Bates of Turner called it a “passion project.”

Leavitt Area High School students Lindsay Bates, left, Abby Marston, center, and Iris Petrin talk Tuesday with Martin Stream Campground owner Zach Vanier in Turner for their video project. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

She was among a group of students who interviewed the owner of Martin Stream Campground on Tuesday.

He told the students that the business on Route 117 in Turner has been booked solid since last summer, 24 weeks of camping season.

“People are focusing on outdoor recreation,” junior Iris Petrin of Leeds said. “So far, we’re hearing a lot of positives about how COVID helped outdoor businesses.”

Students also visited grocery stores and farms and interviewed Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and a local emergency room doctor.

Shah talked about how the virus might affect people going forward, teacher Jamie Juntura said.

“Shah said the delta variant will probably have some impact (in Maine), but he was very optimistic about the vaccination rate here,” Juntura said. “He was very optimistic about everything.”

Another group of students Tuesday went to Food City in Turner, an employee-owned business.

The store had a “banner year,” junior Elliott Shields of Turner said. Employees struggled to keep shelves filled and to enforce certain rules, such as the amount of toilet paper one person could buy, he said.

Senior Molly Sirois of Greene said employees were willing to step up and meet the demands of customers. “Some were working 50 hours a week,” she said.

Abby Lavoie graduated from Leavitt this year, but she wanted to take the course (without credit) because she’ll be majoring in media studies when she begins college in the fall.

She said she was impressed by how store employees were overworked but loyal. “Their dedication made it work,” she said.

Leavitt Area High School students Lindsay Bates, left, Iris Petrin, center, and Abby Marston talk Tuesday with teacher Jessica Talbot at Martin Stream Campground in Turner about the video project they were working on. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The students — from Turner, Leeds and Greene, the three towns comprising School Administrative District 52 — said the course wasn’t like school at all. It was real-world, “super cool” to get out in the community and talk to people, to learn about videography and how to set up shoots, interview people and hear their stories.

Lindsay Bates of the outdoor recreation team said she took the course “for something to do” during the summer.

But by the second day, she had a new take: “It’s nice to showcase stuff in our community, local places to go. It’s a good way to give something back.”

She said it was good to see the positive in light of the pandemic, which she described as a “dark and difficult time.”

“I have a new appreciation for learning in school,” she said.

Sophomore Abby Marston of Greene said she took the course because she has always liked watching documentaries and wanted to see what it was like to make one.

“It’s been a lot of fun seeing new places,” she said.

Students who visited Farmers’ Gate Market on Leeds Junction Road in Wales on Tuesday were not available for interviews at the school.

Bri DeGone, the teacher who accompanied them, said farmers in the SAD 52 towns sell meat at the market, which offers locally raised grass-fed beef, pastured pork and lamb, and free-range poultry.

“It was really nice talking about how the community came together” to support local farmers during the pandemic, DeGone said. “They had a lot more business because people were avoiding supermarkets.”

The market had to adapt by offering curbside pickup and finding ways to market the odds and ends of the meat they butchered on site, she said.

“They had to roll with the punches, just like we did,” DeGone said. There was no stopping to adjust to the sudden upending of daily life.

“It’s cool now to take a minute and reflect on it,” she said.

Leavitt Area High School students Lindsay Bates, left, Iris Petrin, center, and Abby Marston walk Tuesday through Martin Stream Campground in Turner as they work on their video project. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal


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