Woodward, Okla. —
What started out as a 5th grade music project has turned into an Internet sensation.
A zombie themed music video of the Highland Park Elementary 5th grade class has now garnered more than 25,000 votes as part of an online contest sponsored by Music K-8.
Highland Park music teacher Misty Mihelich explained that Music K-8 is the company from which she orders music supplies for her classroom.
While reviewing the latest catalog, Mihelich said she saw that Music K-8 was sponsoring a video contest in which schools were asked to create videos of students singing and dancing to "Zombie Style," a song by Teresa Jennings which parodies the pop song "Gangnam Style."
"I thought it would be a good project for our 5th graders for multiple reasons," Mihelich said. "It would allow them to see how music is used in the entertainment industry; they would have to work as a team; and it incorporates project-based learning."
She explained that she attended a workshop over the summer in which she learned more about the benefits of project-based learning.
"Project-based learning maintains that students retain what they learn better if they actually figure things out for themselves. So if you guide them through the project process, they'll understand it better and the learning lasts, rather than just spoon-feeding them information," she said.
Another benefit of the video project is that it allowed the students to express their creativity, Mihelich said.
"I learned that my students are very creative," she said. "They actually came up with a lot of the choreography and they came up with a lot of the costume ideas. It was just a very creative process for everybody involved."
It turned out to be a bit of a chaotic process as well.
Since Mihelich only meets with the 5th graders about twice a week, she said they only got in a few 30-minute rehearsals before it came time to shoot the video.
And while many parents, even more than she had thought, came out to help on the day of the shoot, things still got a little hectic.
"It was mass chaos with baby powder flying everywhere and black eyeliner being passed around," she said.
In addition to helping with the students' ghoulish make-up, parent volunteers also helped with costumes and photography, she said. The video was even filmed and edited by the father of one of her 2nd grade students.
And the now 5-minute, 42-second video took over an hour and a half to shoot.
But Mihelich said all the effort was worth it because "it was a great experience."
"What amazes me is the skill level and level of energy of all the people who were involved; that's what made it so great," she said.
And, as far as she's concerned, Highland Park has the best entry out of the dozen videos that have been submitted from schools across the nation.
"If you go watch all the videos, ours is definitely the best with the choreography, costumes, make-up and editing with the different scenes and everything," Mihelich said. "Most of the other schools basically just stood there and sang the song. We really do have the best video, but you don't win for best video. the video that wins is the one that gets the most votes."
And so far, thanks to community support, Mihelich said that Woodward has been able to take the lead.
But she said there has been one school giving them a run for their money.
"There's another school in Illinois that has passed us, then we would get more votes and they would pass us again and we would get more votes," she said. "I think that has gotten people excited and now we have people who are voting constantly to try to keep us in the lead."
Mihelich said some people have even been contacting their relatives in other states, and even in other countries, to drum up more votes for the video.
"We've gotten votes from North Carolina, Missouri, Florida and we even have people in Africa and Europe voting for us," she said.
Mihelich said it may seem like a lot of fuss for a small prize, as the contest winner only receives a $250 gift certificate for products from Music K-8.
But she said she feels the real prize has been the support that the community has shown for the project.
"It's made me feel really emotional and just overwhelmed that our community could be so supportive of what these kids have done," she said. "It has really become a unifying thing for our district because it's not just the 5th grade and it's not just Highland Park, it's Woodward. Our whole town has come together and everybody is excited about it and encouraging people to support the video."
To her the 25,000-plus votes doesn't just show that her students and parent volunteers made a great video. "It shows that Woodward cares about kids and cares about encouraging our kids and seeing them succeed," she said.
While that caring spirit has already made her students winners in her eyes, Mihelich said she still wouldn't mind winning the gift certificate as well.
"I already have a list made out for what I would get for my classroom," she said. "A lot of our instruments are old, cracked and breaking. Mostly our rhythm sticks and things like that which we use frequently. So it would help us to replace those old instruments. And I'm also looking at a few other teaching aids, which would help bring fresh informational resources for us to use in the classroom."
To view and vote on Highland Park's video, visit musick8.com and click on the link in the middle of the page for the "Zombie Style Video Contest." The voting period is open until midnight on Oct. 31.