Fifth grade students from Woodmont Elementary react to the premiere of their Valentine's Production “Woodmont Willie and the Idol of Amor.” Students used state-of-the-art technology that was provided to the Montville Township Public Schools district through a $60K that was awarded by the Montville Educational Foundation.

Woodmont Elementary School launched its annual Valentine’s Day student video on Wednesday, February 14 at 1:00 p.m.

The 2024 “Paws Production” is entitled “Woodmont Willie and the Idol of Amor.” Inspired by school spirit, and the Woodmont Wildcat mascot, the “Idol of Amor” is an homage to Indiana Jones, action adventures, and, of course, Valentine’s Day and amor (love)! The central plot points of the 2024 Valentine’s Day video are highlighted against Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love.”

“The videos bring joy,” Principal Dominic Esposito said of his elementary school’s tradition of sharing videos with the community. “They spark student creativity and emphasize team work. They build school spirit, and are a way for the Woodmont students and staff to give back to the community at large. The video productions also enhance our STEAM curriculum.”

Each “Paws Production” video is posted on the “Paws The Wildcat” YouTube channel.

It’s been 10 years since Woodmont Elementary School burst onto the video production scene. The school’s first production, in June 2014, featured the Pharrell Williams Song, “Happy.” Since then, Esposito and his team of creative educators have produced more than three dozen school-wide videos. Each features a song and allows students, faculty, staff, and, sometimes, district administrators, an opportunity to “play” and have fun with the camera. Those who view the videos enjoy the student enthusiasm and creativity.

Set in the 1930s, “Woodmont Willie and the Idol of Amor” is the most ambitious “Paws Production” to date. The Valentine video incorporates special effects, detailed storytelling, elaborate period costumes and props, and outstanding location shots.  

“This year our team was able to expand the scope of the production thanks to a district-wide grant by the MEF (Montville Educational Foundation),” said Alyson Coppola, third grade teacher, A/V Club Advisor and Assistant Director of the “Woodmont Willie” production. “With the new video equipment it has been possible to create a video that features unique and intriguing storytelling from a variety of angles and perspectives.”

MEF is a non-profit organization that provides grants to all Montville Township Public Schools for innovative educational initiatives.

In the fall of 2023 MEF made its largest, and first district-wide, donation, with a $60,000 STEAM grant. The grant has provided state-of-the-art video equipment to all five elementary schools in the Montville Township Public Schools district. The grant also provided ECA science kits (Electrical Component Assembly), digital drawing tables, and state of the art printers and monitors to Robert R. Lazar Middle School, and a kiln, pen lath, scroll saw, dovetail jig, film camera, and enlarger to Montville Township High School.

“This is a unique grant, said Daria Senaldi, President of the Montville Educational Foundation. “It is a STEAM grant – it touches on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics -- for all seven Montville Township Public Schools. That is what makes it a very unique grant. It is not for just one school, all seven Montville Township Public Schools benefit from this grant.”

“Filming and editing this year’s Valentine video was much easier than in the past,” said Woodmont Library Media Specialist and “Paws Production” Producer and Video Editor Toni-Ann Raj. “With the Go-Pro the MEF provided, we could review each moment immediately after filming it. We were able to show the students how the camera angles, the lighting, the shadows, and all the movements we discussed prior to filming were actually captured on film. The students reviewed each take with us and made suggestions. Their suggestions enhanced both the storytelling and the application of the technology to the project.”

In the first 24 hours following the release of “Woodmont Willie and the Idol of Amor,” the YouTube video had more than 600 views. The “Paws The Wildcat” YouTube channel is followed by nearly 600 subscribers. Views for Woodmont’s videos across the channel average about 3,160 views, with “Happy,” from 2014, topping 15K, and “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” from 7 years ago, which featured the Justin Timberlake’s song, receiving over 37K views to date.

In January, Raj, Woodmont Art Teacher and “Paws Production” Director Briana Orefice, and Montville Township Public Schools Educational Technology Teacher Coach Dr. Andrea Wallace presented at TECHSPO ’24 in Atlantic City. The topic was “Cultivating School Cultures Through Video.” While Woodmont has a 10-year track record of enhancing school culture through video, Esposito noted at the “Woodmont Willie” premiere that the program has been enhanced by the technology provided by the MEF grant.

With the MEF grant, the other four MTPS elementary schools, Cedar Hill, Hilldale, Valley View and William Mason, are also expanding their use of, or implementing, video technology to build school culture, enhance school spirit, introduce team building skills and project management, provide creative outlets, and incorporate real-world opportunities for students to apply their science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics knowledge.  

In addition, for the students who participate, the video productions help build-out the pillars of character, including confidence and leadership, responsibility, respect and citizenship.

Educators for the Woodmont “Paws Production” team met on February 15 to review the “Woodmont Willie” production experience and begin planning the Valentine’s Day 2025 video. In addition to Coppola, Esposito, Orefice, and Raj, Norma Murawski is the team’s Prop Master, and Kelly Roesler is the Stunt Coordinator.

“We will be incorporating even more MEF technology into next year’s production,” said Coppola. “We have a year for the students and staff to work with it [the technology] and to learn more techniques that can be incorporated into the final production.”

Woodmont Elementary School is a kindergarten to grade five school located in Pine Brook, New Jersey. It is one of seven schools in the Montville Township Public Schools district. The MTPS district includes Montville, Towaco and Pine Brook. On Valentine’s Day, all 315 students who attend Woodmont Elementary School gathered in the All Purpose room to view the premiere.

Fifth grade students performed the roles of the lead characters in the production. Their on-screen work was supported by invited extras who work throughout the MTPS district.

Woodmont Willie and the Idol of Amor,” and all Woodmont Elementary School videos, can be viewed on the “Paws The Wildcat” YouTube channel.