CHATHAM - Audiences at the non-profit Crandell Theatre in Chatham are enjoying a new public service announcement (PSA), thanks to students from Chatham Middle School’s Arbor Academy and Michael Stead, Instructional Innovation Coach for the Chatham Central School District. The 30 second video, which uses a combination of drawing, animation and sound effects, shows filmgoers where to exit the theatre in the event of a fire or other emergency.

The PSA demonstrates the possibilities for collaboration between business and school communities. Stead and Annie Brody, executive director of the Crandell Theatre and board member of the Chatham Area Business & Arts (CABA), had been exploring creative ways that local businesses could collaborate with the school district. While brainstorming, the two saw an opportunity for students to gain real life experience by helping a local business with a specific need. “ In the case of the Crandell, the theatre wanted a way to make sure its audience members knew where all the emergency exits were located. Why not challenge students to solve the Crandell’s problem? A collaboration was born.

After being tasked with this challenge, the students broke into teams and brainstormed creative ways to communicate the message, learning to use digital editing software, special effects, music, and troubleshooting to make their visions into realities. They presented their rough ideas to Brody and, using her feedback, made revisions for their submissions.

Stead explained that, “the program focused on the development of executive function skills which are crucial for student success. They learned how to be self-monitoring, understand different points of view, and manage their time by organizing, planning, and prioritizing accordingly.

Navaeh Chamberlain, currently a seventh grader at the Middle School, had her video selected. Brody felt the video did the best job of meeting all of the theatre’s requirements in an attention-getting, entertaining way. The PSA is now running before each screening at the Crandell and receiving audience applause.

Brody and Stead hope to build on the success of this collaboration. They both think there are a lot of opportunities for businesses and schools to work together in mutually beneficial ways. If you are a local business looking to partner with the Chatham Central School District, you can contact Stead through the District’s staff directory at

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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