PLAISTOW — Move over Ken Burns.
Some Timberlane Regional High School teachers and students are producing documentaries and winning awards. The film crew recently started zooming in on their new original film about the landmark Scopes trial and its connection to the continuing debate over Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
John Thomas Scopes, a Tennessee high school teacher, was put on trial in 1925 for breaking state law by teaching evolution. His story was fictionalized in "Inherit the Wind," which Timberlane High students performed last spring as part of the Theater on Trial series.
The New Hampshire Humanities Council has backed the film with a $7,000 grant, according to Scott Strainge, the school's humanities curriculum coordinator.
The money has already been used to pay for 25 books about Darwin, evolution and the controversy over intelligent design. The books are on display in the school library, where students and teachers can research the issues for science, literature and social studies classes.
This is not the first time Timberlane has made a documentary, Strainge said. English teacher Brian Devaney, social studies teacher Josh Silveira and drama department head Eric Constantineau have already proven they are handy with a video camera and an editing deck.
The American Association of State and Local History recognized their film about New Hampshire lumberjacks with a national merit award.
"It let us know we can do larger pieces," he said. The filmmakers started small with short subjects on New Hampshire themes. Those pieces ran three to eight minutes, and were produced for a sister school in Honolulu, he said.
But two years ago, they completed a 15-minute film on the school's production of Arthur Miller's play, "The Crucible."
The Scopes trial documentary will be the most ambitious project. Students have already seen some of the production.
Julie Guzman, 16, of Sandown said she was surprised to learn some people believe schools should teach the religious theory of creation.
The debate over evolution is still being fought in courts and by local school boards, Strainge said.
"That's a great discussion," Constantineau said. Armed with the facts, the students will be able to hear the debate and talk about the issues "in a rational way," he said.