York Country Day School’s New Media program empowers students to be storytellers


Everything has a story, and those stories have the power to change the world.

That’s the message Evan Scherr wants to instill in students in the New Media program at York Country Day School.

Scherr, program director at the independent, college preparatory school in Spring Garden Township, teaches YCDS students skills and tools to create their own message.

It’s a craft that helps students cut through the noise of today’s media-intensive world, where messages from the Internet, television, and hand-held devices seek time and attention, Scherr said.

“We’re challenging these students by asking them, ‘How can what you do push forward the thinking of your generation?’”

The power of visuals and imagination

The New Media program at YCDS is offered to students at all levels, from PreK through twelfth, with a consistent eye toward exploring the components of storytelling and understanding what drives a narrative.

For Lower School students, that might be a critical look at the latest Pixar film to see how its writers introduce characters, conflict, and resolution. At the Middle and Upper School level, perhaps it’s an examination of a powerful picture in the news, with a discussion about how images are crafted to catch our eye.

In each case, though, the goal is to move a step further and empower students in the classroom to then design and create whatever is in their young minds — the manifestation of bold imagination.

“We want each student to make what they feel is going to carry the message they want, and then put it out there,” Scherr said.

Crafting a driven message

For Christine Heine, Head of York Country Day School, New Media allows young people a unique chance to give a voice to their own story.

“Students like to personalize their world, and New Media provides an opportunity for them to do so through different platforms,” she said. “The curriculum in New Media – Video Production, Sound Design and the Digital Arts – includes courses where design, the centering force of these arts, provides a very personalized canvas for students to creatively share their story and express their imagination.”

The Ann B. Barshinger Center for the Arts and Brougher Center for Innovation and Technology at YCDS will provide New Media students with an array of state-of-the-art tools to help them along the way. Through video, music, print and more, when young people discover a subject of interest they can then tailor their message through a preferred medium, driving the dialogue forward.

“We say to students, ‘So you found something you care about, something that you want to change?’” Scherr said. “‘Go make a documentary about it. Push for that change.’”

An opportunity to be extraordinary

The New Media program is not a traditional journalism curriculum, though some elements remain. Students will still find those time-tested building blocks of language, imagery, and storytelling, but with countless new ways to make them their own.

If every good story has a beginning, middle and end, then YCDS New Media students today find themselves squarely at the start of their own adventure — poised to set off toward conclusions that, with the help of faculty, only they can find.

For Scherr, who spent years working for The Travel Channel, ESPN, and other large entertainment conglomerates before shifting his focus to education, the rewards gained from helping on such searches are immeasurable. And the flexibility that YCDS provides to reach those ends is no less than one-of-a-kind.

“Too often today we settle for things designed around the average,” Scherr said. “But I believe kids can be extraordinary, and at York Country Day we’re giving them that chance.”