WVHS collaborates on Once Upon a Child project


WVHS collaborates on Once Upon a Child project

June 7, 2022

Once Upon a Child project premiere

Four Warwick Valley High School academic departments collaborated on their annual “Once Upon a Child” project to write, illustrate, score and produce a narrated storytelling video of a children’s book.

Eight students in Danielle DeBella’s creative writing class wrote children’s stories. Students in Kristen Spano’s art classes created illustrations after meeting with the authors. Elissa Maynard’s orchestra students provided background music.

Students in Dan Cecconie’s Video Production class then used the illustrations and music, combined with voice actors narrating the stories, to produce the final videos.

“This is our fifth year doing the Once Upon a Child project, and I told my Video 1 class that in my opinion, as an overall classroom effort, this is our best year,” Mr. Cecconie said. “All of my editors did a great job!”

The idea behind “Once Upon a Child” started about 25 years ago when publishers would send children’s books to Mr. Cecconie, who was working as a television news producer, in hopes of getting publicity.

“It wasn’t really a news story, but I wondered if they would let me bring the story to life, so we started doing it,” said Mr. Cecconie.  “The show was really successful. So when I came to Warwick, I reached out the English and art departments with the idea, and they jumped on it.”

The videos were shown during a story reveal presentation to an audience that included many of the teachers and students who contributed their talent to the project.

“The excitement of the students to see the final product was tangible,” WVHS Associate Principal Stephen Sweeney said. “This project exemplifies the cross-curricular project-based learning that occurs in high school regularly. The students take pride in their work and their role in the culminating task.”

Ms. DeBella was glad two of her writers, Natalie Kitchkin and Jack Mazzella, could be on hand for the screening.

“I know Jack probably doesn’t have a high regard for his story,” she said, “but I thought his was an important [story] to tell, which is why I chose it. And I thought Natalie was probably the most imaginative of our submissions.”

The authors, artists and producers met together for the first time in February. The next step was for the artists to complete their digital illustrations. Many of the students used iPads and the program Procreate, both of which the district recently obtained.

At that first meeting, Mr. Cecconie told the writers they needed to communicate their ideas to the others on their creative teams.

“You’re the one who had the genesis of the idea,” Mr. Cecconie said to the writers. “The artist, the composer and the producer need to listen to you. It’s not their interpretation of what you meant. You share with them what was in your mind’s eye. That way, when we get back together and play them all, hopefully for you as a writer, you’re going to say, ‘that’s kind of what I saw, that’s what I felt and that’s what I had.’”

The videos are online at: https://youtu.be/lkh6F7ssSCM

View a slideshow about the project below:




Musical Composer

Vocal  Actor


Charlie’s Adventure

Samuel Tyzbir

Claudia Harris


Anthony Roca

Konnor Piccorillo

Daniel’s Big Mistake

Haukken Thompson

Maddy Balsamo


Liam Kevins

Theodore Fernandez

Lucky the Ladybug

Emma Gentles

Patrick Gardiner


Shari Blauner

John Murphy

The First Day

Ayvia Vazquez

Puvaneswary Krishnamoorthy


Olivia Mende

Jasira Gay

I Need Help

Jack Mazzella

Meghan Broking

Jack Kaminski

Kyle Gutierrez

Shane Crane

Micco the Wolf

Brian Buckley

Elliot Ambers-Hashim


Kirk Thomas

Will Barerro

Sandy and Her Golden Fur

Sarah Bender

Arianna Foutch-Mann


Gavin McCarthy

Brooke Holzhauer

Sonny the Vampire

Natalie Kitchin

Erin Eicher


Connor Price

Jazleen Alagh


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