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Avonworth middle-schoolers' anti-viral video catches on

| Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009

There was no way Ashley Abernephy was going to shake hands with an Ohio Township police officer without protecting herself from germs — so she pumped some hand sanitizer on the officer's hand.

"I saw the hand sanitizer in my bookbag, and realized I should put it on his hand to get my point across," said Abernephy, 13, of Ohio Township, an eighth-grader at Avonworth Middle School. "I hope everyone takes precautions."

That's why Abernephy and her classmates created a video released on YouTube last week to offer tips on how to protect their peers from H1N1 infection. In the video, which had nearly 800 hits by Wednesday afternoon, students in Michael Lincoln's communication technologies class meld a mock newscast with footage of "secret agents" chasing down those not washing their hands properly.

"It started out as an instructional video on handwashing, but progressed to a full-blown movie we could imagine students watching," Lincoln said. "They figured how many students want to sit there and watch someone washing their hands?"

The video quickly gained popularity, with more than 500 hits before the weekend. Avonworth hasn't had any H1N1 cases — to school officials' knowledge — and students hope to keep it that way.

"A lot of students have seen our video, and I think it will help us from getting it," said Erika Nosal, 14, of Ohio Township, who played a suspect in the video. "I'm slightly worried because it's so contagious."

Students wrote, starred in, produced and directed the video, which was the technologies class' first project. The 18-week course focuses on teaching students how to use technology to get a message across so they aren't just the recipient of media messages. Lincoln said he hopes his students learn the power of viral advertising from the project.

Nosal did.

"There are signs everywhere telling you to wash your hands, but we incorporated humor into our message and tried to present it in a way that people would want to pass the message on," Nosal said. "People are noticing it."

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