When the students of Poolesville Elementary School wind up for an advertising pitch, they're in a league all their own.
Little league, that is.
Twenty-two sixth graders are out to promote Poolesville the Madison Avenue way -- with slogans such as "Poolesville is Coolsville," press releases, radio commercials and even a Poolesville handshake.("You just put out your hand, look 'em right in the eye, and say, 'Hi, I'm from Poolesville,' " one student demonstrates.)
For eight months, sprucing up the town's image has been the No. 1 project for the "Cool Country Advertising Agency," better known as Alice Razzano's sixth-grade reading and language arts class.
"Most people think there is no life in Poolesville, that we're just farm people who don't know how to have a good time," said radio production assistant Jimmy Cangiano, 11, explaining why the class, along with a few gifted and talented students from two other sixth grades, decided to promote the community.
The promotional blitz started in October with a study unit on advertising that was designed to promote consumer awareness, improve reading and language skills and teach students the art of persuasion, Razzano said.
Located about 20 miles northwest of Rockville, Poolesville, with a population of 3,400, has four churches, three gas stations, one elementary school and one junior-senior high school. And, townspeople say, you can walk from one end of the commercial center to the other in 10 minutes.
The rural values of Poolesville, a village that began in the 1700s when John Poole II built a log cabin there, have remained for the most part intact. Many Poolesville residents take pride in the lack of crime and the fact that most residents know each other.
The pint-sized publicists point out that Poolesville has its own golf course, two parks, several tennis courts, organized baseball and softball leagues and other recreation.
To learn more about the town, the students interviewed community leaders such as Town Commission President Charles Elgin, who has lived in the community for all of his 73 years, business people, school officials and other residents.
"I learned through research that Poolesville was a strategic area during the Civil War and is one of the oldest communities in Maryland," said Tiffany Zattiero, 12. "After the interviews, we all knew Poolesville a lot better and had a better understanding of the town."
To tout the low crime, open space and other qualities of the town, the students wrote, produced and starred in three radio commercials, with each commercial geared toward a particular age group. Gaithersburg radio station WMTG (1150 AM) recently aired the commercials as public service announcements.
Besides the radio commercials, the students developed a videotaped television commercial to promote their school.
Chief copywriter-publicity director Adam Harman, 11, and his group wrote five verses of new lyrics to "Puttin' on the Ritz," then dubbed their voices over a recording of the song at a Kensington studio. They choreographed a dance to the tune and fashioned tuxedo-style costumes to complete the routine.