Friday, February 19, 2016

Student iMovie project an educational hit

By Walter Lunt - Creative energy was in abundance at the Jordan Small School in Raymond during the first weeks of 2016.  Groups of students, grades 5 through 8, were collaborating, making group decisions, writing and producing. What were they doing? Making movies – iMovies.

Classroom teacher John Powers said the school-wide project is this year’s version of an annual unit that attempts to encourage students to apply classroom and personal knowledge in creative ways. He says the iMovie Project was spawned through the inspiration of a teacher in another district; an idea that has really taken off at the Raymond middle school.

Students prepare to film their animated production.
Here’s how it works: Students form self-selected groups and brainstorm ideas for a short film. The collaboration results in decisions, scripts, and production meetings that require leadership and teamwork. The process demands responsible group interaction, making contributions, listening to the ideas of others and above all, patience. And finally, all products have a deadline that’s expected to be met. 

While it’s the fun part of the project, filming, using Apple iPads, often results in the frustration of do-overs, necessary tweaking or changes, or underestimating the difficulty of an idea. The filming stage saw students spill out classrooms into halls, even into the parking lot.

Eighth grader Tom DuPont says the iMovie project gives students the “chance to take an idea, use your brain and then make it come to life.”

Norma Easter and Rainey Pawlowski were working on a stop-motion film, pointing their iPad at a hand- made city-scape while manipulating small cotton figures that represented people. They said their digital story carries a message that encourages all to “follow your own path and make your own decisions,” not follow blindly the wishes of others who seek to control you. They were joined by Joshua Marquis who, although not a member of their group, had joined to help Easter and Pawlowski edit their film.

Another eighth grade student, Sophey Potter, said that, initially, she had a hard time coming up with an idea for her film but after collaborating with a family member decided to pursue one of her pet-peeves: friends and fellow students “who are always talking negative about themselves.” She said they should reflect on how they see themselves and try to be more positive. “Don’t say ‘I’m short,’ say ‘I’m fun-sized,’” Potter said with a smile.
Subject matter for the films is as varied as the grade levels and number of students involved. Powers discussed one innovative project titled The Adventures of Ivan” in which the central character engages in certain every-day activities that demonstrate various principles of trigonometry. He said another was based on a student’s original poem, while still another playfully charts the life of a snowman.

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