Not all children learn the same way. They can't all grasp a history lesson from a lecture. They can't all communicate what they have learned in class. And some dread going on stage for a school performance.
Bluffton Elementary School Principal Christine Brown was looking for a way to accommodate these students when she came across the idea of animation on the Savannah College of Art and Design's website. She met with one of the professors, who suggested a program called Flip Boom.
Now the school is in its fourth year using animation as a tool in education. The program allows students to create cartoons and get hands-on experience with what they've learned in class.
"To me, it's finding a path for every child," Brown said. "And this is a path for a bunch of kids."
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Once a week students in second through fifth grades attend Celia Miller's animation class. In her class they bring to life what they have learned in math, science, history and Language Arts. The students use a stylus and a drawing pad. Miller said it's very similar to drawing on paper and the students pick up on it quickly.
She said they start by making a storyboard of what they're going to animate. They figure out what their characters will look like and what the story line will be. Then they get busy creating.
Miller said students have animated historical events, such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor. They have shown the various steps of math equations. They've depicted the formation of a volcano and shown the changes in matter from solid to liquid to gas. They have animated literal and figurative meanings of synonyms and antonyms.
The school is about to get some national recognition for its innovative curriculum. They will appear Monday morning on "In View" with Larry King on The Discovery Channel.
Brown is thrilled that her school will be featured on the program. She would love to get the word out so more schools will see what her students are doing and consider using animation in their classrooms.
"This works well with our students, and it needs to be something that other schools look at," she said.
Fifth-grader Sam Garner recently worked on an animation of alliteration and personification. He came up with: "The whooshing wind whispered wildly in Walter's ear."
Sam said he enjoys working in animation. "I like that you can use your mind and you can make up what you want to do in the animation," Sam said. "It's fun."
Bluffton Elementary students start working in animation in second grade by animating a bouncy ball and a rolling rock. In third grade they create basic animations for verbs. In fourth grade they animate the phases of the moon. And in fifth grade they use animation for creative writing.
"We're highly focused on technology, from the time the students enter in kindergarten," Brown said.
She said kindergartners at Bluffton Elementary are expected to learn Microsoft Word. In first grade they are required to create a five-slide PowerPoint presentation. By fifth grade, students are creating websites in Dreamweaver.
Brown said the Arts Schools Network recognized Bluffton Elementary for its innovative technology. The South Carolina Association for Educational Technology also gave them an honorable mention for innovative technology.
She said Palmetto Assessment of State Standards scores have increased dramatically since the school implemented animation.
"Not everyone learns with a pencil and paper, nor just using computers," Brown said. "We need something where they're interacting, and this does that because they're able to take what they've done in the classroom and apply it themselves."