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Step into the media center at Black Mountain Primary School and you hear words like claymation, animation, stop motion and green screen.

Those are the sounds of third graders are creating their own films.

“This isn’t play,” Lila Downs, media center coordinator said. “They are creating and learning to survive in the 21st century. It takes technology and collaboration. They are having a good time, but they are learning some important things.”

Elizabeth Middleton, academically and intellectually gifted teacher (AIG) at Black Mountain Primary School says third graders are using computers to research topics on websites that they like. They work from a format she set up for each third grade class that allows them to do independent research.

“The format allows the students to be creative, write, draw and illustrate in their journals projects they would like to do” she said. “It is self-paced and designed for the level of their abilities. All the websites are kid friendly. Their research includes some videos.

The goal for third graders is to become life-long learners, and to develop 21st century technology savvy. Third graders take learning to a higher level in today’s academics. Their projects are hands on fun which makes them more memorable.”

There is a sequence of steps that the students use to make a film.

“First the students have to write what they are going to film” Downs said. “Nothing just happens. They have to state what the main idea is that they want to show with a movie. This gives them the opportunity to create with writing as their first step. Making a film helps get these students ready for higher levels of thinking and explaining a concept. They learn to retell a story that they have read.

“These kids are very computer and technology savvy for their age. Most are exposed to computers at home and the internet, so they are computer literate up to a point. Even kids who don’t have computers at home are brought up to date pretty quickly by their peers. This project of making their own film helps them come up with ideas of their own, and not just give back the material that they have been taught. They are learning technology that they can’t get at home or anywhere else.”

The students go through a six step process in making their own movie which includes story boarding, claymation(animation technique used with clay figures), animation, stop motion (the original animation technique used to create cartoons), green screen (an integral part of special effects that allows students to superimpose subjects onto virtual backgrounds), and books.

“Books are important in film making,” Downs said. “When you read a book, you can bring it to life with a movie. The students are using childhood fairy tales to turn into movies. Collaboration is a big part of the project process, which boils down to successfully working together. This project not only helps the students learn, but helps them teach each other, which brings it all back to team work in the real world.”

Susan Snow, digital lab manager at Black Mountain Primary School, says the creation of a film is part of NC Standard course of Study in today’s academics.

“The students have to learn to create their project and be able to present it articulately,” she said. “They have to learn to use the technology tools to present their ideas. They learn to use a variety of technology on the third grade level, including gathering data and information.”

Third grade student Madalyn Spears worked in a group of three students to create a fairy tale film.

“It is really a lot of fun,” she said. “You have to listen at school, and then go home and figure it out for yourself. I used my dad’s computer to make a film at home.”

Payton Alexander, another third grade film maker, says the project is a lot of fun, and not too hard.

“I am learning a lot about using the computer,” he said. “The fairy tale wasn’t too hard.”

Down says third grade is really important because it is a transition time when students learn independent thinking, and how to use the computer as a tool and not just another gadget to play with.

“They are going to be using computers for the rest of their lives, and next year in fourth grade they will have more digital devices to learn how to use,” Downs said.

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