MODA Film Festival, February 7-9, @modatl

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A 007 Principal’s Ride and Making Films

This week, my family and I saw Cars 2, the sequel to the fabulous, animated story of Lightening McQueen and his learnings of humility with his new-found family in Radiator Springs. In Cars 2, McQueen finds himself in a new racing and life-learning challenge, and Mater, his best friend the rusty, ol’ tow truck, finds himself a secret agent who doesn’t realize his own creative intelligence and unique sense of problem solving. During much of the film, Mater is paired with Finn McMissile, an Aston Martin who serves in Her Majesty’s Secret Service…like James Bond. In addition to just loving the story and the time with my family, the movie got me thinking on two tracks…

What Would My 007 Principal Ride Be Like?
As for me, I was raised on James Bond, 007. I loved (still love) the gadgets, especially the cool cars with the special-agent features. In Cars 2, like in the 007 series, Finn McMissile and Mater deploy their gadgetry to stop the bad guys, solve high-speed dilemmas, and save the day from the forces of evil. You know…stuff like smoke screens and oil slicks and machine guns in the fenders – all controlled from a panel in the car. Well, that got me thinking what “gadgets” my 007 Principal Ride might contain. (Note: I am NOT talking about being a “sneak” in school.) Perhaps my “smoke screen” would be a “truth telling cloud” that would promote some people telling me what they really think rather than what they think I might want to hear. Perhaps my “oil slick” would be a meeting-canceler so that I could spend more time in classrooms and other learning spaces with the students and teachers. Perhaps my “machine gun fenders” would be quick-fire assessment tools to help me and others see what is being learned and where we need to go next in instruction and project guidance.

What would be some gadgets on your 007 Principal Ride? Or 007 Teacher Ride? Or 007 Parent Ride? Or 007 Student Ride? I hope you’ll add some ideas in the comments.

Making Animated Films as Character-Ed, Integrated Studies, PBL
As a father of six-year-old and four-year-old sons, I see my fair share of animated films. Some, owned on DVD, we watch many times! I am amazed by the best films – they tell a great story that can be enjoyed by anyone ages 3 to 103, AND they provide great life insight and messages of deep character. They are creatively funny, humanely serious, and technologically and aesthetically artistic. A solid core of animated films are simply brilliant!

So why couldn’t our middle school students make such films? Wouldn’t the project-based learning required to do so provide deep lessons in cross-curricular, integrated studies? Wouldn’t the students – film makers – have to delve deeply into concepts we typically separate and classify into English, math, science, social studies, history, foreign language (think Toy Story 3!), visual arts, performance arts (think sound tracks, etc.) advisement, etc. Talk about transliteracy development…and FUN! I imagine embarking on such a complex endeavor would pose unforeseen problems to confront and solve. I imagine PIXAR Studios could tell some stories about authentic problem solving and collaborative creation.

As a culminating activity/assessment, we could have a series of film festivals for elementary schools, and even larger audiences. We could invite some PIXAR execs and film makers who use their craft to make a positive difference in this world. Other real-audience possibilities seem endless, as do the opportunities to do something meaningful with the final results and any resulting proceeds.

So why don’t we do such a thing? Maybe other schools do…but I don’t know of any. Maybe we should try it as an experiment and learn by doing. Anyone want to give it a try? The green flag is waving, as far as I can see. Perhaps it’s time for us to start our engines!