Creative Thinking Through Media Arts 

Once considered the domain of Upper Schoolers, multimedia skills—including top-motion animation, camera work and how to edit in Final Cut Pro X—are being taught to Lower Schoolers as part of a cross-disciplinary Media Arts course that interweaves the creative and literary arts with technology. And the children—who are as comfortable with computers as they are with crayons—are responding with unmitigated enthusiasm and aptitude.

The class interweaves performance and literary arts with a guided introduction to technology as a tool—all through project-based learning.

LS Media Arts teacher Robert Kleinschmidt sees the course as a way to help children explore the world and express themselves artistically, utilizing a variety of new-media equipment and techniques. “The aim," says Rob, “is to help the children become comfortable with the equipment and with basic tasks in various software programs" while reinforcing learning in other classes.

In recent years, students have produced a “Raise Your Voice" video for the yearly theme and a Martin Luther King, Jr., claymation video, which required the students to explore the life of the civil rights leader and then animate more than fifty characters.

“The claymation videos are particularly valuable as a way to introduce students to a basic understanding of research, storyboarding and narrative structure: protagonists/antagonist, set-up, conflict and resolution," notes Rob. Having the students do their own drawings and claymation sculptures reinforced basic color and design theory, and the children learned to organize themselves and utilize materials with a well-thought-out goal in mind.

The study of basic design and color theory continued with a comic book project. Rob had the second graders look at different covers to observe how movement, action and feeling are communicated through the use of color, lines and facial expressions. Then they applied what they'd learned by creating their own original comic covers, using the software program Comic Life to give their projects a sleek, professional look.

Students have also created a Calhoun news video--with interviews, opinion pieces, and sports and weather reportsm as well as movie trailers that combined music videos into a series of “Coming Soon" montages. These projects, notes Rob, require an understanding of basic camera and tripod operation: how to set up a variety of basic shots (long shot, medium shot, closeup) by utilizing the zoom and tripod, and how to properly compose each shot.

As with all Calhoun's project-based curriculum, collaboration is a big part of the Media Arts class, with students taking turns on various jobs--directing, working the camera, doing sound and lighting, operating the film slate and being script supervisor. “The children learn to work as one large crew; there is no girl-boy breakdown and no working with only friends," says Rob. “The children have to learn how to communicate with each other and deal with the disagreements that eventually arise as part of any creative endeavor." Ultimately, these collaborations are about compromise and finding solutions to creative differences, and understanding that “we all have to work together in order to achieve success in our projects." More than learning F-stops and slow-motion techniques, Rob hopes these life lessons are what his students will carry with them throughout their schooling.

Tech Tools used in LS Media Arts

  • Panosonic Lumix GH3 video cameras
  • MacBook Pro
  • Green screen with lighting kit
  • Tripods
  • GarageBand for recording sound
  • Final Cut Pro X for voice overs and viewing our dailies
  • iStopMotion Pro 2 animation program
  • ComicLife 2 comic book creation program

Main Building 3rd - 12th Grades 433 West End Avenue New York, NY 10024 212.497.6500

Robert L. Beir Lower School Building 2.8 Years - 2nd Grade 160 West 74th Street New York, NY 10023 212.497.6550

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