A few days after FCAT, my principal sent around an email advertising the 2010 Lee County Student Film Festival. I asked my class if they would be interested in making a movie. They were astoundingly enthusiastic about it. They decided they wanted to make an animation, a stop motion animation like we made together when we read a story about animation earlier in the school year. We set up a time of the day to work on the idea. We had been dealing with a roach problem in our classroom all year long, so they wanted to make a movie about roaches. I think my love of science fiction influenced them into making them robotic roaches from space. They finally decided to make a story where the robotic roaches land in a spaceship and eat things in the classroom. Everyone was drawing storyboards about things they wanted the robotic roaches to eat, crayons, erasers, Mr. Souppa’s tie, and so forth. Then one of my students made an extremely interesting statement. “Too bad the roaches could not eat the FCAT.” Everyone suddenly stopped drawing and coloring. Everyone just fell silent. Then they all looked at me, seemingly at the same time. “Why not?” I said to a round of cheers. Suddenly they had a real story.
I had the experience of making a film, so that made it easier to teach them, but what a truly monumental undertaking for a group of third graders from a Title One School. Still, they had confidence, critical thinking skills, and creativity. They made models from materials we had around the classroom. They understood that footage had to be shot in order of convenience, not chronologically. They thought of ways to set up shots, with much less advice from me than I would have anticipated. My students quickly defined roles for themselves; some had the patience to take the pictures (12,561) and others had the ability to move the models at just the right timing. Some of the students even discovered they were better at setting up the set then participating in the filming. Our end result was an animation to rival ones I have seen produced professionally. They titled it: Invasion of the Robotic Roaches. It can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVNN8eJxB2M.
My students won First Place Overall Elementary in the 2010 Lee County Student Film Festival. My group of third grade Title One Students beat two of the most affluent schools in our school district. I had never been more proud of a group of students than I was of this group. I did not care what their test scores said they were winners. Just producing the film made them winners. However, the test scores finally did arrive…the test scores that would decide their fate. Would they meet that goal they had written each day? YES. Every student in Mr. Souppa’s class did indeed score a 3, 4, or 5 on the FCAT and was promoted to fourth grade. No flukes, everyone made it. How? I have asked myself that many times. My conclusion is that Mr. Souppa’s Glasser-Sterling Model, solid critical thinking skills, and creative discovery all worked together to make this group successful. It made this group successful academically and creatively.
Can creativity and standardization co-exist? Well, I say no. Students that have the ability to think critically and creatively can beat standardization or eat it like in my student’s film. Ultimately, I believe, I hope, this era of public education standardization will pass and we will again value knowledge and creativity working together, rather than just testing knowledge. I think we can have the best of both worlds…not standardized.
This is a guest post by Ted Souppa.