PMS Students Become Animators During Big Read

POUGHKEEPSIE – Five 8th grade social studies classes became animation studios last week, as teachers Jennifer Burke, Lalana Hunt, Christopher King and Joyette Walton teamed up with The Art Effect and the Poughkeepsie Public Library District to participate in this year’s Big Read media arts residencies revolving around historical non-fiction novel “The Boys in The Boat,” this year’s Big Read book.

Nearly 130 PMS students participated in a weekly ‘book club’ during their social studies class, engaging in “The Boys in the Boat” via book chat circles, small group text analysis, and vocab synthesis in preparation for the culminating project of creating digital animations illustrating select passages from the book.

The book focuses on the life of Joe Rantz, a college athlete who would go on to join the 1936 Olympic gold-winning American crew team. The students learned about the trials and tribulations of Joe’s life during the Great Depression, his personal triumph as an Olympic champion, and America’s triumph as a nation in defeating the German crew team in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Several key moments in the book take place right here on Poughkeepsie’s shoreline of Hudson River. According to Jennifer Burke, PMS social studies department chair, “The Boys in the Boat” was a perfect fit for our 8th grade social studies students. It is historical non-fiction that correlates with the U.S. History curriculum, and provides an opportunity for the students to engage in project based learning.”

This unit infused STEAM, literacy skills and social studies themes into a culminating project where students created original animated scenes from the book. Over the course of a week, media educators from The Art Effect worked closely with students to develop storyboards, learn digital animation tools, produce and then edit their short animated films.

“It’s really exciting to see kids who may normally be quiet and shy become active and decisive through the animation process,” said David Wong, one of The Art Effect educators leading the residency. “They’re making creative decisions around social studies themes and making it come alive.”

The project proved especially beneficial for the 30 ENL students in Mr. King and Mrs. Walton’s classes, who were actively engaged and immersed in both visual literacy and English language acquisition through the digital animation medium. ENL students were able to create animated images to express their understanding of and thoughts about the novel, in a culturally inspired activity.

“We don’t often get to work on a project such as this one that incorporates local and national history, and I feel like the students have gotten a lot out of the experience”, said social studies teacher Chris King. The inclusive nature of the project equalized each student’s opportunity for success as a true representation of American culture. More information about The Big Read can be found at 2023 Big Read.


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