Making Curriculum Pop

Welcome back everyone! As most of you know we had mid-winter break last week in the NYC public schools so I was on hiatus. Break is over and it’s back to work and the MC POP bouncing blog. Thanks again to all of you who took advantage of the new profile features last week by changing your photo and sharing information about your teaching and pop culture interests.

Since the Oscars were last night it only seems appropriate that this week’s theme would be the moving image in the classroom. I’ve always been a sucker for celebrations of art even if they are a bit out of touch (see the Grammys, although this year’s show was great). I would love to see all kinds of prize giving celebrations on network TV. We could roll out the red carpets for the Pulitzers, Nobels, and third grade art fairs. I think creative work in all disciplines is worthy of celebration. Certainly, film and TV go a bit overboard (SAGs, Golden Globes, Emmys, etc. etc.) but wouldn’t it be cool if the New York Times rocked an awards show for books? Penelope Cruz captured this feeling much more eloquently in her speech...

Yeah, she looked stunning - but she also displayed the same depth of character she brings to the screen on stage. Focus on the beautiful line:

“I stay up to watch the show and I always felt that this was, this ceremony was a moment of unity for the world because art, in any form, is and has been and will always be our universal language and we should do everything we can, everything we can, to protect its survival.”

So how to we protect the arts as teachers? Andrew Stanton, the writer and director of Wall-E answered that question in his acceptance speech later in the show...

“I guess I'd be remiss if I did not thank my high school drama teacher Phil Perry for 28 years ago casting me as Barnaby in "Hello, Dolly!." Creative seeds are sown in the oddest of places so, uh, thank you so much to the Academy for this."

When I took some students to meet Robin Williams in 2001 (with a co-teacher who hides behind her initials on this Ning) he told kids the same aphorism about his teachers - “great teachers will plant seeds that will grow throughout your life.”

Lets hope, once in a while, we do things right enough to plant a few seeds in the minds of students that allows their creativity and talent to blossom for audiences beyond the classroom.

So how do you prepare kids for their Oscar acceptance speeches? That, of course, brings us to the part of this blog where I share some cool resources you might use in your classroom. Here are three to get the week started:

1. Martin Scorsese and some other filmmakers created The Film Foundation. That organization created The Story Of Movies – a series of interdisciplinary curriculum kits complete with DVDs of classic films like The Day The Earth Stood Still, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. If you’re a teacher you can order these, and many other cool media teaching materials free at Video Placement Worldwide.

2. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has created an awesome series of FREE PDFs and DVDs that address the different disciplines of filmmaking. These free teaching resources are sure to lift a bit of the curtain that hides the filmmaking wizards.

3. Lastly, lets not count those Brits out. Not only have they gifted us with the TV show Little Britain USA this year but the British Film Institute (BFI) has crafted a useful series of teaching guides that you can order from their website. They aren’t cheap, but they are loaded with interesting ideas even if some of the material speaks louder to a UK teachers than American ones.

Thanks for coming back to the blog. Tomorrow we’re going to talk a bit about short films and my devastating loss to Nicole (wife) in our two person Oscar pool. In the meantime, I'm leaving everyone with today’s discussion question. What film from 2008 would you give an Oscar to in the category of most teachable/educational film and why?

Cast your votes below!

Scott Smith: Are you on uppers or something?
Harvey Milk: No, this is just plain old me.

RRG

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Most definitely Wall-E. It has tremendous implications for the science & health classrooms. I wrote about it previously. In a collaboration with NASA, Disney has offered science educators this lesson plan about robotics. Disney has also released a "Classroom Edition DVD" of Wall E which includes a "teacher guide," but I have not yet seen it. Has anyone out there seen it? If so, I would love to hear about the contents.
Ryan (and others) the popular and excellent "BFI Film Classics" series is now exclusively available in the US via Macmillan.
See their web site. Frank
"The 6th Day" - There is a ton of information about genetics, esp. hot topics such as cloning, genetic modification and genetic engineering, that is addressed not only from a scientific point of view but an ethical one as well.

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