Pixar in a Box

Pixar in a Box
Pixar in a Box

            Wallace Elementary School of Integrated Arts teacher Jordan Miller is bringing Pixar animation concepts to Kokomo Schools classrooms after completing the invitation-only Pixar in a Box Program in Pittsburgh during the summer of 2018.

            The two-week experience focused on storytelling and storyboarding. Ms. Miller, who teaches 1st grade at Wallace, worked with teachers from around the United States – chosen by Pixar employees – as well as representatives from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and teachers from a Pittsburgh school.

            During the first week, the teachers completed the program as if they were students. Ms. Miller learned how story makers at Pixar develop ideas and characters, while also receiving lessons on the art and visual language behind creating a storyboard that eventually will become a movie.

            “We learned about film grammar and types of shots, such as wide, close up, pan, zoom, and Dutch angle,” Ms. Miller noted. “The filmmakers at Pixar discussed how these shots were used in early storyboarding to tell the story more effectively.”

            Ms. Miller then had an opportunity to work with a group to develop characters and a story spine. The teachers used the lessons they had learned to draft a first storyboard before pitching the board to other groups to receive feedback. Ms. Miller and the other teachers in her group used the feedback they received to correct, and add to, their storyboard before creating a story reel. The teachers added voice over for the narration, and characters, to create a mini movie of their storyboard art.

            “At the end of the first week, we looked at the material as educators,” Ms. Miller explained. “As teachers, we developed lesson plans for each unit of the story reel process, and discussed how to make these concepts more approachable for all students.”

            During the second week of the Pixar in a Box experience, Ms. Miller and the other teachers taught a group of Pittsburgh 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th graders about the story reel process.

            “We guided these students through all the lessons we had completed ourselves during the previous week,” Ms. Miller added. “This helped us, as teachers, to strengthen our own understanding of the concepts.”

            By the end of the week, each group of students had created their own story reel. The students invited their families for a movie screening, which Ms. Miller described as a “very powerful” experience.

            “I have so many takeaways from this incredible experience,” Ms. Miller noted. “After teaching at Wallace for five years, I immediately was drawn to the arts aspect of storyboarding. This is such an amazing example of arts integration. This process gives students so much power, and voice, in their writing and storytelling. These lessons will be such a great asset to my writers’ workshops.”

            Ms. Miller hopes these lessons soon will be utilized by other teachers at Wallace, as well as other Kokomo Schools teachers.

            “I am extremely excited to bring this knowledge to other teachers in the Kokomo School Corporation,” Ms. Miller noted.

            Wallace Elementary School of Integrated Arts teachers already have received an overview of the Pixar in a Box program, and Ms. Miller has plans to work with grade level teams at Wallace through the end of this school year.

            Wallace Principal Jason Snyder noted: “Here at Wallace, we have been fortunate to utilize the expertise of many Wallace staff members to improve our arts integration strategies building-wide. Our staff members graciously volunteer to lead professional development sessions to share their skills and knowledge with their fellow teachers; Jordan Miller is one example. The Pixar skills Ms. Miller has shared with her fellow Wallace teachers will be used in our classrooms this semester as students develop storyboards and story reels that will be showcased in a film festival at the end of the school year.”

            Ms. Miller also has plans to work with other Kokomo Schools building administrators in hopes of helping even more teachers in the district to implement Pixar in a Box concepts.

            “I look forward to turning this knowledge into more professional development for Kokomo teachers, and more powerful writing, and reading, for Kokomo students,” Ms. Miller concluded.

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