Who Said Learning Can’t Be Fun?

by Megan -

Growing up, art class consisted of finger painting, paper-mâché, and a lot of Popsicle sticks. Nowadays, the art room has become a lot more advanced than my Elmer’s glue days. Quest Academy, established in 1982 to provide an appropriate learning environment for gifted children whose needs were not being served well by their local public schools, has an art program that offers all the fun of finger painting with none of the mess. With over 290 students ranging in age from three to fourteen, Quest has expanded the art room into other subjects; all being connected by the students (and teachers!) love for iStopMotion.

Led by a trio of creative enthusiasts, Quest provides its students plenty of opportunities in both Fine and Visual Arts. Hether Hoffmann and Sherly Peterson have been teaching Visual Arts at Quest for the past fifteen years and four years, respectively. Vinnie Vrotny, the Director of Academic Technology, is in his first year at Quest and has been involved in this field at schools for over 25 years. The jump to iStopMotion, however, was a first for all three.

“Sheryl and Hether heard about iStopMotion at an Illinois Art Educators Association Conference and the National Association for Gifted Children Conference,” said Vrotny. “The middle schoolers were previously using Windows Moviemaker and the lower school students were using PhotoStory. iStopMotion has allowed for a more seamless creative workflow, especially when paired with iMovie iPad app. The final film is smoother [and] more professional looking.”

The teachers’ favorite part? The opportunity iStopMotion gives them to stop focusing so much on making technology work. Hoffmann says she is happy that is has “allowed [them] to move away from fighting the technology in order to complete the project.” iStopMotion allows them to focus on more important things, like the students. By giving them the opportunity to focus on helping the kids with story creation, aesthetic, and design, everyone not only has a more enjoyable time, but it facilitates a greater amount of learning.

All the student’s love using iStopMotion and it is easy to see why. Art has begun to find its way into other daily subjects throughout their day. Kids are coloring, drawing, writing, and creating not only in the art room anymore. Social Studies and Language Arts have both been taken over for days at a time, allowing kids to put their new stop motion skills to the test with stories from history or famous works of literature. Middle school students created an animated video for “The Odyssey.”

“The students are very excited with the technology integration,” said Peterson. “The lower school is able to coordinate subject matter across disciplines. For example, we use content from the Renaissance Period in Social Studies to write our storyboards, create our scenes, and make our movies. It is awesome!”

“Through integrating the art and other subjects provides students the opportunity to create a compelling visual narrative,” adds Hoffmann. “With the increased ability to capture pictures and video, it is important in learning how to compose a written narrative. Using animation software enables students to easily compose in this medium so that we, the teachers, can then focus on teaching them how to craft a story.”

Unquestionably, the student’s favorite parts about working with iStopMotion are the ability to see their ideas come to life in a professional movie. Instant gratification allows them to see step-by-step progress of what all their hard work is resulting in. It is easy to see the individual frames along the bottom of the screen and delete the ones where they find fingers or hands.

“Students are able to create content that comes alive right before their eyes. That is a powerful motivator - every student wants to participate and be a part of the movie,” Vrotny said. “The process makes students stop, think, and plan before taking action. They collaborate as a movie making team in order to complete the project. The students are totally focused and highly productive during the movie making process and so proud of their work. “

“Creating films also enables those students who are more visually oriented, the ability to communicate their thoughts and ideas in a medium which better fits their strengths,” comments Hoffmann. “Since they now have the ability to easily communicate their ideas, they can then be pushed to utilize higher level thinking skills, analysis and synthesis of these ideas without being limited by their ability to communicate.”

Getting their kids excited about the arts is a gift in itself for these three teachers. Enthusiastic students are not only more enjoyable in the classroom, but learn easier as well. Quest gives their students the chance to thrive in a highly developed and nurturing environment, providing them stability and the opportunity to explore different mediums and subject matters they may not be offered in other places.

“Students are very excited to come to art,” said Peterson. “They are very focused and motivated to learn. The hard work pays off in big ways - they are proud of their work and the hard work is tied to a high rate of success. Quest Academy’s seventh grade’s “Odyssey” will be featured at Schaumberg’s Prairie Center for the Arts in Illinois this month. The video has been a great way to share student work with the larger global community.”

To learn more about Quest Academy visit their website at www.questacademy.org and make sure to watch their video “Odyssey” at the top of the page or here!