Elementary students are exploring the world of video and film with their very own, student-made green screen.
A green screen is simply a green background for filming or photography that can be electronically changed into another graphic background.
Twain Sullivan Principal Kevin Bird says that since January, students grades three and up have been working during lunch hours and after school on the green screen, which is actually just two plywood sheets painted green by the grade threes.
Bird says students tried eight different shades of green before finding the right one, but with the help of Home Hardware they got the right shade.
“There’s a three-pronged reason for doing this,” Bird said.
“There’s the opportunities to do video work… there’s media awareness… and there’s [learning to use a new piece of technology].”
Bird says students are exploring ways that they can use film to add impact to a message, and will be trying out things like doing an original music video with a student band and doing a skit, set in ancient Japan, using the green screen.
“It’s where our society is going – being able to communicate important ideas in a way that impacts… it’s not enough to have a good message anymore, you have to have a good medium to put it in,” he said.
“It’s also a media awareness bit, because it’s about creating reality and teaching kids that the reality that we see on TV and stuff like that is a created reality, so that they can begin to recognize and be aware of the information that’s coming to them and what might be true and what might not be true.
“Watching TV becomes much more educational if you’re watching it from the perspective of ‘hey, I wonder if they’re using a green screen there,” or ‘I wonder what camera technique that was’… You’re not just passively taking stuff in, you’re going to be actively viewing and absorbing that material,” Bird said.
He says that the grade five students are already starting a media awareness project, where they will film commercials using some of the techniques commonly used in the TV industry.
“[This is] so they can learn to recognize some of those techniques [when they see them,” Bird said.
“The third prong is just giving kids the opportunity to become familiar with a piece of technology that is used substantially in our society,” he said.
Twain has students interested in the technical side of music and photography, so now they can learn more about the technical side of film, he said.
Bird said that film is mostly extracurricular and will not be a class of it’s own, but will be incorporated into the regular classes as mini-units.
Asked why he decided to bring film into the school, Bird said it was because he has seen the power of it.
“I’ve been running a program like this in all the different schools that I’ve been in for the last 15 years or so, and a lot of the students have gone on to different opportunities in photography and a few of them have gone on to serious film work after high school,” he said.
Bird says one of his students, after he graduated, used his film experience in an interview to successfully get a job that was beyond his level of experience.
“They went in with the same message but the message was visually powerful,” Bird said.
Bird says that after a couple of years, when there are a few generations of students with good filming ability, it would be neat if there could be a community film night where students can show their film work.
Bird says students seem engaged and excited about the new film work at Twain.
“Students are dragging their parents in to see the results…[and talking with the grade fives about the film work] their ideas are flying,” Bird said.
He said the bubbling ideas is a sign that the students are well-engaged.