Take one funny story-teller/aspiring filmmaker, add one talented young composer, mix in 20th century history studies, and you have a super fun series of short biography videos starring Kinzy, the charming koala with the huge ego. This work has comprised a large part of our studies over the last couple of months; it is a project that takes the subject-first approach of child-centered education, which I talked about in the last post.
In the subject-first approach, we start with a topic of study that a student isn’t necessarily excited about, and pursue it by focusing on the aspects that naturally fall in line with the student’s interests. For us this year, it’s 20th century history. Eva wasn’t exactly excited about this century, as she’s a sensitive soul, and the story is filled with war, economic depression, and more war. We decided to cater the unit to her interests and focused on important women of the era, watching the century’s events unfold as the setting of their lives.
As one of Eva’s goals this year is to explore filmmaking, we weren’t long into the unit until she suggested making documentaries about some of the women she was studying. Eva’s sense of humor and love of her character Kinzy informs many of her ideas, and after about an hour of brainstorming, the film project entitled “Amazing Women of the 20th Century… with the Kinz!” was born. She’s created four videos to date, featuring Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Rosa Parks. So what all goes into making these films, and what are we learning? Here’s the process:
- Choose women of interest. We’ve read about lots of women, but Eva is selecting representatives from different parts of the century, and only women who in particular grab her imagination and inspire her. She’s read both picture book and chapter book biographies, we’ve researched online resources, and we’ve watched documentaries. (History)
- Write the script. After she completes her research, Eva usually takes a morning to write her script. She decided to keep a similar format for each film, offering a short introduction, five points about the featured woman, a conclusion, and then a short “to learn more” segment in which Kinzy introduces the viewer to child-friendly books about the person featured in the video. (English)
- Create the backdrop. With each film, Eva gets more creative with her backdrops, and now she designs scenes from the person’s life, drawing elaborate pictures on our white board. In the Rosa Parks video, she drew the bus she’s so famous for, looking up images online, studying proportional art, and paying attention to the details unique to this particular model. (Art)
- Record the audio. Eva records the audio and video separately to make sure her voice is clear and unmuffled. We have a lot of funny bloopers! (Public speaking)
- Edit the audio clips together on the video editing software Final Cut Pro, to create a smooth track. (Computer science)
- Film the visuals. I set up the camera and press record. Honestly, this is my only job throughout this whole process. She does the rest, including the puppetry. We play back the recorded audio track so she can match the puppet’s movements to the vocals. (Theater)
- Edit the visual clips together and overlay them on the audio track in Final Cut, making sure the visual and audio line up. (Computer science)
- Find images online and intersperse them in the film, adding transitional fades. (Research/computer science)
- Add animated text art in the film. (Computer science)
- Add the intro/outro segment, upload to YouTube, add the subscribe features, and share via social media. (There’s not even a traditional core subject name to define this. “Social media?” Yes, that should be a class, especially these days.)
Remember the composer I mentioned at the beginning of this post? That, of course, would be Ian. Ian and Eva created a theme song for Kinzy years ago, but they wanted the song for this series to be unique while still retaining Kinzy’s feel. Eva had already created the visuals for the intro/outro, and they felt to us like a spy movie. So in a short two hours, Ian wrote a spy thriller piece, and then as an added humorous bonus, tucked in an echo of Kinzy’s original theme song underneath! It’s a great internal joke for our family. But if you want to understand its significance, watch this little video first – it’s 30 seconds of Kinzy singing his original theme song. After you listen to that, see if you can pick out the reference in the “Amazing Women” videos that are below this clip.
And now without further adieu, here are the Amazing Women videos, in chronological order. Eva has two additional films slated for this series, so be sure to subscribe to her YouTube channel and follow her on Facebook to stay in the know! In the comments, let me know what you think about this history unit. Could you see your students being interested in studying history in a similar manner? And is this really just history? Or is it history/English/public speaking/computer science/music theory/social media?
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