The animation program was a dream of Bluffton Elementary School's principal, Christine Brown. Mrs. Brown worked with Bluffton Elementary's Instructional Technology Coach, Lynn Walker, to identify the perfect person for the new program. That person is Celia Miller. Mrs. Miller is a certified art teacher with a love of technology. She implemented the additional avenue for students to demonstrate their understanding f their grade-level curriculum content through the use of visual arts in the area of animation. It serves as an ultimate vehicle for integrating technology across all content areas. This is how the Animate Me program was launched in the Language, Science, and Social Studies classes.
Using the Flip Boom family of products, students from Grades 3 to 5 use animation to extend their learning by connecting classroom instruction, assignments and concepts with artistic capabilities. During the first year of implementation, this innovative approach translated into an increase of up to 15% in overall marks throughout the core curriculum, maintaining a much higher performance than the state level. There was also an over 40% increase in science, 36% in math, 12% in social studies and 26% in writing amongst African-American students. This spectacular achievement was acknowledged by the Department of Education, which granted them the 2012 Palmetto Gold Award in the Closing the Achievement Gap category, which recognizes programs that narrow the gap in achievement between historically lower and higher-achieving student demographic groups. Bluffton Elementary was also the recipient of the Arts Innovation Award from the Arts School Network, the largest professional membership organization of specialized arts schools in the United States. Designed to recognize schools committed to taking innovative artistic risks, this award is presented annually to a school that has "broken the mold" in using the arts as a vehicle for teaching academics.
Typical animation programs exist in schools at the secondary level to aid in presentation and communication skills as an end result of content knowledge. The animation program at Bluffton Elementary differs from other programs in that it engages students as early as third grade to use animation to support current, ongoing student learning. Engagement in animation extends typical visual arts programs through the use of drawing tablets and storyboards to support story building, visualization, sequencing, logical thinking, creativity and self-expression. Extension of their current arts curriculum is also possible through animation instruction and introductory application of timing, velocity and motion, as well as various techniques that include traditional 2D animation. The animation program also extends current measures of student assessment across the content areas. Students are able to demonstrate understanding in all subjects, such as animating Math facts, Science life cycles, Historical events, weekly vocabulary, and Story Writing. Through animation, students are able to demonstrate their understanding by the use of a visual illustration, as opposed to traditional paper and pencil activities. As an assessment tool, animation gives teachers of Bluffton Elementary still another tool for determining the level of a student's understanding of curriculum standards. Visual documentation of student achievement is especially important for those students who are underperforming in the areas of reading and writing, those that may struggle with such issues as speech and language delays or Autism, and even for students who are learning a second language for the first time.
This new technology enriches the nature of school assignments and fosters greater interest and motivation for students in every subject area. Bluffton Elementary has seen a change in student's attitudes towards learning. Students can't wait to get to the animation lab. Parents have called to express their appreciation for the offering. One parent explained that her child was sick but cried to come to school because he would be working in the animation lab that day. Students have stopped seeing educational topics as boring and instead have found a joy in the animating process. As one fifth grader stated, "It is like watching a movie, only you have to create it first."
With the huge success of the animation program at Bluffton Elementary, Bluffton Middle school will be continuing the animation program for grades 6 and 7 so the elementary students are able to grow in the animation experience.
Bluffton Elementary is a rural school located on the mainland, adjacent to Hilton Head Island, in South Carolina. It is on the Bluffton Schools Campus, which consists of Bluffton Elementary School, Bluffton Early Childhood Center, H.E. McCracken Middle School, and Bluffton High School. As an arts-infused school, Bluffton Elementary seeks to ensure there is a reason for every child to come to school each day. The school develops students who are life-long learners, confident, and competent and strives to teach the students where they are and gently push them to their potential.