Thursday, February 8, 2018

Sports Journalism Class puts the 4Cs in Stop Motion Film Making

A lot of adults say, "You couldn't pay me to be a high school student in this day and age." Sure, I get the sentiment with the way social media has made the minefield of teen social interaction even trickier to navigate.

I think I would still go back...temporarily...just to take "Covering Hawkeye Sports" from Mark Behnke at Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Michigan where I teach.

Covering Hawkeye Sports has not only won 11 Michigan Interscholastic Press Association state championships but it is really an example of technology being integrated into learning at its best. Mr. Behnke's journalism class is essentially a college-level sports information department covering a mid-sized high school. They live stream games with commentary. They live tweet games and host social media nights just like major colleges and professional teams do...and these are 9th to 12th graders.
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One of the coolest things these kids do is recreate game highlights in Lego stop-motion. This is a process where a film starring Lego characters is shot frame by frame and characters are repositioned after each frame to create the illusion of fluid movement. One second of footage can involve as many as 15 of these cycles.

Students have gotten so good at it that they even hosted a camp for elementary kids this past summer to share their craft. Oh yeah, they've also been asked by Oyo Sports to make highlight films of Super Bowl 51 and this year's college football national championship game. Oyo Sports is a major player in the Lego world by creating minifigures of major sports stars and teams. Oyo debuted CHS's Super Bowl video during last year's NFL Draft on its Instagram page.

At its heart the class is all about story telling and a stop motion video is the same way. The "Fours C's" are everywhere when you look at activities like these: collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Here's basically how the process works.

  • An entire game has to be broken down into its most important elements and a team of designers has to be able to envision how the plays will be choreographed by minifigures.  (Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking)
  • The geometry of recreating a sports venue in Legos is no easy task, whether that be Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta or the Hamilton High School shot put ring. (Creativity, Critical Thinking)
  • It would be far too expensive to purchase team minifigures for each video, so players are repurposed by Photoshopping uniforms and logos that are printed as decals. Students even hand paint pieces when needed. (Creativity, Critical Thinking)
  • When it comes time to actually shoot the stop action film, an incredible amount of precise math has to be calculated in order complete a scene in an efficient number of still shot. (Critical Thinking)
  • Periodically Jared Jacobs, who is one of the world's top sports stop motion video creators, will FaceTime with class members if they hit a snag in the process or just need some insight into a "How did you do this?" technique. (Collaboration, Communication)
  • Teamwork and student leadership have to be clicking in a project as well. When a group of students can divvy up the task and all stick to assigned roles the work can proceed at a manageable pace. How well a team works together is often reflected in its final product. (Communication, Collaboration)
  • Before the final video can be shared, it is polished through normal video editing with graphics and titles added to complete the story telling. (Communication, Creativity)
Although Covering Hawkeye Sports might seem like a fun class to talk about sports, it is giving kids a chance to develop marketable skills like Photoshop and journalism but more importantly real-world life skills like leadership, empathy, and teamwork.

I just wish this thing had been around when I was in high school. 

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