As education continues to see budget cuts, one of the first things cut is art. Art is seen as something extra that isn’t necessary. Teachers are told to focus on Common Core Standards and critical thinking. There just isn’t time for things like art.
This week, I had the incredible opportunity to witness a conversation between Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy.
|My husband, me, and my principal
We were so excited to hear the presentation, we were some of the first into the Pixar theater.
Photo by Jennifer Ellison
Listening to Ed Catmull and Sal Kahn discuss the deep connection between art, math, and science was inspiring. As teachers, we fear that educators are being asked to strip down what we are teaching to just the core subjects. We fear the joy being sucked out of education as testing becomes the end all be all. We know that our students are little humans who want to be inspired. Hearing the head of Pixar say, “Creativity IS problem solving!” is like a ray of hope.
Creativity is problem solving.
Pixar employees are artists. Artists who have earned top honors like Oscars. Children (and adults) with artistic ability dream of the chance of working at Pixar. But they’ll need more than artistic ability, they’ll need a strong math background.
|Brit Cruise, James Tynan, Sal Khan, and Ed Catmull
(During the Q&A, they mentioned Science and Humanities would be connected eventually as well.)
Pixar and Khan academy have teamed up to launch Pixar in a Box. That connection between art and math is now clearer than ever. Now anyone can, for free, see how artists at Pixar make the incredible happen and how math is an integral part of what they do.
“Why do I need to learn this?”
When I first starting teaching, this question annoyed me. Come on kid, just get with the program. As I’ve grown as an educator, this question makes me happy. It is a chance for me to connect what we are teaching to the real world.
Now, I have an incredible tool at my finger tips. Why do you need to learn this? Well, here is an example of how the people who made the movie Wall-E used this to make all the robots in the background.
Who wouldn’t want to take their class to Pixar on a tour? Now you can bring the Pixar animators into your classroom through videos and activities. They can explain how they were given a creative task and then asked to problems solve how to make it happen. Your students can play with the introduction activities to begin problem solving creatively. Then, they can learn the math behind this.
All this can happen with a Common Core Standard attached.
When I received an invitation to visit Pixar to see the launch of a Khan Academy / Pixar educational product, I couldn’t believe it. I was even more shocked when we arrived and there were only about 150 people there. I felt like a little kid posing by statues and walking the halls upstairs staring at amazing pieces of art. That is the awe our kids feel when they see some of their favorite animated characters. I was hooked. Our students will be too.
|My husband and I at the Pixar lamp!|
|My teaching buddy, Jen Ellison, and I at the Toy Story Ball.|
|The Steve Jobs Building at Pixar|
|My husband, the Incredibles, and I having a blast|
|The best principal in the world, Matt Manning|
|Matt Manning, me, Jen Ellison, Chris Hutchens
Inches from Oscars!
While the activities are geared for 4th and up, I encourage you to take a look even if you are a primary teacher. They may have designed the lesson about how to make a ball bounce realistically aimed at middle school students, but the primary teacher in me saw the animator in the video talk about fractions. What a great introduction to fractions. The building crowds section shows how they built crowds of robots in the movie Wall-E. I plan to use the first part of the lesson with my next basic multiplication group. Do some exploring, have some fun, and enjoy this free resource.
|screen shot of an activity from Pixar in a Box|
As STEM education is becoming more and more popular, I hope that STEAM education will begin to take the lead. I’d love to see principals and district leaders take some time to do the Pixar in a Box lesson and be inspired to remember what teachers already know, art and creativity are essential in our classrooms. Art isn’t a separate other. It is integrally connected to science, technology, engineering, and math. Creativity is Problem Solving! If we want our students to be excellent thinkers, creativity is an essential tool.
Disclaimer: As I read this I realize I sound like I was paid to write a puff piece. I wasn’t. I really am just that excited.