Once again, the See/Hear/Feel Film program is running at the Amherst Cinema. This program exposes children to the arts and encourages them to be creative.
Each third grade class that comes to the cinema is given popcorn to eat (the
children love that) while they watch two short animated films. The first film provides encouragement to the youngsters because it is made by an eleven year old student. The animation is
not what one would normally consider to be "good", yet it is being
celebrated and hopefully inspires in the children the idea that they too could
make a film. The Second film is called (in English) "To Trick the
Eye" and is full of tricks that the children are encouraged to discover; this promotes critical thinking and creativity.
After each film Jake, the program director at the Amherst Cinema, questions the children about the film and the children enthusiastically respond. Then the children are broken into small groups that are led by local volunteers. In these groups the children create a short poem and story together. The poem allows for creative free association as it is made by one child saying a word, then the next child saying a word off of that. Unlike the poem, the story is a bit more structured and the concept is a little harder for the children to get. Each group is given a topic. One child comes up with the first sentence, then another with the second, and so on until the last child creates the last sentence. The challenge is getting the story to be told sequentially. This is due to some combination of the volunteer not conveying the idea well and the children's attention span. Another challenge is that the children are being taught in school to take standardized tests. Teaching to standardized tests may not foster the types of skills needed to collectively create a story in a sequential manner. There is also a lack of time for these for these types of activities.
This is by no means a complete list of definitive reasons for the general inability of the children to create a story in a group setting. However, I believe it does highlight that there is something wrong with the current educational system. I say this because my observation has been that the children who have less trouble with the story come from the better funded schools. Programs such as See/Hear/Feel Film are essential for leveling the playing field for youth who have little exposure to this type of learning.
Jean Baker '14
Amherst Cinema/See/Hear/Feel Film