Have you ever seen a kosher ham? We’ll, I’m it. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Bob Gralnick and I am the Curriculum and Instruction Specialist at Progressive Arts Alliance, and if given the opportunity to make a proverbial fool out of myself I am going to do so in the best possible way. Participating in dance class with young students in an effort to glean information to ramp up rigor and practices is one of those ways.
As the Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, it is my job to oversee and help build and refine the curriculum development expertise and instructional practices of PAA’s artist-educators. It is my goal, and the goal of PAA, to create rigorous learning opportunities that employ best practices in teaching that utilize an arts integration approach, and there is no better way to become acquainted with our unique program than to participate in it.
During my initial tenure, I have danced with first graders as caterpillars to demonstrate the life cycle of the butterfly. I have performed with the kindergarten pretending to be various shapes to help solidify conceptual knowledge of early geometry. I have participated during printmaking lessons focusing on diversity, biome projects utilizing Scratch coding, stop motion animation projects illustrating cell structure, and the list goes on. Whether it be integration though performing or visual arts, the experiences have provided tremendous amounts of information regarding the amazing things that the PAA brings to students of all ages, as well as providing an avenue to begin to help our artist-educators incorporate practices that will strengthen an already incredible program. Did I mention I had a whole lot of fun, too?
After our last session at a partner school, a first grader, Vicki, said to me, “I’ll miss you.” Filled with the pride and joy educators know from having such positive experiences with children, I said, “When we see caterpillars and butterflies we can think of dancing.” She smiled broadly, and I did, too.
Legendary hip-hop dance pioneer PopMaster Fabel recently joined us for our weekend workshop on President’s Day in which students from our RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp learned how to use MIT’s Scratch programming language to code a dance animation. The workshop was a part of PAA’s partnership with the Scratch Team. Read more about the partnership here. Below are PopMaster Fabel’s reflections on participating in the process and creating his own dance animation.
PAA students with hip-hop dance pioneer PopMaster Fabel during a recent workshop in which students learned how to use Scratch to code dance animations. Photo by Jared Akerstrom.
The first challenge in producing a Scratch project was thinking of a concept that could be effectively executed with the tools and templates provided. After seeing samples of what can be done, the possibilities seemed endless, hence opening the floodgates to creative thinking and processing. I instantly thought of a few concepts that might effectively illustrate the magic and wonder of Scratch. Some were very elaborate while others seemed simple yet effective. I chose to go with one I was already very familiar with, The Puppet. It was a performance piece I created with my first dance partner, Mr. Wiggles, where he was the puppet and I was the puppet master. In this case, I was both characters for the first time ever. This was an exciting thought and possibility!
Here is a clip of me and Mr. Wiggles performing The Puppet:
Storyboard for PopMaster Fabel’s dance animation in Scratch.
Transferring the ideas onto a storyboard was the next challenge. The creative process warranted careful consideration of the series of still images and positions that were to be photographed and sequenced. The interaction between puppet and puppet master consists of a series of movements that needed to be precise in order to pull off the effect. This challenged me to think of the simplest equation that would still be effective and contain the essence, mechanics and functionality of the performance piece. This process challenged my way of conceptualizing movement since dance choreography isn’t usually storyboarded or prearranged with notations. I was forced to get my point across in the simplest terms yet remain creatively entertaining. A true example of how less can be more.
PopMaster Fabel shares his storyboard with students during our recent Scratch workshop.
The final challenge was learning how to sequence and manipulate the images with the Scratch interface. The use of layers, backgrounds, audio files, sizing, speed, etc opened doors to an infinite amount of possibilities. Although my knowledge of video editing gave me somewhat of an advantage, I still had to get acquainted with a new programming system. For the most part, creating an animation in Scratch was mostly based on experiential learning. We were given the tools, taught how to use them and the rest was based on trial and error. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to learn how to navigate through any software and/or computer application. Hands on. Big fun!
PopMaster Fabel (right) works with PAA artist Jared Akerstrom (left) and Eric Schilling from the MIT Media Lab coding his dance animation in Scratch.
Watching the animation come together was absolutely magical! It was as if we were breathing life into inanimate objects. Every aspect of the process brought about a thrill and sense of achievement, from adding the background and music to sequencing the images and finally bringing it all together. The experience was self-empowering and leveled the playing field on an artistic platform. Just about anyone who follows good direction and enjoys being creative can have a wonderful experience with Scratch.
Click the image to view PopMaster Fabel’s animation he created as part of our Scratch workshop.
What excited me about the students’ animations were their brilliant concepts and creative thinking. Their ideas all varied in themes and were extremely unique. See their animations by clicking here. Some of them seemed to transform themselves into cyber super heroes while others created new dimensions and characters in time and space. The students truly enjoyed the experience and their level of achievement was contagious and much appreciated. It made me wonder, what if this system was used to teach subjects in schools? Would the “edutainment” factor in Scratch add motivation and artistic flavor to the presently stale approach to lesson plans and curricula? If you ask me, the answer is YES! The Scratch project can help revolutionize the teaching methods used in schools and learning institutions. Scratch can be the wave of our educational future and I’m honored to have been able to surf that tide!
It’s more fun to compute!
Jorge “PopMaster Fabel” Pabon
Click the photo to visit the online studio of Scratch dance animations created by students from PAA’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp.
PAA is pleased to share that we have partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab as part of their work on Coding for All: Interest-Driven Trajectories to Computational Fluency, a National Science Foundation funded initiative that is a collaboration led by the Scratch Team at the MIT Media Lab, the DML Research Hub at University of California Irvine, and Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
The Scratch Team has engaged PAA to assist as a content expert in using hip-hop in arts education experiences that also support students’ development in computational fluency. The project is exploring how students can develop computational fluency by using Scratch. Scratch is a visual programming language and online community which enables young people to create and share their own interactive media such as animations, games, and stories. PAA’s work with the Scratch Team has included developing plans on how to facilitate the design and coding of hip-hop dance animations in Scratch.
PAA Executive Director Santina Protopapa helped implement this work with the Scratch Team by co-facilitating a workshop with students at the Junipero Serra Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in December. During President’s Day weekend last month, students from PAA’s annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp also participated in a weekend-long workshop that enabled them to design Scratch animations using their own dance routines. Students also worked with legendary hip-hop dancer Popmaster Fabel to learn additional dance movements and vocabulary to include in their animations. Students were excited to have Popmaster Fabel code his own dance animation during the weekend’s activities. See the animations the students created by clicking here.
Students from PAA’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp busy coding their dance animations during President’s Day weekend.
In June, Protopapa will join members of the Scratch Team and others involved in the project in a presentation at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Los Angeles, California. The presentation will share the work of this project and will engage participants in a sample dance and coding activity. The team plans to use the work of the hip-hop and Scratch design experience to generate discussion on ways to develop and support interest-based pathways into computational fluency for youth from groups under-represented in computing.
Eric Schilling of the MIT Media Lab, Santina Protopapa, and Connor Musarra celebrating PAA’s work with the Media Lab’s Scratch team.
Connor Musarra and Natalie Rusk of the MIT Media Lab working on a beta test of hip-hop dance in Scratch.
One of the beta test animations created during PAA’s work at MIT.
Last month, PAA Executive Director Santina Protopapa visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab to explore how PAA can help the Scratch Team incorporate hip-hop and hip-hop dance into the Scratch programming language. Scratch is a free programming language and online community that enables kids to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations. Protopapa was joined by PAA artist and former student Connor Musarra. Together with members of the Scratch team, Protopapa and Musarra helped design and program a series of beta tests that resulted in animations of hip-hop dance movements in Scratch. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting partnership between PAA and MIT.