Film & Art @ ISB

Last week, I had an amazing day at the International School of Beijing. As I said to Breen O'Reilly, the IB Film teacher- it doesn't really look like a school. It looks like a hollywood set of what a school should look like. I spent the day going back and fourth between the film and art departments, trying to soak up as much information as I could from the teachers in the limited class day.

The film department looks like a professional studio. There is a sound and lighting booth at the back of the room which doubles as a mini studio and an equipment checkout center. It is staffed most hours of the day by a parent volunteer. The room itself is soundproofed and contains a large green screen on one end, hidden by a dark curtain. There is professional stage lighting in the ceiling, although it seems that the students do most of their work on location. The sides of the room are lined with macs and movie posters. There is a shelf for movie-toys as well, action figures and small props add to the room's overall environment of inspiring creativity.

Breen and digital video teacher Lawrence Jackson have established an amazing program which goes way beyond their state-of-the-art facilities. Towards the end of the year, all the IB students are required to participate in "Premiere Night". The tuxes are brought out, the red carpet is unrolled and the students and community come together to see the results of the students' hard work. They come out on stage and talk about what they've accomplished and how they've done it. In order to produce a good quality film, students need to have a balance of aesthetic, technical, and storytelling skills. Not an easy combination to master. Although we didn't watch any of the IB videos on Monday, I've seen some of the work that Breen's students have done in the past, and they are truly wonderful.

Below you can have a peek at the amazing facilities of the video department. You can click here to see a description of the photos.

I also had the opportunity to sit down with Lawrence's digital video students and talk to them about the Rotoball Project, which I just found out they will be participating in! I'm very excited to include them, and it was a real treat for me to speak with them one on one about the project. It was also great to see the innovative ways that some of the students who have already completed the project have approached it.

The Art Department's facilities rival the ones that I had in college. You enter the department through a gallery of truly stunning student work and pass the teacher's offices and art department library (yes, the art department has its own library) to the student classrooms. There are three classrooms with wall-length windows and great light, and two rooms for the IB students to work independently. The IB students not only have their own room- they have their own workspace. Two desks, plenty of floor space, and shelves for each student. The IB 1 students are on the ground floor, and the IB 2 Students have their own loft. I don't think I've ever had a space for my own art like these students.

What is really amazing about the department though, is not the facilities (impressive though they are)- rather, it's the amazing projects that Kendra Farrell (of the Asia Region Art Educators network fame) and Joan Lueth use to engage their students. These are projects that push the students both creatively and technically through a process of critical investigation to astounding results.

Below you can have a peek at these projects, as well as the amazing facilities and students in action. For more information on what you'll see below, do check out my Flickr set of the Art Department; there I've included some brief explanations and project descriptions.

Finally, Kendra invited me to present the lesson on light painting that I mentioned here earlier, as well as on Asia Region Art Education. It's quickly become one of my favorite photography projects so I jumped at the chance to do it again so soon. Craig Roland featured the project on his blog, and mentioned the photo sharing capabilities of ning (and specifically Art Education 2.0). Another great feature- you can share those photos as embeddable slideshows. Here is the mini-project I did with Kendra's class, created as an album from the photos she posted on her site:

Find more photos like this on Asia Region Art Educators

I owe a special thanks to Breen, Lawrence, Kendra, and Joan for taking time out of their busy day to share their knowledge and time with me. Together, they have constructed some amazing programs. It was wonderful to see a school in which the arts are not just supported, but celebrated.


  1. Frank said...
    Wow! Looks great.
    I would also love to know what your dept. at your school looks like too.
    craigr said...
    You're back with a BANG here David! What an impressive facility and curriculum. Kudos to the teachers involved and to you for giving us a glimpse into their classrooms. I think we're on to something here, these visits into 21st century art classrooms. I smell a book.
    dsgran said...
    @Frank - Thanks, I do mean to talk about our program, which I am proud of more on the blog and will do so more in the future.

    @Craigr- I agree. There is so much that we can all learn from each other, and its 21st century technology that is bringing us together.

    In a way it was one of the best professional development days I've ever had. Going in and spending the day with people who do similar jobs just opens your eyes to all kinds of new possibilities. It would be great to just have at least one day a year where we just go in and sit in for a day at a different school... It would be great if everyone could see the model class that they have at ISB as well.
    Lynne said...
    , yes, the ISB facilities are amazing -- mostly, I think, because teachers have been consulted in the design of these facilities -- teacher voice in designing learning space is SOOOoo important.

    Also, I can't imagine a more powerful learning group -- David G, Joan, Kendra, Breen -- and we could expand that group, I know. Moving in this direction is ideal in my book!

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