‘I’ve never made a movie like this’

From left, Jocelyn Chapa, 9, Nate Rivera, 9, Alex Lezama, 11, and Brianna Aguirre, 11, watch the video they just took on their iPad during their weekly Community Media Access Partnership class as part of the YMCA after school program at Sunnyslope Element

The short video starts with music and a dark screen but transitions to footage of a girl drawing.
It’s pretty advanced stuff for an elementary student to put together but Crystal Villagomez, 11, is one Sunnyslope School fifth grader participating in a digital media class where youth armed with iPads learn the basics of storytelling, photography, video and stop-motion animation.
“I’ve never made a movie like this,” said Villagomez, as she sat at a desk in front of an iPad. “This is cool.”
The eight-week after-school class for fourth and fifth graders is a partnership between the nonprofit Community Media Access Partnership—which provides programming that focuses on local sports, education and government to Gilroy, Hollister and San Juan Bautista—and the existing YMCA after-school programs at Sunnyslope and Gabilan Hills Schools.
“I love the opportunity for young people to kind of unleash their creativity, especially with our digital world nowadays where there are these tablets and phones all around,” said Ian Slattery, the station director of CMAP and the teacher of the class. “They’re very powerful for storytelling and media.”
Slattery starts small with lessons defining the basics, including what it means for “something to be in focus,” he said.
Lessons on photography transition to those on video and eventually stop-motion animation where students make paper and clay objects come alive with the help of an iPad application.  
“If a fourth grader gets the bug for photography and they’re going to do more of that in their life, that’s great,” Slattery said.
Others may find they enjoy coming up with stories and pursue writing or they’ll find they have an interest in computers, he said.
“It kind of goes off in all those directions and I think what we’re trying to do is give them this introduction to the tools and some of these practices,” he said.
In class last week, students practiced adding a flair of the dramatic to short videos filmed in the classroom by including music and sound effects. Slattery’s students approach the class from a wide range of comfort levels with technology.
“Different students have different levels of familiarity with an iPad,” Slattery said. “But even the ones who have one at home, they don’t necessarily have all the levels of understanding to be able to use it for these deeper purposes.”
For Serina Alcazar, the YMCA group leader of the after-school program at Sunnyslope, it’s easy to see why students would be drawn to this class.
“I think they do well,” she said. “They catch on quickly because they’re so savvy with technology.”
But Nicole Hartshorn, the senior program director of the YMCA San Benito County Family Center, argues the class teaches more than media skills. It helps students learn the soft skills of communication and teamwork, which become invaluable as the students grow up.
“So not only are they really learning about technology skills … but it’s really about learning life skills, too,” she said.

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