Teachers At Play

I started working at The Andy Warhol Museum as the Studio Programs Coordinator in the Education Department on January 25th 2011. It seems like my training lasted about… Let’s say three hours before I was up and running. It’s that energy of working in a beautifully volatile, reactive, and creative environment that makes me feel so very much at home in this museum. I tell you this is a fantastic place to be an educator, an artist, and to have a voice.

A week later on February 1st our Education Department hosted about 100 teachers from CAPA High School for a day of professional development. Now between you and I (I’m talking to the one guy who reads my blog posts) teachers don’t always like to be taught. I think it can be hard to change roles and be a student when you spend most of your year being an instructor, mentor, disciplinarian, role model, etc. My assignment was to emphasize ‘play’ in a workshop teaching them the principles of stop motion animation because that’s what I do. I have my own animation and puppetry company that provides all ages workshops so we brought in my business partner to help out. So working with my department and my animation partner we came up with an activity that would be fun, informative, and offer a new educational tool that the teachers could incorporate into their classes.

We decided to use pixilation, stop motion technique where live actors are used as a frame-by-frame subject repeatedly posing while one frame is taken and then changing that pose slightly before the next frame. The actor becomes a kind of living stop motion puppet. A few concerns that I had were that maybe the teachers wouldn’t find the workshop applicable to their classroom, maybe they wouldn’t be in the mood to be a puppet, and worst of all maybe not have fun. Of course I wouldn’t be writing this blog post if it had turned out poorly so let’s jump to the results: They had a blast as evidenced in the attached video, they loved being puppets, and since then we’ve had more than one of the participating teachers contact us about developing partnerships using animation as a teaching strategy. Good job, new guy.

When I think back to how much trouble I got into for ‘playing’ while I was in high school I can’t help but consider my current state as somewhat cathartic. Here I am as an adult making my living by teaching teachers how to play and furthermore how to play in their classrooms. Like I said it’s a beautifully volatile, reactive, and creative place to work.

Dave English

Studio Programs Coordinator