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Our Wisconsin charter school uses scientific research and project-based learning as the focus of our curriculum. Project learning is based on a constructivist model of learning that engages you in real-world scholarly activity because you get to chose topics that interest you.
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History from the Horses Mouth

Posted on April 11, 2013 by Molly Mortimer

In the middle of last year, one of my friends, Clare, approached me about an animation project, and although I was mildly interested, I turned down the idea because it was spring semester and we were both busy with other projects. This year, however, we decided to make it one of our main projects. We started the project because Clare wanted to try voice acting, and I wanted to try animation. We invited Kaitlyn on board, and she ended up being the main writer.

The first part of the writing process is to come up with your characters. We were inspired by a TV show called Hetalia that portrays countries as humans for a comedic effect. We thought it was such a cool idea, we decided to make our own show that is more fact- based and educational, and portrays the countries as animals. Why animals? For one thing, we didn't want to copy Hetalia exactly, but also because I'm really bad at drawing people.

We created a host of colorful characters, including Italy, a sweet, pasta-loving Italian greyhound. Then there is Russia, an ominously quiet timber wolf with a fondness for fur hats.  Don't forget Germany, a dachshund you wouldn't want to cross. And last but not certainly not least we have America, the proud, the free, and the somewhat obnoxious bald eagle we all know and love.  We have several more characters, all animal portrayals of the country itself.

The most intimidating and seemingly unreachable aspect of this project, for me, was the animation. It's always been something I've wanted to try, but I wasn't expecting to get an opportunity to do so until college. Looking for a good program was daunting, but eventually Clare and I stumbled upon flipbook, which is a fantastic program used by professional animators at Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks. It took a while to get it downloaded and working properly, but once we did it was really hard for me not to spend all day practicing with it. I went through some tutorials online and I learned the basics of walk cycles, simple stick figure animation and importing simple backgrounds. At first my work was really sloppy, but I've learned a lot and improved quite a bit. Although the process is slow, it's rewarding and I've had lots of fun with it.

The problem we have now is that Kaitlyn has been writing faster than I can draw, so we've decided that in order to finish all of our skits we will have to act them out rather than animate every single one. We all play a few different characters, so one day we brought in a few props and costumes and shot our entire World War II skit. Unfortunately due to technical difficulties none of the footage was usable, but we're planning to re-shoot this again soon.

The success of this project was never based on how much we accomplished, but how much we learned. The whole point was to try new things like animation, voice acting, and skit writing. And in that sense, this project has been a huge success already. We still have a lot to do before we have a finished product, but I have confidence we have all the skills and knowledge to finish with a great series of short videos. We each brought our own talents to the table and this project enabled us to test them and push them farther than we thought they could go. We've learned a lot about ourselves and our abilities, and sometimes that's the most important discovery in a whole project.

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In the winter of 2011, Wildlands Charter School students began producing news stories for our website and an electronic email newsletter.

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