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FugleFlicks Give New Meaning To "Art Film"

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"My first art-related video, Be Kind to Your Erasers, was made as a result of years and years of destroyed erasers in my art room. There seemed to be a long tradition of students poking holes in, scribbling on, cracking, and torturing erasers in art class," recalled Tricia Fuglestad. "I thought if I made a movie about erasers seeking revenge, it might inspire a bit more respect for those defenseless creatures."
Fuglestad, an art teacher at Dryden Elementary School in Arlington Heights, Illinois, modeled her movie after "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" and "Thumbtanic." After it premiered on her Web site and TeacherTube, e-mail began pouring in from art teachers around the country, who thanked Fuglestad for making a movie that could potentially solve this "universal art room dilemma" and spare the next generation of erasers.

Because she deals with students in grades K-5, Fuglestad is motivated to make movies that apply to all age groups. Many of her creations are designed to encourage good craftsmanship in art production.

Tricia Fuglestad and students show off awards won for "Young Sloppy Brush." Photos courtesy of Trish Fuglestad.

"One of my first animated movies was 'The White Spot Inspector.' The movie implies that all students have a white spot inspector living in their pockets. The inspector is so small that it's easily able to see the tiny little white spots in a painting that need to be touched up," Fuglestad explained. "The kids love that movie because the backup singers are so silly. I wrote, composed, and sang the song (with effects on my voice) on my computer using GarageBand."

When this art teacher needs to promote care in her students' work, she inspires them with "FugleFlicks" like "Mr. Craftsman," "Blah Blah Oops!," "Black Marker," or "Young Sloppy Brush." For some reason, her students are drawn to "Black Marker," a short animation that Fuglestad put together in one weekend. It explains one of her favorite fix-all techniques for children's art -- the black maker outline to cover sloppy painting edges and recover the details from an original drawing. The movie has classic elements: a superhero, villain, and sloppy artwork. Fuglestad recruited her husband to assist with voiceovers and filmed a student's mouth to make Black Marker talk.

"My students usually grab a marker in their fists, hold it up high, and recite every line of the movie as it plays," Fuglestad told Education World. "Then as they use their black marker on their art work, I can hear them saying to themselves, 'He's bold. He's confident. He's Black Marker! Hi, there.' This is always followed by giggles. It's silly, but it works. My students have rescued many a sloppy painting with their clean bold outlines."

Students report that they watch FugleFlicks from home via the Web. While Fuglestad is pleased they find the movies entertaining enough to view on their own time, she wonders if students realize they are learning as they watch.

"My favorite FugleFlick is called 'Drawing From Experience,'" she shared. "In that movie, the old and wise Grampa Pencil tells Baby Pencil what her future might hold. My husband does an awesome 'Grampa Pencil voice' in this little video that teaches students about contour line drawing. My students last year were so intrigued with Grampa Pencil -- who is small due to age and use -- that they kept bringing me grandpa pencils, grandma pencils, great-grandpas, and so on. I have a nice collection now."

FugleFlicks have so inspired students at Dryden, theyve asked to make their own video productions. Fuglestad has offered special lunch recess movie-making opportunities for her fifth graders. The first group created "Young Sloppy Brush," a tragic musical about a once-handsome paintbrush who succumbs to the evils of sloppiness at the hands of careless artist. Another group made "ARTiculation," a 40-second art advocacy infomercial. Both of those productions have won prizes in film festivals and contests. A third group created "Super Art Students," which also is an art advocacy movie, and three third graders created "DEEP SPACE" to teach the concepts needed to create the illusion of depth on a picture plane.

This year, a group of fifth graders made a video called "All I Want Is Technology" for an Interwrite Learning competition, and it received an honorable mention. The latest new video is unique because it has involved students in every aspect of production. Directors auditioned actors and singers. The students worked the camera, drew out the storyboard, made decisions, and edited the production. After two months of work, the story "Swept Away" was finished. It follows the fate of art supplies that haven't been returned to their proper places during clean up in the art room.

Girls perform for a "FugleFlick" called "Deep Space."

"Each video is my excuse to try a new technology or idea, so there is no set formula, except that I love to make music videos. When I was little, I learned my ABC's from singing them with 'Sesame Street.' I also learned the preamble from singing along with 'School House Rock,' so I know I've been influenced by those creative methods for teaching," Fuglestad said. "Since I've never learned to read music, I just write my own. I can only publish non-copyrighted music on my district Web site, so I just get original. As far as the movie goes, I let the song drive the video and try to illustrate the concepts the lyrics explain."

Some of the same hype that goes into a major motion picture is part of Fuglestad's premieres. She discusses videos that are in progress with her students to start a "buzz," and by the time theyre released, students are dying to view them.

"Last year, I started writing blog posts on my Web site to keep the school up-to-date on the progress of 'Young Sloppy Brush.' It became a frenzy, and by the time the movie was ready to be shown, it was the talk of the playground," Fuglestad reported. "But something else very unexpected happened too. Other people were paying attention to my blog posts -- strangers from around the country. That became evident on the day the movie was uploaded on my Web site and I had 800 hits! (I average 15.) Then, I started receiving e-mail from art teachers thanking me for making a movie with my students that encourages proper use of a paintbrush. They couldn't wait to show all their students 'Young Sloppy Brush.'"

Students capture moments on film for their production "Swept Away."

Making movies to teach art concepts has transformed Fuglestad's teaching and the way her students learn. When she taught about pointillism a few years ago, she found that her students ran out of motivation from the monotony. She wrote a song called "What's the Point of Pointillism?" and recruited a few classmates to sing the chorus. While the students glued colored dot after dot onto their work, she animated the movie. Fuglestad and her students sang and played the song so much that it became a habit to sing while they worked.

"Then the real test came," recalled Fuglestad. "A student wanted to show his mom his pointillism project one day. He brought her into the art room, pulled it off the drying rack, and began reciting the words of the song to explain the concepts of the project to his mother. It worked -- he actually learned something!"

Fuglestad advises teachers who are starting out to begin with small videos. Hers are less than five minutes in duration and thus make a great warm up or introduction to a lesson. The best productions don't bombard students with too much information or bore them with lengthy explanations, she says. They visually illustrate a single idea.

"It becomes much more complicated and time consuming to have students get involved, but they absolutely love it," added Fuglestad.