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RA's Advanced Center for Research & Media Arts
The Bridge, designed in collaboration with the Jacob Burns Center for Film, opened in September of 2011. It was created to enhance learning by infusing the current curriculum with new and innovative technology. Built with the aid of generous donations by many supportive RA families, The Bridge inspires students and faculty to work collaboratively on classroom assignments in a more creative, open-ended way, allowing students to both learn and share a deeper understanding of their studies. Well appointed with iPads, iMacs and a Green Room, as well as leading-edge software including Photoshop, Flash Animation, Drag-On (stop-motion animation) and Final Cut Pro (for film), The Bridge is enriching the curriculum at all levels and engaging students by incorporating state-of-the-art technology into traditional projects and presentations.

“From the beginning, our teachers truly embraced The Bridge as an opportunity to re-energize teaching and learning in ways that pushed everyone out of their comfort zone,” says Jim Heus.
A Midsummer Night's Stop-Motion Film
The entire sixth grade collectively adapted and animated a stop-motion version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After reading the play with their English teacher, students were assigned characters in digital arts class. These characters started out as five-inch paper drawings, which were then colored and attached to small magnets. Plain-colored magnetic boards, fastened to tables, served as sets for characters to inhabit. Next, students utilized Dragonframe stop-motion software to take a series of still photographs of the characters acting out their scenes. Small, progressive adjustments were made to create the illusion of movement. In the sound room, students recorded an audio rendition of the script. The final aspect of the project involved designing backgrounds, most of which started out as photographs of RA’s campus. Adobe Photoshop was utilized to transform these ordinary photographs into more colorful and surreal play backdrops.

Monologues in Claymation
The Imperialism Debate is an eighth grade claymation project, based on speeches students delivered in history class. In the digital arts green room each student created a clay portrait of his or her assigned character. Next, they utilized Dragonframe stop-motion software to take a series of still photographs of these portraits while making small adjustments to the character's mouth and eyes, producing a sequence of facial expressions. In the sound room, students recorded Imperialist and Anti-Imperialist audio monologues. The toughest, and probably longest, step in the project was synching audio to different facial instances, a step accomplished in Final Cut Pro. The entire multi-part process made use of all three digital art rooms, and brought out a variety of impressive qualities within students. Some proved to be extremely meticulous in matching mouth shapes to different syllables, while others enjoyed the character design aspect of the project.

After reading a version of The Odyssey in English class, fifth graders in digital arts adapted scenes from the epic into comic book pages. Emphasis was placed on identifying key moments in the story and portraying those moments with clarity and creativity. Adobe Photoshop was utilized for digital coloring and lettering.

Having studied the Roman and Greek cultures in their History classes and read the Odyssey in English, each 5th grade student was assigned a Greek god/goddess/creature.  Using Photoshop, students created a playing card in Digital Arts class.  Some students even incorporated photos of themselves and altered them with the drawing software to depict their god. Mr. Haines then gathered all the likenesses and had the group of 52 gods and beasts made into decks of cards, one for each fifth grade family!
“In the sound booth, students can record, listen to, edit, and fine-tune anything from Shakespeare scenes to plate tectonics to their 8th grade graduation speeches.” ~ Joe Perry, Middle/Upper School Head
Furniture in The Bridge was deliberately purchased to offer maximum flexibility. Tables can be moved to create individual work spaces or joined together for easy collaboration. Very few pieces are permanently placed, which enables instructors to rearrange the classroom spaces to best meet the needs of the students - both today, and in the future.
For more examples of the exciting work happening in The Bridge, visit The Bridge Media Gallery.
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