SpongeBob Squarepants – Uncut

Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.
– Attributed to Louis E. Boone

For Government schools in NSW, this week is the final week of Term Two, a time when many fun things occur. For my school, it is also the week of the Year Six Canberra excursion. As my regular readers would be aware, I am teaching a combined Year Five and Six class this year, however, I am unable to attend the Canberra excursion. During the July school holidays, I am in Canberra for a week to attend Kanga Cup, an international youth football tournament, where I live in at the Kanga Cup Youth Referee Academy as one of the Referee Coaches and Mentors to the thirty-eight referees chosen for intense development and training.

Unfortunately, If I was to attend the Year Six Canberra excursion I would be away from Monday to Thursday of this week, and then be leaving to go back to Canberra on Saturday morning, not returning til the following the Saturday, which is not really fair on my thirty-week pregnant wife. So I was one of two teachers staying behind to teach the seventy Year Five students for the week. Our Assistant Principal asked what we had planned and I pitched an idea that sounded great in my head, but that I was unsure about its practicality.

Regular readers will likely have noticed that I am something of a geek and a nerd, and some years ago I stumbled across an incredible project called Star Wars Uncut. The core idea is that the team behind the project cut Star Wars into fifteen-second clips and crowd-sourced the remake of each clip. Individuals could recreate the clip they had chosen in any way they wanted. StarWarsUncut.com won a 2010 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media – Fiction and has since gone on to recreate The Empire Strikes Back in the same format, though there is no word on when they will open work on The Return of the Jedi. If you enjoy Star Wars, it is fun to watch and demonstrates a variety of creative approaches to various scenes and special effects.

This was the basic premise of the idea. Clearly, we would never be able to achieve a full-length film, and so after chatting with the Year Five students last week, I sourced an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants to use, which was just over eleven minutes long and, after slicing off the opening introduction and closing credits (I wanted to keep those intact), on Monday morning we introduced the concept to Year Five. I explained the concept to them, using a selected portion from Star Wars Uncut (the opening sequence showing the chase between the Devastator and the Tantive IV and the subsequent boarding and routing of the rebel troops on the Tantive IV by the Stormtroopers) to demonstrate what it could look like. I showed them the same sequence from the Star Wars Uncut film. We discussed techniques that had been used, the fact that the uncut version was not exactly the same for a variety of reasons (different non-Star Wars figurines had been used to help recreate the various scenes, the imperfection of the various individual clips, costumes of varying detail and complexity etc).

Students were then put into groups, with the regular classroom groupings being deliberately split up in order to provide students an opportunity to work and learn with different members of their cohort.This worked fantastically well for us, with most groups working very well together, and many new friends being made. We introduced the concept of storyboarding and provided some flipped learning content for how to construct and use a storyboard as well as some different techniques for filming (such as stop-motion and re-dubbing dialogue) and things to consider when using iPads to film (such as the quality of audio recording, particularly dialogue).

The result was fantastic. The students were incredibly engaged, focused, and were able to express their thinking as to how they solved the various challenges they came across in recreating various scenes, particularly those which would require special effects if filmed as a live-action clip. I am in the process of writing a formal unit of work for it and making the links to the curriculum explicit, but I will make it freely available once I have done so. The students loved seeing the final product come together and showed a great sense of camaraderie and appreciation for how others had contributed to the final product.

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