- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

AMESBURY, Mass. (AP) - While Amesbury Elementary School has been serving the city’s students for 57 years, there’s very little room left to grow.

But the spark of innovation is glowing and one hall in particular is now a doorway into whatever world the teachers want it to be after technology teacher Bruce McBrien turned it into a TV studio.

“We have a wall in a hallway here that is just a pass-thru,” McBrien said. “And I thought, what if I paint the wall green?”

A 22-year AES veteran, McBrien has been making use of green-screen technology for more than a year. Working with the district’s audio visual coordinator Russ Monroe, McBrien was able to make use of a store-bought, cloth green screen package with a pair of lights to turn his fourth-grade newspaper club into a TV news club almost overnight.

While the green screen kit worked well enough to put his students on scene anywhere in the world, McBrien still wanted a little more control over his productions. He was passing through the hallway connecting the original school building to the modular classrooms when he had “an epiphany” over the fall.

With fire doors on either side of the hallway, why not paint the wall green? With the fire doors closed - instant studio.

“The possibilities are endless,” McBrien said. “This provides teachers with a quick and easy way to do this with little setup.”

Making use of a green screen app loaded on an iPad, any student or teacher can now tape a report from anywhere their imagination takes them.

“This is all to ignite a flame of curiosity with my colleagues,” McBrien said. “I want to get them interested in making this their own as well.”

Third-grade teacher Sarah Pelletier made use of McBrien’s original green screen kit to teach a unit on the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption during the last school year and she was able to place her student reporters right at the volcano’s base.

“It was amazing,” Pelletier said. “They felt as if they were really there because we had watched a video about it and then they saw themselves with Mount St. Helens erupting behind them. Their expressions when they read the reports were really amazing.”

Every teacher aspires to be a lifelong learner, according to McBrien.

“(Teachers) are always looking for something that is new and vital to them,” McBrien said. “This is just one way of taking the jump to the next level and more importantly, providing this technology to my colleagues in the classroom. They already do so many good things in there, this provides an opportunity for them to elevate to the next level.”

Hoping to start another instant studio on the school’s second floor, McBrien said his students are now looking at endless possibilities.

“This is just a different way for the kids to express their learning and understanding and I am trying to leave it as open-ended as I can,” he said. “There is the studio, I have the device and I will work with them. They will see how easy it is and then all of a sudden, the curiosity and inspiration begins popping into their heads. All I need is paint.”

Now with a fixed studio on school grounds, Amesbury Elementary teachers are mulling the different ways they can turn their students into visual storytellers.

“I’ve got third-grade teachers who are saying they will be doing it with their volcano units and fourth-grade teachers thinking it will be so good with their regions units,” McBrien said. “You can have kids giving their regions reports as they are standing on the steps of their state’s Statehouse. How cool is that?”

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Information from: The Daily News of Newburyport (Mass.), https://www.newburyportnews.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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