Summer in the Village: Green means go!

During this year's Summer in the Village, TLT provided children with the opportunity to play with green screen technology. 

Elon’s Teaching & Learning Technologies (TLT) along with a host of Elon community members offered local children the opportunity to visit the tops of mountains, the bottom of the ocean and the inside of the White House over the course of two weeks this summer.

How? With a Village, some green paint and an iPad app.

This is the second year that TLT has been involved with Elon’s Summer in the Village program, a subsidiary of Elon’s expansive and successful Village Project spearheaded by Jean Rattigan-Rohr held in late July. The Village Project commits to the ideal of “it takes a village” and works through multiple smaller programs like Village Flex and Science in the Village to give children and adults in Elon’s surrounding communities opportunities to improve upon their literacy and access to education.

Jane Humphrey, Elon student and Media Services employee, believes the program gets children thinking critically, helps them get out of their shells and helps them start considering college. Although this is the first year Humphrey has been involved directly with the project, last summer she created a video for her internship at UNC-TV that provides insight into the program.

The two-week intensive summer program was developed in 2014 in response to a plea from parents who needed a program to counter the loss of learning children experience each summer. This year’s program, which for the first time included children from first through 12th grades, hosted 150 children.

To Create a Space

Summer in the Village involves nine “active” days and closes on the final day with a showcase of what the children have accomplished. The active days are made up of a morning academic session, a free lunch and an afternoon ‘special’ session. The morning sessions focused on academics including grammar, math and science. The afternoon sessions are more creative and this year included the technology module involving TLT along with music sessions, arts sessions, native plant identification, dance, sports and digital photography.

Michael Vaughn, instructional technologist at Elon and Summer in the Village team member, believes the program offers children “an opportunity to come back, spend some time with each other, learn some really valuable new things and have a good meal.”

Vaughn got involved with Summer in the Village due to the efforts and leadership of Elon Media Services Assistant Jenn Grimmett. To develop this year’s technology session, Grimmett brought about 20 people together including members of TLT as well as Elon faculty and staff from Belk Library, University Communications, Instructional & Campus Technologies and various academic departments.

In the technology session last year, children created felt bookmarks that contained programmable LEDs and built catapults that launched 3D printed figurines across the room at a stack of cups. This year the technology session had children filming their very own short film in front of a green screen which they could then customise through the iPad app Green Screen by Do Ink. 

Humphrey said first- and second-graders were able to use their imagination to act out stories, while those in third grade and up were able to practice English through the activities. The older grades used Mad Lib scripts to refresh their knowledge of grammar and language. Actors had to read off cue cards, and at the end the children were responsible for using the app to select backgrounds and edit the final product.

“They worked as a team to come up with a creative story that they all wanted to be a part of,” Humphrey said.

To Foster Growth

Various green props and items were brought in for the children to experiment with, figuring out what could be done to make themselves “invisible.” Although handing over expensive technology to children can be scary, Grimmett saw the benefit of giving them the room for exploration. By the end of the day the children were fully competent with the camera and the app and were enjoying experimenting with props.

Grimmett said “the favorite toy, out of the entire thing, was a 25-cent bucket. They would put it on their head and thought it was hilarious that their head would disappear. And then they’d put a stuffed animal on top and it would look like the animal was air-walking.”

Vaughn explained that although playing with technology is good for encouraging passion and curiosity, the session still strives to offer a broad educational experience. “A brief lesson is provided before each technology session that explains the concepts behind what the children are working with,” he said.

For the e-textiles projects last year, students learned the basics of circuitry. This year, children watched an instructional video explaining the process of a green screen. Technological literacy is vital in today’s world, and can’t be taken for granted, those involved in the program said.  

“They crave it,” Grimmett said of the experiences of the children during the program. “They find a lot of joy in exploring technologies in different and creative ways. Yesterday we met with the high-schoolers and a rising ninth grader asked me if we were going to be doing this next year. I told her I hoped so. She told me she hoped so, too.”

Humphrey said he “absolutely loves this program” while Grimmett said she looks forward to it “probably more than any other time of year.”

“I don’t know a single person that works in this program that doesn’t love working with these kids,” Vaughn said.