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Reading & Revolution

on Wed, 11/12/2014 - 17:03

The core which connects everything discussed in Explorative Lit: Allegory and Satire (running this fall) is Orwell’s famous masterpiece, Animal Farm.  While conversing about the class, Adam Zelny explained that he chose the book both for its multifaceted nature and it’s evocative power within the context of our modern culture.  He hopes that students will take in Orwell’s messages about culture and government- still entirely relevant almost 70 years later- and perhaps find motivation to change the conditions that led Orwell to write his works, or at least consider their place within them.  Animal Farm’s extensive use of satire is ideal for this purpose, as few tools are better suited to spark introspection.

A critical piece of the class is its analysis of the Russian Revolution, which runs parallel to the plot of Animal Farm.  Students learn the key events and figures of the revolution, as well as its repercussions up to World War II.  This allows them to better appreciate the allegorical tools that Animal Farm employs; most of its characters directly symbolize some aspect of revolutionary Russia, whether it be propaganda, Stalin, or the working class.

This historical study is balanced with creative writing assignments which function as channels of expression; for example, the class was told to write a short story depicting a communist society.  This kind of extensive and very personal exploration allows students to achieve a more advanced understanding of their own ideas, and develop them further than they might be able to in a traditional classroom setting.  Instilling a passion for writing is the last and most important goal of the course; in Adam’s own words, to allow students to learn and experience courage and motivation to write.

Taken from the 1954 animated film adaptation (above), the animals read the commandments written on the barn.

Between Matte and Glossy

on Thu, 10/23/2014 - 16:42

Think Tank programs tend to nurture the reward of hands-on experience, where students leave with distinct memories or physical representations of a given class. Students construct digital and physical models in 3D Design. They explore challenging experiments in Contextual Chemistry and leave with vivid memories. Video Production workshops culminate in final movies indefinitely preserved online. And, in the case of Applied Digital Photography, artistic visions are preserved both in print and digitally. 

Photography perseveres as one of our most important forms of visual art and communication. As a hundred thousand stills compose an elaborate feature film, just one photograph may convey a profound concept, or perhaps a simple sentiment. For the final project in last semester's Digital Photography workshop, Tyler Trahan challenged his students to tackle the latter; how can you tell a story through a photo, and what will that story say? During class sessions students studied some technical elements of photography, such as exposure, aperture, depth of field, etc., and most importantly composition.

While discussing the workshop, Tyler explained that a still image contains more than what the eye instantly perceives.  Beyond our immediate recognition of things, there are patterns that might instill a certain emotion. Curving lines are calming, Tyler explained, whereas perpendicularity signifies stability, and angles generate excitement. He encouraged the students to be aware of these patterns as they considered what they're final project would be about. Throughout the workshop they explored several theme-based assignments with an experimental approach. For example, when asked to capture motion in a photo, student Joshua Dick tied glow sticks to his sneakers and ran on a treadmill in the dark.

And so the students began to take pictures. Some were taken at home, some in and around Think Tank, and some were captured during a field trip to Rutland State Park where a decrepit prison camp remains from the early 1900s. In Sam Dodson's photo titled Ashes (above), from a series that depicts pivotal moments in board games, he chose a diptych (two panelled) protrayal of a Jenga tower, first crumbled and then tall and complete. Tyler and I talked of the potential symbolism behind Sam's piece and how its title may signify a rebirth (if perceived from left ot right). Lydia Hart, a student not only fond of horseback riding but also quite passionate about the animals, chose to intimately document a horse and its environment at a farm. Trust (right) is one of six images in a series. Again, Tyler pointed out the significance of meaning here. Lydia's connection to the subject matter is clearly conveyed. You can view more photos from Applied Digital Photography and more HERE.

Tyler Trahan is a professional photographer and former Worcester Think Tank student. Visit TylerTrahan.com to view Tylers work and for booking.

Creatively Recording Science

on Thu, 09/25/2014 - 15:42

When Lauren Monroe and I considered what we wanted to achieve with the Macro to Micro: Multimedia Science class, we revisited the notion of teaching to teach. That is, encouraging those who have acquired knowledge to relay it back to the world in a new and creative way. Our goal, with this class, is to introduce students to a diverse variety of science-based experiments and document our findings via a multimedia approach. As we conduct and record experiments both familiar and new, we ask: How can we teach this concept differently?

In our first two classes we explored how the liquid chemical compounds hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and bleach (NaClO) can be mixed together to produce a gas. When combined, each compound releases an oxygen molecule, leaving NaCl (salt) and H2O (water) as the remaining liquid. The reaction occurs so quickly that the oxygen (O2) rushes out as a newly formed gas and mingles with the air. What can you do with such a reaction? Watch the video below and find out!

View more videos from the Macro to Micro class HERE!

Science of Sound

on Sun, 09/07/2014 - 12:45

What does sound look like? What happens when we clap our hands in appreciation or hum a familiar tune? Often we associate these everyday sounds with a fleeting feeling, but there is much more happening beyond the surface. This video features Adam Zelny, a Science of Sound instructor. Science of Sound is an afterschool workshop and will be offered in the Spring of 2015 . Join instructors, Adam Zelny and Bill Wolfson, to ponder and explore these questions as students work with multiple hands-on projects and the creation of electronic art instruments!