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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Animation as a Pathway to College and a Career

Students learn advanced computer programs, anatomy and teamwork by taking a series of animation classes at Sheldon High School in Elk Grove Unified School District, California. More to this story.
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Animation as a Pathway to College and a Career (Transcript)

Okay, so, we're going to start off the master chart right here, and the narrator introduces the film. "Ah, the Natural Selection Pet Shop."

Shawn: When they first come into my classroom, I tell them, "This is not a classroom. You are new hires of k9 Studios, and that's what we call our studio here." And that their grade is really their paycheck.

Narrator: Shawn Sullivan teaches beginning through advanced animation as part of the artworks career pathway at Sheldon High School in Sacramento, California.

Shawn: Animation is definitely an area that covers all of academics. To be able to create something in the computer, you need to understand plotting coordinates, so X, Y, and Z coordinates. Also, if you're creating characters, understanding anatomy, muscle structure, not only human but also looking at animal science, as well. Physics is very important in animation, making things moving believably.

Student: What you want to do with the sneeze is try to make the rodent look more round...

Shawn: Also, what they're learning is what they can take to any job they do -- working with teams, coming up with an idea and sharing it with others, and seeing it being finished and created.

Characters: Yay!

Shawn: We spend a lot of hours together, and I really focus on the concept of being a family and working together. If one person is not focused and not wanting to do this project, it will fall apart, but if they all believe in each other and all want to help each other and make the person next to them even better, that's how you get a strong program.

Student: I think I found all the sounds we need.

Shawn: In here, we just take what their interests are -- I like to call it "stealth teaching" -- and using that to teach in the direction that they want to go in.

So if you're doing up close on this shot, you know you have to focus on his size.

Shawn: The key is being honest with your students and sharing with them and trusting when they have an idea and guiding them, and they respect that.


Juan Luis: Really, I've been spoiled here. Like, no other kid can say, "Oh, I got to direct a class making an animated film." That's an experience that a lot of people just really think is great. When I went down to interview at USC, they were really impressed by that.

Just a little more theatricality. Can you call quiet on the set real quick?

Hey, quiet on the set!

Megan: You just get a lot of work skills from it, just being punctual, professional, and just really getting a feel of, all right, do I really like this stuff? Is this really what I want to go into?

So, where's the edit at right now?

Megan: This really helped me decide on what I was going to major in in college.

Shawn: Doing an academy is really important. It gives a chance for the students to be around like-minded students. Already having an idea of where they want to go to school and what they want to do for a living is a huge step for a teenager. It motivates them by looking at other people working on the same, similar concepts. It's a very powerful tool.

Do you guys need anything else other than just the main color shots?


Megan: Deadline for this film is this Friday, and, yeah, right now, based on what I saw this morning, it looks like we're going to make it.

Okay, cool. Thanks, guys.

Megan: I'm going to really miss this studio.

Narrator: For more information about what works in education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producers

  • Doug Keely
  • Kathy Baron

Camera Crew

  • Mike Elwell
  • Hugh Scott

Video Programming Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Michael Pritchard

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Edutopia's Schools That Work Merging Career Tech and College Prep installment is supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.

Comments (1)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Helene's picture
Interested in affecting student learning through creativity & innovation

I was so happy to have come across this video. Enlightening and refreshing.. An approach toward teaching that makes learning become alive, and tangible.
How exciting.......I love it.

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