BAFA Community Grantee Spotlight Focuses on Jordan Middle School

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

David Starr Jordan Middle School was recognized by the Burbank Arts For All Foundation (BAFA) on Wednesday evening, April 13, at the Foundation’s Community Meeting. The BAFA Community Grantee Spotlight focused primarily on the school’s growing Digital Media program and progress towards a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) lab.

The main topic of the evening, held in Jordan’s CougarLAB, highlighted the work of “incredibly innovative” Digital Media teacher, Chris Mitchell, said BAFA Community Outreach Working Group Chair Suzanne Weerts. “Chris says he considers his classes ‘a playground for the mind’ and the things his students are creating are so exciting.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“We are hoping to create a STEAM lab in the next year or two with the help of BUSD and a career technology grant Assistant Superintendent Sharon Cuseo applied for to fund this project,” explained Jordan Principal Stacy Cashman.

Jordan aims “to create a model so that every grade will have access to the STEAM lab and every student will benefit from inquiry-based lessons,” she said.

The Jordan CougarLAB, home of the Digital Media program at Jordan, moved into its new location at the school in August 2015. The new classroom is large enough to fit 39 new computer tables/workstations and still have room for a demonstration area, various printers and other items like Midi Keyboards for digital music, photo backgrounds and robotics supplies.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The new computer tables provide enough room for two students to work together at a computer when needed and use drawing tablets.

Mitchell and teacher Kathy Hodgins also oversee Jordan’s after school Robotics Club, which began in February 2016. With BAFA funding and matching funds from DonorsChoose, Mitchell was able to expand the LEGO robotics kits from the initial three funded by BUSD to a total of six.

BAFA provided start up funds several years ago to get equipment for a school video show, CougarVision. This year, a BAFA grant also provided funding for a 3-D printer, in addition to the LEGO robotics kit.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)
Jordan Digital Media teacher Chris Mitchell and Principal Stacy Cashman discuss new technology developments at the Burbank Unified middle school. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“We were able to use that grant money to get additional matching funds through allowing us to get the equipment we asked for in the grant as well as an additional large format photo printer to print student work and photos and a complete photo studio lighting with two studio strobes and various accessories,” explained Mitchell.

Students recently took their film projects to a film festival hosted at Nickelodeon Studios for the three BUSD middle school digital media programs.

“This gives students a chance to see work from other schools and has helped motivate students to keep improving their films,” Mitchell also said.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)
BAFA’s Suzanne Weerts welcomes Community Meeting attendees to the Jordan CougarLAB. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Game design has also been incorporated into the Digital Media classes using Scratch, a block based coding environment set up by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT.) Students use KhanAcademy to learn JavaScript programming language.

“Our CougarLAB is now a high tech operation supporting the latest software and a 3-D printer,” Cashman added. “Some technology will be available in the fall, like computers with 3-D capabilities so students can dissect a heart or explore with a 3-D camera. Our CougarVision lab continues to expand under the leadership of Chris Mitchell.”

BAFA has funded 20 grant requests to date at Jordan over the years for a total of $31,836, including new instruments to support the school’s award-winning instrumental music program.

    Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center