I had the pleasure of visiting the new Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The exhibit is a teacher’s dream! It showcases the science, technology, engineering and math concepts that go into creating a Pixar movie, in a hands-on, information rich environment. Visitors can explore each one of the steps in the Production Pipeline with computer generated simulations, design software, 3D characters, cameras and so much more. It truly blows the mind to think of all the time and expertise that it takes the Pixar engineers to create every scene of every film. It also blows the mind to imagine the expertise of the education staff and exhibit designers, who had to digest this complicated process and present it to people of all ages with varying levels of experience. Teacher magic I tell you!
Something that I thought was a great touch, was the exhibit also had computer stations where guests could hear about specific jobs within each one of the departments at Pixar. The videos allowed guests to connect to the people actually doing these jobs and better understand the skills and expertise needed to be successful. I heard numerous middle school kids talking about “how cool it would be to be an engineer for Pixar” and then watched them turn around and play with a program used by those very engineers. Visitors saw the whole process from start to finish through the Production Pipeline, grappled with the STEM concepts and also saw the real world application of having a job that required those specific skills.
In my mind, this exhibit offered the trifecta of learning experiences, the project, creating the film, was super interesting and relatable to the kids, they all love Pixar films. The Production Pipeline clearly highlights every step of the design process, and the exhibit walked you through each one, so that the STEM content could be explored. Finally the connection to the real world application through the voices of the Pixar team and the final product of the films. How worthwhile to be able to harness that structure and transfer it to the classroom. For example, introduce the content with a project or challenge that students are interested in, use a Makerspace, PBL, or Three Act Task . As part of the lesson, make design thinking visible to your students and create a process for learning. Ensure that students understand that learning is not linear and requires them to revisit steps along the way. Show them all of the steps in the process, and give them markers to understand when it’s appropriate to go forward and when they need to go back. Support the content with multiple opportunities for exploration, rich information and plenty of collaboration. Finally make a connection to the real world, showcase why the content is worth learning by dialing in an expert to share their experience, or finding authentic audiences to comment on student work.
Thanks Pixar for being so inspirational!