Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Dam Keeper

A local homeschooling family invited our school to the San Francisco International Film Festival as they were hosting a day of children's short films. The children were captivated by one film in particular called The Dam Keeper

The dam keeper is a young pig who lives in a windmill above town. His sole responsibility is to wind the windmill every eight hours to keep "the darkness" away, otherwise it will hurt the residents. He does this religiously, and wears a mask (depicted in the first storyboard slide below). 

He comes down into town and is made fun of by his peers while waiting for the bus to school. Many of the children taunt him and make fun of his pig nose. One day, a new student boards the bus and walks back to sit with the pig. She is a fox that has an affinity for drawing, and the pig is smitten with her. 

He goes to school and notices that she is drawing satirical portraits of people at school, and in a forgetful moment she leaves her notebook in their classroom. The pig looks through it and begins to feel that he has a friend, and that he is not alone. 

The next day, the fox boards the bus and looks worried and sad, but is relieved to see that the pig has kept her notebook safe. In the afternoon at school, an alligator and hippo take the pig into the bathroom and put all of his things in the toilet. The fox walks by the bathroom, and goes inside, finding an embarrassed pig. She helps him to his feet and dries his things. She then teaches him to draw the animals that were unkind to him, which seems to be calming and helpful to the pig. Both of them look into the mirror and giggle, realizing that they have charcoal from their drawings all over their faces. 

After school, the pig, with a new dose of confidence, walks over to a bench where the fox and many other animals are laughing. He looks over their shoulders and sees a paper that is half blown over in the wind. The visible letters say "dirty p-" and it has a drawing of the pig below it. The pig is saddened and snatches the paper away. 

In his sadness, he misses his eight hour alarm and "the darkness" rolls over the hill, covering the town. Young animals are afraid and everyone begins to cough. When he finds a seat on a tree swing, surrounded by "the darkness", the pig removes the picture from his pocket and fully unfolds it to find that it says, "dirty pals" and has a drawing of both the pig and fox below with charcoal on their faces. 

In a panic, he starts running towards the windmill to push the darkness away. He is successful, and the fox soon arrives at his door to give him a hug. 

The eighteen minutes of film are made of more than 8,000 individual paintings!

During circle time, we began by looking at stills from three movies from the festival and placing them in chronological order. We discussed animated films and live action films, as well as fiction and non-fiction. All three children chose The Dam Keeper for their storyboard.

We then discussed the moral of the story. One child mentioned how helpful the pig was, and how mean all of his peers were. The children seemed unsettled about this fact, so we talked about peer pressure and being unkind. A girl said it made her feel sad to see the pig feeling sad. Another girl felt that as well and said it was very nice of the pig to protect the town, even when the town was mean. 

The peer pressure component began when we broke down why people made fun of the pig. A boy thought it was because he lived so far away and had a dirty face sometimes. One girl believed that maybe one person was mean to the pig, and everyone else thought it was funny, so they were mean too. 

I asked the children if it was okay to be mean, if someone else was doing so. They all said no. We talked about what you can do when someone else is being mean. A girl said, you can say that you are not going to be mean too. A boy said to tell them that it doesn't feel good, so they should stop. 

We then talked about times that we feel nice and not nice and how that feels. One girl said that when she feels mean, she feels sad. Another girl agreed. A boy said that he feels scared when he feels mean. 

We then discussed what we could tell the pig when he was feeling sad. It was agreed that being his friend and listening was a way to make him feel happier. Also, going to his house to visit and see his windmill and special mask.

The children begin to sort the frames into piles pertaining to each of the three movies. 

Working on placing the frames of The Dam Keeper in chronological order. 

Drawing the frame depicting the arrival of "the darkness"

Discussing the pig snatching up the fox's drawing, but being confused about her intention. Ella emphasis that the fox was trying to be funny, not mean. 

Storyboard. This student challenged himself to draw each frame upside-down. 

Storyboard. This child paid extra attention to making sure the 
pig was the right size to turn the windmill. 

Storyboard. This child emphasized telling the whole story and 
diligently worked through each frame. 

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