Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mathmagic Land

When I was in elementary school the things I looked forward to were recess and lunch (which was really just recess with food, and the food was optional). We filled our days playing Red Rover, Dodgeball, and Slaughter the Pig, which are all far too violent to be allowed on today's playgrounds.

Inside the classroom we maintained the high energy level, and I know we wore out our teachers from time to time. For some reason there is nothing like a dark room to slow down elementary school students (fear of ghosts, fear of sharp table corners, fear of accidentally touching a girl, who knows?), and our instructors clearly used that knowledge to their advantage. We didn't have computers, and televisions had to be wheeled in from the almost mythical A/V room. VCRs had not yet been invented, so the best you (and your teacher) could hope for was a film strip or maybe, just maybe and educational movie.

Filmstrips, for the uninitiated, were in fact, strips of 35mm film, like a whole roll of Kodachrome that had been developed but not cut into separate slides. These were fed into a projector and a searingly hot light would project the images onto a screen at the front of the room. Usually the strips came with an audio recording of some sort (tape? LP? memory fails me), that would narrate the film strip and beep on occasion indicating the film should be advanced to the next frame. It was always fun to prompt the camera operator (teacher or student) when the film got out of sync with the narration - extra points were awarded if you could imitate the beep well enough to prompt them to go to the next frame too soon. It was even more fun when the heat from the bulb melted the film.

The filmstrip experience was memorable, but the strips themselves failed to make a lasting impression. Not so with the educational films. And they really were films. They came on big old reels (sometimes more than one!). Nothing raised the excitement level in the classroom like metal film containers stacked on the teacher's desk.

Really, though, one film stood out from all the others. I anticipated its annual viewing with even more excitement than I had for The Wizard of Oz. The film was the Disney short, Donald in Mathmagic Land. It's Donald Duck! It's math! And - until the Disney lawyers get their copyright threats in order - you can find it on YouTube (in three parts). Sit back and enjoy!

Droppin Science (via MMD Newswire) (photo)

No comments:

Post a Comment