At around 8:30 a.m. on the average school day, most students have already been sitting in class for 15 minutes, listening to their 1st period teacher give yet another lecture and hoping their eyelids will remain open for the rest of the period. In the meantime, senior Rachael Mott, who attends Freestyle Academy of Communication Arts and Technology, is just waking up.
On Thursdays, however, Rachael’s only class at Freestyle is film, so she has to get up a little earlier as the class starts at 9 rather than 9:30. On Thursday, January 21, she’s running a little bit late; but unlike at LAHS, arriving a couple minutes late at Freestyle doesn’t entail two dozen pairs of eyes upon the person walking through the door. In fact, there is no bell to signal her late arrival.
Rachael walks into a class of about 10 students who are casually working together on the large computer screens in front of them. The entire atmosphere of her film class is different from that of any other class at LAHS; students are working independently while their teacher, Sue Kefauver, might choose to walk around and oversee their work now and then.
“Our teacher is like a colleague with better skills than we have,” said senior Alix Kaufman, who is working on making a mystery film with Rachael. “The whole environment here is so much more relaxed.”
Rachael sits down in front of a computer next to Alix and Mountain View senior Nora Drew, who is also working on the film with them. She grabs a pair of headphones to plug into her computer and begins editing her film, titled “Pyre.”
The three girls have spent an ample amount of time working on their project; they had to come up with a story, write the screenplay, film and create a voice-over.
The film assignment has no guidelines other than having to be a mystery. According to Rachael, Freestyle puts an emphasis on creativity and allows students to complete their assignments in whatever way they feel appropriate. They are also able to work at their own pace, so long as they meet the major deadlines.
“I’ve learned to take responsibility for myself rather than expect teachers to tell me what to do,” Rachael said. “I already have more confidence in myself and making decisions on my own.”
After the students have worked on their films for a while, it’s time for the rest of the class to view all the films. Each group’s film is played on a large screen in the front of the room. After each film is viewed, the class and the teacher discuss and critique it, giving suggestions on how it can be better edited.
When class is over, Rachael has lunch and then heads back to LAHS for her fifth period math class. After that, her school day is over.
Film isn’t Rachael’s only Freestyle class, however. All students are required to take English and design classes.
According to Rachael, English is the one class at Freestyle that is more similar to LAHS classes. Students still learn the fundamentals of reading and writing, but they read books like “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell rather than John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.”
Design, on the other hand, focuses more on art, but requires some writing as well. First-year Freestyle students are currently working on a photoshopped image to go along with a narrative that they wrote. Students learn photography, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, among other skills.
Though all Freestyle students take design and English, they must decide between film and web classes. Web focuses more on sound engineering and making websites. Web students are currently working on sites that consist of not only text, but also animation, sound and movie clips.
Being learned in technology has additional benefits, as many Freestyle students receive internships at animation and web studios and music industries.
But amidst internships, an emphasis on art and technology and a completely different class structure, Rachael said that originality and creativity are what set Freestyle apart from LAHS.
“[Freestyle emphasizes] creativity, being able to express ourselves fully without having someone tell us what to do,” Rachael said. “Here, I’m able to … express myself the way I want to.”
Interested in learning more about Freestyle Academy?
Enrollment applications for 2009-2010 are available on www.freestyle.mvla.net. All students must turn in their applications by Friday, February 13.
Rachael’s film “Pyre,” as well as other first semester projects by Freestyle students, will be shown at an exhibition on Thursday at Synopsys. Find details and RSVP at the above web address.