I’ve had a hard few last days. I cried so much and so hard I lost my voice, so instead of falling deeper into the pit of depression, I’m going to write about something happy… something epic… something that aligns with what I want to see more in the world.
As the Cars 3 opening on June 16 approaches, we are getting more and more hints about the remarkable story of Lightning McQueen and where his journey is today. We have a brand new trailer!!!
The Cars 3 plot line is really close to my heart because there is so much in there that I believe in. And that takes me to what I want to share with you today.
I’ve been a home educator for a few years now. It is a less traveled road for most, and an unknown one for those of my culture and heritage. I still find myself answering the old question:
“When are your daughters going to be in school?”
The answer seems to be more puzzling than the question. “The don’t want to go back,” I explain, pretending I don’t see the scorn painted all over their faces. “So they won’t be going back,” I conclude unapologetically.
And though I would have never thought I’d ever be homeschooling my daughters, I wholeheartedly believe in home education and cherish what it does for my family.
Imagine my joy when I found out that Disney Pixar supports learning at home, and that -in fact- there’s this thing called Pixar In A Box that offers a behind-the-scenes look at how Pixar artists do their jobs, so that kids, parents, and teachers can learn skills like animating bouncing balls, building a swarm of robots, and making virtual fireworks explode.
What’s most fascinating is that Pixar In A Box teaches kids that the subjects you learn in school — math, science, computer science, and humanities — are used every day to create amazing movies at Pixar.
During our time at Pixar, Elyse Klaidman (Director, Exhibitions and Educational Partnerships at Pixar Animation Studios) and Tony DeRose (Research Group Lead) offered us a private presentation explaining the collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy, which is sponsored by Disney Citizenship.
Elyse has been at Pixar almost 20 years, and everything she has worked on has been focused on education. A former professor at the University of Washington, Tony DeRose joined Pixar 21 years ago.
Elyse used to oversee Pixar University, which is the internal education program at Pixar Studios: art, acting, improvisation, writing, film making, technical skills, leadership skills, and more! She used to get contacted by educators who hoped to put together an animation curriculum.
About 10-15 years ago, Tony started giving a talk called “Math in the Movies” that was “intended to try and pull the covers back and tell the story about the degree to which math was used in the production of our films.”
With my recent struggles with math, I felt like she was talking to me when she said:
“How many of you have heard a kid ask: “Why do I have to learn this? Why is this important?” So that is why Pixar in a Box exists: to support educators in their goals to incorporate content that will help students know this is why. You study math and you may actually be able to make a movie with that.”
I was in awe. I had an a-ha moment because I didn’t think I had to use math as a storyteller.
A fun fact is that this initiative started because Ed Catmull, founder and president of Pixar, is passionate about the idea of lifelong learning, of continually thinking about new ways to stretch our brains, and created a culture of learning within Pixar. However, they also wanted their learning to go beyond their walls. Pixar offers internships, exhibitions, classes, bringing education into some schools and universities, and other approaches to nurture the next generation.
By reaching families and educators during the process of this exhibition, they realized this is such a great partnership So working together, we were able to really bring our talents together in a really complimentary way.
“We realized that if we could find the right partner in the online educational space, we could potentially reach many more kids and so we approached Khan Academy with the idea of partnering to tell the story of math, science and art in the production of our films. And fortunately they said yes. Disney Corporate Citizenship, the philanthropic part of Disney, agreed to fund the whole thing,” says Tony.
Pixar In A Box is a 3 year project, and they are now in the early stages of the last year.The first year was focused mostly on math related topics. The second year was focused mostly on science related topics including computer science, and the 3rd season which we are about a third of the way through is focused on the art of storytelling.
Storytelling is my passion. I believe in the power of story to build connection, legacy, and community.
Pixar In A Box has the intent to teach kids, parents and teachers how concepts they are learning in the classrooms are used for creative benefits at Pixar.
“When you go to PixarInABox.org, you will find topics is focused around a creative challenge we face at Pixar.”
I thought it was brilliant that each of the topics at is hosted by one or more Pixar employees.
“We really wanted to get as diverse collection of Pixar employees, make this really personable and hopefully students from all kinds of backgrounds can see a little bit of themselves in these people, and maybe get excited about a lot of careers that many of them don’t even know exist. One of the nice bits of feedback that we are getting is that students and parents just had no idea that you could combine your interest in sewing, for instance, with your interest in computer science.”
I love this. In a world that tells us we should pick ONE passion, and be ONE thing, Pixar tells us that it’s okay to be multi-passionate, and that our passions are not so disconnected from each other as we thought.
When you access Pixar In A Box, there is a short video introduction to each topic, as well as several lessons. Lesson one is generally designed for middle school and up or grade 5 and up, while lesson two is more like grades 8 or 9 and up. “The story content is pretty applicable from kindergarten to professional learning.”
Each lesson deepens the content and gives the learner an opportunity to think creatively and have a hands-on experience, a “really close approximation of the kind of workflow that artists actually go through.”
Tony and Elyse demonstrated one of the tutorials for us, using the cute Arlo from The Good Dinosaur movie – one of Pige’s favorite.
As true homeschoolers, my daughters absolutely love these learning concepts and find the site user friendly, and the content engaging and educational. You have no idea how excited I am to share this free homeschool curriculum with you, because you don’t have to be a homeschool parent to take advantage of this incredible learning tool!
Season 3 includes science and computer science content, and they’ve stepped into the humanities; into story, which is key to what they do Pixar.
I am obsessed with the “We Are All Storytellers” series, which features Pixar storytellers talking about how they got into story telling, why they got into storytelling, with the premise that storytelling is something we all naturally do.
“We go into the character structure, visual language, filmmaking, grammar, and storyboarding. These lessons are a little bit different in that they don’t have computer-based interactives. They have more hands-on and classroom and individual. The activities are listed out after each one of the lessons and we love when we here back from learners, from teachers, from educators, from kids, from everyone about how they are using, how they could use it better, what we could add or what we could do.”
At the moment, there are no plans to continue after the third year, but they are looking for ways to expand on what they’ve built and to increase their outreach, and they are open to new ideas to promote animation education. They want to tap into both the traditional and non-traditional classrooms to benefit the students:
“Because Khan is individual learner focused, what we’d like is to be able for teachers to be able to incorporate these lessons into their curriculum. Teachers as we all know are over burdened. They are working crazy hard. They have common core and everything they have to be thinking about, so if we can take that next step to help them integrate and that’s something we are hoping to work on this summer.”
And they plan to keep it all free! I am so grateful to Disney Corporate Citizenship for providing this STEAM program to facilitate learning at home.
I love Pixar In A Box and I invite you to try it with your precious children, so they can learn to relate what they learn to their passion, and so that they can tell stories from the heart that transcend time and space, and impact the world.
I think Cars 3 is such a story, born at Pixar, and inspired from real life stories, you’re going to be inspired, encouraged, and entertained. Mark your calendar for the U.S. opening on June 16!
Do you love Pixar in a Box? Share your thoughts with us below! And keep praying for those who are hurting right now.