Ridgefield Academy Celebrates Grand Opening of Digital Media Arts Center

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“The Bridge” transforms teaching and learning at independent school.

Unencumbered by standardized state assessments, Ridgefield Academy has launched a new digital media arts center known as “The Bridge,” which will enrich the curriculum and engage students by infusing state-of-the-art technologies into the learning experience.

“In just a few short weeks since school started, the power of the digital media arts has already begun to transform the way our student approach storytelling,” said James P. Heus, Head of School at Ridgefield Academy. “Students are collaborating, they’re creating, they’re thinking critically. These are essential skills in our global economy, and The Bridge is helping to immerse our students in the language of the future.”

Ridgefield Academy is an independent school educating more than 330 students from preschool through grade eight. While technology has always been valued, parents and educators last year pledged to construct The Bridge to further integrate the digital media arts into each and every subject, utilizing tools from graphic design, film making and green screens to clay animation and robotics.

Ridgefield Academy educators this summer spent nearly a week training with instructors from the Jacob Burns Film Center and Media Arts Lab in Pleasantville, N.Y., one of the nation’s leading educational and cultural institutions promoting 21st Century literacy. KG&D Architects, based in Mount Kisco, N.Y., designed the $1.1 million, 5,800-square-foot facility and completed the project in just under one year. Funding for The Bridge came from the generous support of Ridgefield Academy parents and the Annual Fund drive.

Ridgefield Academy also hired David Haines as the Digital Media Arts teacher for The Bridge. A former teacher at the Katonah Art Center, Haines graduated with a degree in digital arts from Pratt Institute and has worked on a variety of animated television commercials and series including HBO’s The Ricky Gervais Show and Sesame Workshop’s Pinky Dinky Doo.

“This is not simply a computer room. The Bridge provides our faculty with the latest technological tools to help facilitate learning and teaching within our existing curriculum," said Joe Perry, Head of Middle and Upper Schools. "The new digital tools are clearly engaging our students and augmenting how they learn in every subject."

During a recent class in The Bridge, 10-year-old Robin Clasby leaned her face close to the screen of a new 27-inch Mac computer, intently placing keyframes where she wanted her Adobe Flash animation to start and stop. Her fifth-grade class had been reading Homer’s poem “The Odyssey,” and Robin chose to animate the scene where Odysseus battles the Cyclops.

“It’s like you get to put your imagination into pictures instead of just reading it,” said Robin, of Wilton, Conn. “This is what I see in my head, and it’s a lot of fun to watch it.”

Meanwhile, over in the library portion of The Bridge, each student clasped his or her own iPad as the class played a game called “Stack the States.” Whether sitting in chairs, lying on their bellies or standing up and walking around, each student had his or her eyes glued to the device. The goal was to name as many state capitols as possible, and students cheered for victories or asked questions if stumped.

The Bridge has a collection of books and magazines stacked on shelves just as would be the case in any traditional library, but students at Ridgefield Academy are learning how to interact with traditional materials in new ways. An iPad app called EasyBib, for instance, enables students to scan the barcode of a book and instantly have it formatted for a bibliography. Another program called LitTrips, which connects to Google Earth, allows students to travel the world through books, discovering an array of primary documents, photos, maps and much more – all of which has been uploaded and approved by teachers.

“Kids today don’t learn the same way we did even a decade ago. They are not going to sit and listen to a lecture for an hour. Their brains were not trained that way. This is what they know,” said Christine Hruska, a.k.a. “The App Queen,” who helps coordinate classroom lessons with The Bridge. “We’re finding the tools that will enhance what we already are doing well in the classroom. They’ve already had all of these tools in their houses; now it’s us catching up.”

About Ridgefield Academy
Founded in 1975 Ridgefield Academy is a co-educational, independent school for children in preschool through grade eight. On its safe and scenic 42-acre campus in Fairfield County, the independent school offers a comprehensive curriculum designed to inspire confidence, develop character and discover strengths. Students not only learn essential academic lessons, but also master critical thinking, public speaking and technology skills. The Bridge is Ridgefield Academy’s brand-new digital media hub that utilizes top-of-the-line technology to unite academic disciplines and create a dynamic learning environment. Fostering the learning process are small student-to-teacher ratios, ranging from a 6-to-1 in preschool to 16-to-1 in the Middle and Upper Schools. For more information, visit http://www.ridgefieldacademy.org.

Press Contact:
Diana Costello


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Jessica Lyon