ToonBoom in Tyrone — Fayette schools, Clayton State launch animation training pilot project

From left to right, ToonBoom’s Joan Vogelesang, Clayton State’s Janet Winkler, Fayette County Board of Education’s Lisa Collins. Photo/Clayton State University.

They were all gathered at Tyrone’s Sandy Creek High School on Mar. 4: the partners in a new venture with the long-term goal of creating a state model for animation training.

Clayton State University, the Emmy Award-winning Montreal-based ToonBoom Animation Inc., the Georgia Department of Education and the Fayette County Schools held a special event at Sandy Creek to announce an animation pilot project for Fayette County, and a partnership, “a partnership with a passion.”

“What we have here today is built on partnerships and relationships,” said Clayton State Executive Director of Continuing Education Janet Winkler. “We are sharing in a passion, a passion for educating young people.”

Winkler’s statement was echoed by all present, from educators like Fayette County Schools Superintendent Joseph Barrow and Clayton State President Dr. Thomas Hynes to animators like ToonBoom’s Joan Vogelesang, CEO of the international (studios in 122 countries) animation software giant (70 percent of the global animation market), and Atlanta-based animation company Bento Box’s Ashley Kohler (a potential employer for the students educated in ToonBoom software.)

“The relationships of this partnership, including middle schools, high schools, businesses, the Department of Education, the Fayette Board of Education and Clayton State University help knock this one out of the park,” enthused Barrow in his opening remarks.

“Partnerships are sustainable when all involved see the benefits daily,” said Hynes. “We’ll see each of the other partners succeed in helping our students learn.”

“I think the most important thing about the pilot project in animation in Fayette is that we are connecting business and education,” said Winkler. ”We have a major animation company that is used by Pinewood, Disney and Pixar, and an Atlanta animation company working with the school system, the Department of Education, the Atlanta Regional Commission, Clayton State, Sandy Creek High School, Whitewater High School and several of Fayette’s middle schools, to create a new pathway and to give kids the opportunity to job shadow and gain internship opportunities.”

It’s significant that the audience for the event also included a number of Sandy Creek High School teachers and students, some of whom have already been using ToonBoom’s Storyboard Pro software — in a physics class.

That’s a part of the educational aspect of the partnership – that animation is being used in far more fields than entertainment, and that the educational benefits ToonBoom’s software provide extend not just worldwide, but throughout a variety of disciplines.

“It’s great that this team has put this program together for you,” said Bento Box’s Kohler, addressing the Sandy Creek students in the audience.

“The biggest challenge in the U.S. today is education,” said Vogelesang, who had flown in from Montreal for the day. “We have designed a technology that will in general engage children, and help teachers engage children in the classroom.”

Vogelesang noted that while animation tends to be focused on the entertainment industry, their software is used in many fields, including medical training and imaging, flight simulation, business presentations and courtroom transcripts.

The ToonBoom, Fayette County Schools, Department of Education, Clayton State partnership is designed to create a new career pathway in animation that will serve as a state model. The immediate goal is for students in high school to be able to graduate with the first level of an industry standard certification.

“My vision is to create a bridge program from high school to post secondary where students could advance their knowledge and gain the second tier of certification from ToonBoom — the professional level,” added Winkler, who also announced that Clayton State will hold a ToonBoom Teacher’s Institute this summer on the Clayton State main campus.

This opportunity will be open to teachers from all over the state and will prepare them to use ToonBoom software and to implement the new animation career pathway once it is approved. In addition, the summer of 2014 will also see Clayton State offering a storyboarding course utilizing ToonBoom software.

The Fayette County Board of Education’s Lisa Collins brought the audience up to date on the progress of the animation project, which started in August 2013 with a call to Collins from Winkler.

As the initiative progressed, Collins mentioned that Carol Burke of the Department of Education was a key figure in helping bring the program to this point with her enthusiastic support.

After getting Sandy Creek and Whitewater involved, a schedule for training teachers in the use of ToonBoom software was created, with the writing of said curriculum about to start. The next step will be presenting the curriculum to Burke in October, for the expected acceptance at the state level.

“The opportunities are endless,” said Collins.

Toon Boom Animation Inc. (https://www.toonboom.com/) a Corus® Entertainment Inc. company based in Montreal, is the worldwide leader in digital content and animation creation software, delivering products and services online to its global community.

— Written by John Shiffert, director of Public and Media Relations, Clayton State University, Morrow, Ga.

[CORRECTION: The name of Joan Vogelesang was misspelled in the first online version. The story now contains the correct spelling.]