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Bogush, Paul
Adrian Gorczyca, a student at Moran Middle School in Wallingford, records a session in front of the green screen. The green screen and cameras were used by students in a room created by teacher Paul Bogush. Bogush hopes to expand the room to create a venue for live student performances that can be streamed online. | Photo courtesy of Paul Bogush

Wallingford teacher envisions space for the arts at Moran Middle School

WALLINGFORD — A social studies teacher at Moran Middle School is using crowd sourcing as a fundraising method to purchase equipment to turn an empty classroom into a venue for students to create multimedia art projects and offer live performances.

The room was created last year by teacher Paul Bogush after converting an empty classroom into an area for students to work on art, photography, or cinematography projects. The room — called “3 Floors Up” — features equipment such as a green screen that Bogush has collected over the years through grants and other funding sources, he said.

For the 2014-15 school year, Bogush moved into a new classroom and discovered a larger, unused room. He plans to move the equipment to the empty classroom, which will be named “2 Floors Up.”

Building upon what he created last year, Bogush has a vision to turn the classroom into a venue for the performing arts. Using the website Kickstarter, Bogush hopes to raise $1,315 by Sept. 14.

Kickstarter is a web-based crowd sourcing initiative, where individuals can donate to a project.

Depending on the donation amount, the individual receives varying rewards. With Bogush’s project, rewards range from having a donor’s name painted on the wall or a digital download of a song dedicated to the individual to receiving a CD of performances and a videochat tour of the space.

Board of Education member Chris Shortell said he’s glad to see a teacher utilizing unique ways to raise money for education.

“In an ideal world, you would hope that there would be an appropriate funding to get technology for kids in classrooms, but obviously there are limitations,” Shortell said. “It takes teachers like Mr. Bogush to go above and beyond and find creative ways for funding.”

If he succeeds, Bogush said the space can be used for live performances for bands or poetry.

The performances would also be streamed over the internet to reach a wider audience. If he raises more than the $1,315, the extra funds will go toward the purchase of newer computers to use for audio and video editing.

“The sound system is the big ticket item, but it’s also for a couple of cameras to allow the kids to shoot videos of performances and go back and edit them using video editing software,” Bogush said. “If you think of a professional music shoot, or any kind of shoot nowadays, they’re doing it with multiple cameras and combining it into one video.”

Bogush’s idea for the room came during a teaching lesson, he said, when he tried to get his students to “engage more deeply with primary source images.”

“I really wanted to put them in the mindset of the people or whatever was occurring in the photograph or the image, so I experimented with green screening,” Bogush said. “... When looking at the final result, they’re standing right there with the people in the painting or photograph.”

Using a green screen to place the students in a video or image is more “engaging,” Bogush said.

By expanding the space, Bogush said he’s targeting “the outsiders” in the school — the students who are interested in the arts and music. His goal, he said, is to create a middle school version of The Space, an all-ages concert venue in Hamden. With 2 Floors Up, he hopes to create a space where students can feel comfortable working on their projects.

“I want to create a place as an incubator for bigger and better things,” Bogush said. “Maybe not all of the kids will go on to a career in the arts, but it’s a place for the kids to do serious things — serious photography or video — where there’s no where else in the school that can be done.”

Moran Principal Joseph Piacentini said the creation of 3 Floors Up was a success and he was eager to see the new room used by students and teachers.

“The kids need that unique opportunity for a creative outlet,” Piacentini said. “... It’s a way for us to be creative. We’ve infused quite a bit of technology in the district ... This is just one more way that Wallingford is keeping up and in some ways, getting ahead of other districts.”

Bogush decided to start a Kickstarter campaign because he liked the concept of having people investing in an individual’s idea.

“With Kickstarter, someone is funding that person’s passion,” he said. “Sure some of the people are making money off them, but in the short term it’s funding someone’s passion.”

As of Wednesday, the project has raised $516 on Kickstarter, with 24 days left before the Sept. 14 deadline.

When asked if he had a backup plan if the project’s funding goal wasn’t fulfilled, Bogush said no.

“The reality is if it’s not directly connected to Common Core, I don’t know how to get funding,” Bogush said. “Funding is going to a few distinct places and the reality is that there is not a lot of funds left in the budget.”

He added that he’s thinking about alternative ways to get the funding he needs for 2 Floors Up.

Bogush isn’t a stranger to finding creative ways to fund his ideas. Earlier this year, he won a national contest and received 30 Acer tablets for his classroom.

Even if he doesn’t reach his goal for the room, he’s optimistic that he’ll be able to expand on his vision for his students at Moran.

“The new place — 2 Floors Up — will try to be a home for those kids,” Bogush said. “It’s kind of like the way that sports is talked about — how football is what keeps the kids on the team coming to school and doing well.”

evo@record-journal.com (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ



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