Imagination meets innovation at Porterville Unified

Porterville students will take a course from Garner Holt Productions, animatronics creator for Disney and Universal Studios

PORTERVILLE – Adorned in white lab coats with circuit boards in hand, students learn how the animatronics industry works one wire and bolt at a time.

On Oct. 20, the Porterville Unified School District (PUSD) is taking a group of students to the Pathway’s AniMakerspace Lab for a three-day course in creating animatronics, coding and other immersive learning experiences through their partnership with Garner Holt Education Through Imagination. This is part of PUSD’s efforts to make students college ready in areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

“We use the word relevance,” PUSD board member Pete Lara said. “When I learned a chemistry equation in high school, I forgot it right after the test because it didn’t mean anything [to me]. Now if it means something, because you’re working on a project and you need that equation, you’re more apt to retain it.”

The three-day course is geared around the goal of “making things move,” quite literally, as students learn how to create animatronics from Garner Holt Productions (GHP). The Specialized Programmable Animatronic and Robotics Kit for Education (SPARK-E) is used during the course, and is used to produce an animatronic figure that students are able to work with. Additionally, students learn “script writing, voice acting, lighting and sound, set design, costuming, prop making, and more,” according to their website.

“That was our intent: to make sure that our kids had opportunity,” Lara said.

Pathways is a program within Porterville’s district that connects students with hands-on learning experiences. One of the goals of PUSD pathways is to provide learning opportunities for students that are within their specific interests. This is because students are able to retain knowledge better when they use the learning material in a real-world situation, according to Lara. 

The AniMakerspace Lab, where the course is set to take place, is located on the Citrus South Tule site near Porterville and was built alongside The Future Ready Lab / Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™. These two labs house many learning opportunities for students involved in the pathways program. They partnered with Garner Holt Education Through Imagination last year and filled the AniMakerspace lab with vivid lights, animatronic experiments and many learning opportunities.

This is one of the many interactive learning experiences offered by pathways. Recently, pathways also opened up a STARBASE program, where active military members teach students STEM by following a curriculum outlined by the Department of Defense and Porterville Unified School District (PUSD), according to public information officer Jason Pommier. 

GHP is a leading group of innovators that creates animatronics for Disney, Universal Studios, Nickelodeon and many others. Their animatronics are found worldwide, and the company was founded by Garner L. Holt. Holt started GHP in 1977 when he was just a teenager. Now, he has an entire education team that teaches students around California how to build animatronics and scenes. 

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