Gulf Shores students at Jedi Academy live their science fiction dreams

By Allison Marlow
Managing Editor
allisonm@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 5/11/22

Connor Ferguson looks snappy in a dress coat and slacks. He is watching intensely as light sabers clash just feet in front of him.

He studies each swing and jab. As the fight ends, he nods his …

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Gulf Shores students at Jedi Academy live their science fiction dreams

Posted

Connor Ferguson looks snappy in a dress coat and slacks. He is watching intensely as light sabers clash just feet in front of him.

He studies each swing and jab. As the fight ends, he nods his head and gives instructions as the pair of would-be Jedis turn to him.

Ferguson, an eighth grader at Gulf Shores Middle School, is kickstarting his dream of directing movies with the help of the school's Jedi Academy.

The after-school program draws its inspiration from a galaxy far, far away and every student here would proudly claim the title of half-witted, scruffy-looking, nerf herder.

They spend their afternoons learning every aspect of science fiction filmmaking and then they craft their own.

They write the scripts. They develop characters and storylines. They learn blocking and rehearse complicated fight scenes to mimic their favorite big screen light saber battles. They film the movies. They edit them.

And when those light sabers no longer hum, they return to the workshop-like classroom to open the saber's handle and replace computer motherboards, solder pieces, and craft the equipment and the droids they are looking for.

"This is a STEAM activity, this is creative, this is working together," said Scott Prince, Jedi Academy's creator and the school's STEAM and career tech teacher.

The pinnacle of the experience for many students is the light saber fighting. The group uses lacrosse and fencing gear to shield themselves from accidental blows.

Darth Vader wannabees, however, will quickly learn that their hands will remain attached no matter how many light saber strikes they take. That demise will have to be added in post-production.

They paint their helmets to represent the heroes and villains in their worlds, from Star Wars, Marvel and DC comics and others. Prince has crafted his helmet to replicate that of a Jedi Temple Guard, one who is tasked with guarding knowledge of the sacred order and passing it on to the younger generation. Each afternoon Prince can be found doing just that.

He says he finds that the shared love of the genre and the fun of playing with light sabers creates fast friends among the students and a shared goal.

The saber fighting is also physically challenging yet fun and attainable for students who prefer non-athletic activities.

And since, as Obi-Wan Kenobi says, there is no such thing as luck, every student has to practice diligently to master the sometimes-complicated light saber fight choreography.

By the time their projects make it to film they indeed resemble Jedi knights.

"As a teacher one of my proudest moments is to watch them not only be creative but really take ownership and have a blast," Prince said.

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