Students learn animated storytelling from former 'Rugrats' CEO

The Wilder School District practices the art of storytelling using Wonder Media Story Maker. (KBOI Photo)

Terry Thoren knows a thing or two about animation. He was the former CEO of Klasky Csupo, Inc. - the company that created a few of Nickelodeon's hit series "Rugrats," "The Wild Thornberrys" and "Rocket Power."

More than 25 years later, he's using his talents to teach at-risk children the art of storytelling.

His company, Wonder Media USA, created a new tool called 'Story Maker' using the best of Hollywood's animation technology. The educational tool uses animation to teach kids how to research, write and revise.

"Outside of school, it's a fire hose of animation. Inside the school, there's no animation," Thoren said. "They can actually make the animation character talk, they can write the script for it and bring it to life. They can animate it!"

Idaho was the first of 15 states to try the technology and the Wilder School District served as the pilot.

Thoren says the project helped improve the students' literacy skills by an equivalent of two grade levels. The pilot program was so successful, that seven more school districts around the Treasure Valley will now be able to incorporate 'Story Maker' into their weekly lesson plans with help from the STEM Action Center.

The STEM Action Center will provide $51,800 in grants to seven school districts to cover the expenses of the program.

Genesse Elementary, Crimson Point Elementary, Melba Elementary, Notus Elementary, Tigert Middle School, Galileo STEM Academy and Pepper Ridge Elementary school will be presented with $7,400 each Tuesday.

"It's a great opportunity to bring something to your students that really impacts them in a very meaningful way," said Wilder School District Superintendent Jeff Dillon.

At Tuesday's event, the Wilder School District will also premiere a public service announcement for the Idaho Food Bank, using Wonder Media Story Maker.