Tag Archives: animation

Focus on Material and Medium: Stop Motion Animations

I have done many residencies exploring stop motion animation, and this past semester I decided to bring the focus back to the materials more than ever. Michael R. White 5th and 6th grades both made stop motion animations reflecting different subject matters. The 5th grade focused on the earth’s movement around the sun, while the 6th grade explored principles of rocks and minerals. The different subjects heavily influenced choices of material. 6th graders primarily used rocks and jewell pieces to make patterns, whereas 5th grade focused much more on clay, paper, and foam to create their universes.

The magic students can create with stop motion can be seen in their videos below. The first day of filming is always the most exciting, as viewing and creating these animations is a very different experience. One group of 6th graders became so engrossed in the filming process that they ended up making several videos, featuring their own clay characters, in addition to their rocks and minerals film. Taking pictures to create a video allowed the students to experience movement differently than a traditional filming process.

As the 6th grade was a bit more advanced with their projects, I introduced a different form of animation to the class: Scratch animation, through the offline editor. I was very curious as to which form of creating the class preferred, stop motion(which requires teamwork and creating with your hands) versus Scratch(which is more of a solo experience animating on the computer). Most students preferred the stop motion format, and this will be my primary focus in the future for this age group.

As stop motion does allow students to work together and make creative decisions both individually and as a team, it allows students who usually don’t have to confidence in their artistic skills to showcase them. Watch the videos below, and I’m sure you will be floored by some of the simple material and editing decisions made by these creative artists.

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Telling the Story of our Landscape with the Makey Makey and Scratch


Mound STEM School 4th grader working on coding his Scratch animation.

The 4th graders at Mound STEM School in Cleveland were already well-versed in landforms when I began my residency this past fall semester. Their teachers had done an excellent job teaching the students all about weathering, erosion, and the formation of landforms. What I found lacking in this class was the ability to visualize these landforms. They could tell me how a valley or a glacier was created, but they could not tell me what said valley or glacier looked like. They could describe the weather associated with these landforms, but not the visuals of them. This is one of those key factors missing from our education system: the ability to let students experience these realities first-hand. Although we cannot take the students to the Grand Canyon or to the valleys of the Rocky Mountains, we can show YouTube videos, paintings and images to give our students a glimpse of these environments.

It took students some time to realize their visions for their Scratch animations they made as part of my residency work. The animations included drawn imagery sourced from discovered images and videos research. Once they had conquered the imagery, the students incorporated facts about their landforms to educate other students and other viewers. We then used conductive materials such as graphite, aluminum foil, and copper tape to create conductive drawings, which worked along with the Makey Makeys to trigger the Scratch projects. The conductive drawings were a result of experiments completed by the students, during which they tested various materials to find what the most conductive materials were to use for their artworks.

Experimenting with conductive materials and the Makey-Makey.

Experimenting with conductive materials and the Makey Makey.

The results of combining these various materials and methods was a (surprisingly) cohesive and exciting project. The students learned the basics of coding, digital painting, physical drawing, and conductivity, along with their landform curriculum. This was a very challenging residency to accomplish, and the results were far from perfect. I would love to do this residency again, with slight adjustments to streamline the process. The students were very proud of their work, and their projects can be viewed here. I enjoyed my time with the 4th graders at Mound STEM, and I look forward to seeing what these enthusiastic learners create next.

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Scratching the Surface

PAA Artist-Educators in the PAA lab experimenting with Scratch.

PAA Artist-Educators in the PAA lab experimenting with Scratch.

Last week, Artist-Educators at Progressive Arts Alliance enjoyed the opportunity for a full day training session on Scratch with Eric, the Scratch Online Community Manager. So, what exactly is Scratch, you ask?

Created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a visual programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and then share your creations on the web. It’s a programming environment and online community where kids create, share and remix animations, stories, interactive art and video games.

Scratch opens the doors wide for collaboration opportunity. As a visual artist myself, specifically a printmaker, I was amazed at how intuitive Scratch was for drag-and-drop visual programming. Only an hour into the training, and I was buzzing along on an animation project pretty comfortably. It’s a color-coded block-building approach to writing code. The user simply builds – similar to Legos – and locks together various movements and sounds. And Scratch is all about sharing. Once you publish your piece on Scratch, anyone can learn from what you built, and can borrow, or build upon it themselves for a remix – the code is always available, and public. Check out our studio of Scratch projects our team made during our training by clicking here.

We also adventured into Scratch Jr, which is the younger version of Scratch, and available as a free application for iPad. Here is a screenshot of a quick animation that I created on that platform:


Screen shot from my Scratch Jr. project.


After only a handful of hours learning about the software, my mind was abuzz with possibilities for classroom collaborations and residencies that could draw on the overlap of art forms. I can envision a printmaking residency that creates the backgrounds and various characters that could easily be imported into Scratch to lend for some gorgeous animations or games. What a rich opportunity to create media at every level (both physically and digitally) completely authored by students, and then shared – and I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of possibilities.

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