Thursday, January 19, 2017

Inspiring Creativity

When my oldest daughter received her ipad for her birthday, she discovered iMovie.  Within a few weeks, she had created a few fun trailers that made us all laugh.  Then, my son asked to use my camera to make a stop-motion lego animation movie.

I began the search for resources to help them pursue this new interest of theirs.  I found two great books for their specific interests. 

The first is titled Animation Lab for Kids by Laura Bellmont and Emily Brink.  Ms. Bellmont and
Ms. Brink are artists and art educators.  This book is perfect for art educators trying to teach a small class or a small group of students about animation from the base up.  

But, I am not an art educator.  I was a classroom educator and am now a homeschooler.  Is this a good book for me?  for other home educators like me?  Yes, but it isn't one that you can just pick up and run with.  What I know about homeschoolers is that we become students of our students.  We often have to learn how to teach our children what they want to know or explore new things together with them.  Animation is one of those things for me and I suspect it is for many parents!  

This book had tons of great directions and activities in it.  The children in the pictures of this book look to be about ages 6-8.  But, I think that the activities in this book would be much better suited to children ages 8-12 years old.  

I did several of the activities with my children who are in that age range.   I learned several things.  The most important of which is to do each activity yourself first.  The authors include basic directions, but in order to teach students how to do these projects it would be wise to make each of the projects yourself first and see what makes a project work or not work.  For example, with the zoetropes--project #1.  I learned in doing the project that it needed to be done in pen, pencil wasn't dark enough.  There also needed to be a progression, not a back and forth.  My kids enjoyed the project and so did I.  To introduce the project, I showed a video about Pixar's Zoetrope that was very interesting!

And then we commenced on our project!  Our zoetropes were successful.  I learned that 1.  Don't draw the pictures in pencil--they must be drawn in color or black ink to be easily seen.  2.  It is helpful for kids to draw the number of pictures they need on a separate sheet of paper first and then on the zoetrope paper.

Over the following weeks, we've done several more projects.  I've noticed a couple of things.  My artist daughter runs with the projects.  (It's her zoetrope above.)  Last week, we made a downshoot animation project.  Below are my oldest daughter's pictures.

There were several more pictures in between that when strung together form an animation sequence.  In doing this project, I noticed several things about this book.  My daughter ran with this project.  The projects in this book lend themselves to huge creative explorations.  The projects plant seeds of how to do things.  My daughter thought of changing the size and angle of the girl on the bird in the pictures.  I didn't tell her to do that.

After seeing my daughter run with this project, I realized that this book was written by art educators--and so art educators will read these directions in the book and run with them-- like my daughter did.  For me, someone who loves art but isn't trained as an art educator, I needed to do the projects ahead of time and still need to be flexible when I hit snags with a project.  Doing the projects helped me see what extra directions I needed to give and what set up I needed to do before class.

I love this book because it is the perfect low-tech jumping off point to introduce my kids to animation.

In the case of my son, his creativity is focused on legos.  So, I found an animation book at his level focused specifically on Legos.  For Christmas, we gave him The Lego Animation Book: Make Your Own Lego Movies! by David Pagano and David Pickett.  My son is only in 3rd grade so this book was perfect for him.  He had checked out Brick Flicks! from the library, but that book is written at a high school/adult reading level.  He sunk his teeth into that book, but it was tough for him--which is why I went looking for another book.

The Lego Animation book, on the other hand, was perfect.  The formatting and directions on how to make a Lego movies.  There were even pictures to show how to build some things and pictures to show simple sequences.  That is something that was missing from the Animation Lab for Kids Book.  I think this book is perfect for kids 8-13 years old.  It's very accessible and easy to follow.  The formatting makes the text easy to focus on and understand.

Please note that I received a copy of Animation Lab for Kids from the publisher for review, but this review is my own opinion.

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