In 2012 I graduated from Crawford College of art and design and it was there, that I first became interested in animation.

I was intrigued when I discovered how easy it is to make inanimate objects come alive and to create magical illusions. The fact that I could combine so many mediums: drawings, paintings, photography, sculpture, film, sound and storytelling to make audiovisual stories, fascinated me.

As I dug deeper into my research of animation, Disney, etc. I came to realize what a powerful medium it can be and I became interested in finding new ways that animation could be used in education.

Since 2007 I have been facilitating workshops with children and young adults in schools, libraries, festivals and community settings. The focus of the workshops is on fun and experimentation rather than trying to achieve a perfect polished finish. I show the students how various stop motion techniques work, and then, let their imagination and ideas develop into characters and storyline.  I encourage the children to get involved in every part of the process right through to the final edit.

The finished animations are uploaded to YouTube where they can be shared with friends and family. We have also projected them at school movie nights, entered competitions and screened them at the local arts festival. The pride and excitement on the faces of the children when they see their own animations projected is always a really rewarding moment for all.

I find the easiest way to help children understand the underlying principal of animation is to make 2 page flipbooks. A flipbook is a book with a series of pictures that vary gradually from one page to the next, so that when the pages are turned rapidly, the pictures appear to move. This simple optical trick delights them and this can developed into longer books.

See clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkXvdumD8wQ

 

Techniques

Different examples of stop motion animation techniques include:

Pixilation : This is a technique where we animate the children themselves. We create illusions such as disappearing or walking thru walls. I find it is the most popular technique as it gets them off their seats, it involves active movement and drama and it also can be brought outdoors.  These ones I did with a class of about 25 junior infants… The teacher Mr James was very helpful with this one. 

See clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgVCFrhIVKE

 

 

Claymation : involves making characters and props from plasticine, You probably all know Morph, Pingu, Wallace and Grommet. These ones were made with the children in an after school club and involved designing and making characters from plasticine, drawing backgrounds, finding stories for them and acting out roles through the characters.  

See clip : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSKDQGNgYBQ

 

Time lapse :  For time lapse, many photographs are taken over a long period of time and then are shown quickly in a series so that a slow action appears to happen quickly. (you may have seen the opening of a flower bud) This is a great tool to document activities in the classroom.

One of my own favorite workshops is to make a large group painting which involves  automatic drawing and abstract painting.

We roll out a large blank sheet of paper and off they go..

See clip : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkUapZovw4Q

 

Hand drawn, traditional animation, a great one for children that love drawing

See link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weA8EqyPaEI

 

Paper cut out/2d : This is a very easy technique to use with younger children, involves drawing and cutting out characters and backgrounds and its probably the easiest technique to use to tell a story. This first example was adapted from a book that was written by a student. She brought the book into class and we made paper cut outs to animate the story.

See link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJoR8bNbRFA

 

The second one started with a game where each student in turn throws a dice and each number corresponds with a shape and a part of the body. They then put the shapes together to create the characters. We also explored speeding up 

See link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZanjTkJOSg

 

How can this fit into the curriculum?

As a supporter of multi-disciplinary education I am always looking for ways to use stop motion animation as a learning tool in helping teachers to teach other subjects.

Stop motion animation tools can support the ways educators document projects, and share information with parents, families and communities. The knowledge that their work can be shared so easily with others encourages the children to take pride in what they do and gives them a sense of achievement.

I think the easiest way to explain how I have worked with primary school students and teachers and used animation to compliment the curriculum is to look at a few examples:

 

This first one I ll show you is a clip from an animation made for the science fair earlier this year, by 5th class. It can easily be adapted to work with younger children,

 this type of animation is more recently known as slowmation

 How our memory works See link :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GAbJcSP9Ns

 

 

This one was made with 25 second class students, working with large groups has its challenges but with the help of the teacher it all ran very smoothly. After learning about how paper is made and discussing the impact on wildlife, they all made their own bird with recycled paper to animate and then we recorded them singing to add as the soundtrack

Recycle it  See link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw9QQkoVsL4

 

 

Made by students that were learning about equality/racism..etc. they made this animation with the artwork they had made. They showed it in Dublin and were awarded  a yellow flag for their school.

Show racism the red card See link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heUGvpTHPbY

 

The students from Ballycroneen Natl School that made the next animation were delighted when they one won best animation in the 2014 Mid May Arts festival. Each child chose an environmental issue to research and illustrate and then we put them all together in this animation.

Hunting See link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcgjRZtgY5w

 

This animation was done as part of a research project about play. Each child made an image of themselves with a paper plate with moving lips and blinking eyes and then we asked each child to express what play meant to them and recorded their answers.

Playtalk  See link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYUhadZ_G54

 

 

The different ways animation can support different learning and development:

Animation helps to develop children’s creativity and artistic talent through the engagement with imaginative storytelling, drama, painting, 3d modeling, sound …etc. the fact that any type of art can be used in animation develops a curiosity to experiment with different techniques.  The scientific principles of visual perception, cameras and projection technology along with concepts of movement, velocity, transformation and metamorphosis are all part of the art of animation. Understanding that 12 frames per second create 1 second of animation helps with maths as they calculate how many frames are needed for each shot.

We aim to create one cohesive animation so teamwork is essential and in class children discuss and negotiate different storylines between them.

Animation doesn’t have to mean sitting still, it can involve the physical roles of acting when using pixilation/ and can be used to document physical activities through time lapse.

In my experience children continue to discuss and come up with new ideas outside of the workshops; both with their friends during the week and also at home and usually come to the class bursting with ideas, Quite often I will prepare an activity before class and we end up doing something entirely different that they have planned between themselves.

The great thing about animation is that it captures the child’s imagination and allows them engage creatively with their peers during and between workshops.  .

This interaction can help parents and educators themselves become more informed and empower them to make responsible choices about technology use and screen time at home and in the classroom.

The software, once installed can be used without access to the Internet so there is no fear that children will access unsuitable material.

The playfulness of stop motion animation can help develop curiosity and exploration into other in other related mechanisms such as developing apps, coder dojo, and filmmaking.etc  

All that is needed is a stop motion app, a camera and basic art materials  

On another level, a basic knowledge of how stop motion animation works gives children an insight into what is real and how easily illusions can be created, how stories and images can be manipulated. This knowledge is very useful for children as it can help to develop their critical analysis of mass media.

Live interactions between the children and imaginary characters are very common, role play allows them to try new behaviors while in a safe environment/sometimes expressing feelings through the character that they may be too anxious to express otherwise.

For children who encounter isolation as a result of playing video games, animation can be beneficial in opening a channel of communication between the child and the educator by creating imaginary interactive worlds and communicating thru imaginary characters.

Conclusion   

The increase in tech based gadgets for home use has escalated enormously. As devices and apps become user-friendlier younger children are becoming increasingly proficient in using technological tools to tell their own stories.

Animating is one source of hands on exploration, and when used effectively, with an emphasis on co-viewing and co- participation between adults and children these tools have the potential to bring adults and children together for fun and creative experiences.

Stop motion animation does not have to replace activities such as creative play, real-life exploration and physical activity but rather used to support these ways of learning both at home and in schools. With simple equipment animation can be brought outdoors and involve the social interactions that are so important for children’s development.

Just as we encourage children to use pen and paper well before we expect them to write, it seems reasonable to provide access and time to explore technological tools before they can be expected to communicate digitally.

Support for integration for early childhood professionals is critically important. Partnerships between artists and teachers could be built so they can work together to benefit children through a non-formal playful approach.  Practitioners employed as resource teachers could assist teachers in showing how animation can be used as part of the overall classroom plan in ways that support the curriculum’s developmental and educational goals.   

Through careful selection and evaluation of exciting new resources in today’s technology-rich world, we can embrace the profound change that traditional childhood is experiencing. We can be proactive in determining how best to use new technologies as an opportunity to develop children’s creativity in ways that are developmentally appropriate.