A problem that arises quite often with the integration of technology into the classroom is the availability of equipment. Due to priorities and funding, the amount of equipment varies greatly from campus to campus. That being said, there are many projects that can be done with basic equipment that can be found at most any campus. A favorite of mine is Claymation, also known as stop motion animation. Some examples you may be familiar with are Gumby, Chicken Run, or the infamous Mr. Bill.
Does this sound like a project that is too intense for you? Think again! This project is one of the easiest for you to do, technology wise. The entire project can be completed with a digital camera, a tripod, and a computer.
The hardest part of this project is the preparation. You need to prepare a set, or background, and any props you will need in the movie. While this is referred to as Claymation, no clay actually needs to be used. You can use any medium you wish. Construction paper, cotton balls, and pipe cleaner are popular choices.
Let’s use the life cycle of a plant as an example. We would start by creating the background and any props you would need to walk through the life cycle. The background would consist of dirt, grass, and sky. Feeling more artistic? Add trees, buildings, flowers, anything else you could see in nature. The props you would need to create will show each stage of the plant’s life cycle: seed, roots, stem, etc. You are only limited by your imagination.
Once you have everything created you are ready to begin “filming.” Tape your background down so it will not move. Set your digital camera and tripod up so that you only see the background. The tripod is important so that your camera angle doesn’t change. Start with the first stage, the seed. Take a picture. Add part of a root, take another picture, and repeat this process over and over, slowly adding or slightly moving your props to give it the appearance that your plant is growing. Be careful not to move the props too much between pictures. Moving it too much makes it appear to “jump”.
After you have taken pictures for the entire cycle it is time to copy the pictures to the computer. You will then need a program that will allow you to import pictures and create a movie. Be sure the program you choose allows you to control the duration of each picture. 2 free programs that can be used are Windows Live Movie Maker and Movie Maker 2.6. Set the duration of each picture to last 0.5 seconds. When the movie plays it gives the appearance of the plant growing before your eyes. Add a title and music if you like…you are done! If you are not familiar with either of these programs and would like some assistance, here are great guides for Movie Maker 2.6 and Live Movie Maker.
Kids love this project because it allows them to be creative and have fun. Parents love it because they can see a product that was created by their child. Teachers love it because it gives the student a hands-on, in-depth look at a concept or process.
Here are a couple of examples of Claymation projects done in my district. The first video was done by Pre-K students showing the life cycle of a pumpkin. The second one was done by 2nd graders and shows the water cycle.
Looking for a fun, culminating project? Give Claymation a try!