It All Started with Student Choice
In my co-teaching experience with Jennifer Hourani at Geer Park, our class is working its way through a HyperDoc unit in science that meets the NGSS standard of building a model to show the flow of energy in a food chain. Once the students reached the Apply phase of the HyperDoc, they were given several options to choose from on how they wanted to show their learning.
While many students chose to do Google Drawings or color drawings on poster board, a few students were interested in the stop motion animation idea. This worried me a little, since I had never made a stop motion animation before, but when I added it to the list of choices in the HyperDoc, I knew it was possible that I would have to learn. And boy, am I glad I did!
Step 1: The Planning Phase
In order to produce the stop motion animation film, the students worked out a plan. The goal was to show the flow of energy from each energy source to the next in a food chain, so the students had to plan out their food chains first. Next, we searched through the science materials at Geer Park, and found some models that we thought would work just fine. I also acquired some dough for the students to use, so they could fashion arrows that would show the flow of energy. Also, the girls brought in some materials from home, like potting soil and grass. Finally, we took a walk outside and found some flowers that we used, as well.
Step 2: Acquiring the Software and the Hardware
Now that we had a plan for the movie and our materials, it was time to film! First of all, we needed a webcam. While Chromebooks have integrated webcams, they are not ideal for working with stop motion animation. We borrowed a plug and play webcam from the tech department, and we were off! Next, we needed some software to help us create our film. The students downloaded Clapmotion, a free app that is incredibly easy to use and available for students to download onto their Chromebooks. While the software touts the ability to take pictures by clapping your hands, we found it easier and more manageable to just click the spacebar. Clapmotion is incredibly simple to use, and even allows onion skinning for smoother transitions between frames.
So now we had our webcam and our stop motion animation software, along with our plan. We were ready to start filming!
Step 3: Filming
The actually filming part of the project was the most fun. The students had a blast posing the toys and props just so, then checking the onion skin on the Chromebook and moving the toy slightly for the next photo. They were able to play their movies back so they could see where to go from there, and took great delight in figuring out what their next move would be on camera. The software was so easy to use, the students could delete frames and retake pics until they got their animations just right! Once they were finished, a simple click of a button saved the animation, and another click saved it to their Google Drive, where they were able to share the video with teachers or upload it to YouTube. Check out their videos below!
How Do I Begin with Stop Motion Animation?
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