One of the things I have enjoyed the most about the Media Smart Libraries program is that it has pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of what I am used to teaching and sharing with my students. Throughout my participation in this cohort I have broadened the scope of my library program, shifting from a strict focus on research and literacy to a more open focus on finding information with a wider array of tools (both traditional and digital) and hands-on learning. One of the things furthest from my comfort zone is stop-motion animation.
Over February vacation I was able to take part in one of the events offered through the Providence Children’s Film Festival, a hands-on stop motion animation workshop. To be completely honest, I didn’t think I was going to gain very much from this experience. I’m not a “movie person” and stop-motion animation seemed a little old fashioned for the interest level of most of my middle school students. Nevertheless, I decided to try something new - and I’m so glad I did!
The workshop was well attended by children (and their parents) ranging in ages from two to tweens. To start, participants were shown a few short stop-motion films. Emphasis was placed on noticing the film creators choices in scenery, characters, and colors. This was really helpful for me, as I had no prior experience with stop-motion animation. After the introduction, children were shown the various options available for brainstorming their film concept, creating their characters and choosing the best scenery for their film. Volunteers from Hasbro were at each station and also manning the cameras as kids were ready to film.
I had originally thought that stop-motion animation would be of little interest to the middle school crowd, but I was very wrong! I brought my 7th grader with me to this workshop and to my surprise, he was very much into it. He put a lot of time and thought into each of the steps and loved creating his own baseball themed film. As I watched him craft a baseball player from wire and blue playdoh, I realized that if this 12 year old boy is engaged with stop-motion animation than there will most likely be wider interest than I originally thought among my students as well.
I’ve decided to implement a stop-motion animation station into a tech-themed makerspace that I will be having after school in May. My hope is to offer a weekly makerspace club after school next year, and this event in May will be a good way to gauge interest. In Pawtucket we have spent a lot of time thinking about ways to incorporate STEAM into teaching and learning and I think this activity in particular will be a great way to do that.
Attending the stop-motion animation workshop taught me more than how to get started with stop-motion animation in my school library. Attending this workshop reminded me that school libraries are not limited to offering students research and reading experiences. The only limit to what we can offer our students are the limits we place on ourselves when we forget to think outside of the traditional “school library” box. This workshop, and the Media Smart Libraries program in general, has helped me to push back the perimeters of that box and think more broadly about the role our library can play in our school community and in the lives of my students. For that, I am really glad I attended this workshop!