For the past few months, Lodestar had the opportunity to partner with the Wonderful Idea Co. (WICO), a local organization that hosts trainings and develops interactive, hands-on exhibits for makerspaces and museums. With the help of a generous grant from Cognizant, we’ve been able to offer our school as a testing location, where WICO can put their latest prototypes in action. Just before winter break, WICO brought over one of their recent projects – a stop motion animation station! More information on the creation of this project can be found here.
We decided to test the station during the Lab makerspace time, where the animation station replaced the kit activity planned for the day. Ryan and Nicole, founders of WICO, brought along main characters such as cats and robots, with additional plastic shapes to use as props.
On the first day of testing, we explained to the students in the makerspace what the activity was, and almost all of them wanted to try it, which created a bit of a crowd around our small table. So we identified students who expressed interest, who were anywhere from kindergarten to 3rd grade, to create their own stop motion video. Initially, we had two students at a time collaborate on one video, but then we switched to more defined roles, where one student was the “director” of the video and the other was the “photographer”. In this construction, the photographer also learned how to use the stop motion animation station by watching the director. After this role determination, I saw students produce original movies, where the characters showcased impressive acrobatics and interacted with creatively constructed props. Once students were finished, they could also create their own titles.
The second day was less hectic, since the makerspace was closed that day, so the MPR was empty except for our station. Ryan and Nicole also wanted to test the station with older students, mainly in 2nd and 3rd grade, so we pulled students from the Lab who were free and did not get to participate the previous day. This switch to focus on older students led to a calmer testing environment, and we were also able to start asking students about the content of their movie, such as “What is the story line?” or “What is the setting?”
Although there areas to improve on in the construction (this is prototyping, after all), we found that students were overwhelmingly engaged in this activity, thinking about placement, shadows, and overall construction of their “scene”. What’s more, students worked well together, and having defined roles at the station lent to a calmer environment. They created imaginative products with little materials, and expressed great interested in being able to create their own characters in their own world.
And this was just the beginning – an initial session where students and teachers could see the possibilities of such a product. After all this prototyping, Lodestar will be able to keep the final product, with option for integration into our expedition or making classes.