November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Tips for Top-Notch Stop-Motion Workshops | The Maker Issue

What makes for a great library stop-motion animation program? Strong apps and fun working materials help, but good planning and inspired book tie-ins can carry the day.

Librarian Cindy Wall, coauthor of The Maker Cookbook: Recipes for Children’s and ‘Tween Library Programs (Limitless Libraries, 2014), has offered two multi-day stop-motion film workshops at the Southington (CT) Library and Museum. Wall planned “three days of two-and-a-half-hour studio sessions and a separate film premiere day for friends and family” with her Southington colleague and The Maker Cookbook coauthor, Lynn Pawloski, she says. Striving for a “transmedia experience,” Wall started by giving participants copies of Brian Selznick’s Caldecott Medal–winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007). Georges Méliès, a key character in Selznick’s story, was an early illusionist and filmmaker who used the stop-motion technique.

1505-StopMot-StopMotionStudioWall showed a film about the life of Méliès and then held a book discussion. After that, her nine- to 12-year-old participants received instruction on how to set up a story line and talked about how to bring a story to life in film. The kids used Stop Motion Studio to animate media from sticky notes and candy to LEGOs and clay.

Wall hosted her first workshop during a weeklong Thanksgiving break and the second over three weeks. A one-week format works best, she says. “It helped the children maintain focus, retain their new filmmaking skills, and increased continuity.”

A claymation creature inspired by  Rob Harrell’s Monster on the Hill. Courtesy of Mt. Lebanon Public Library

A claymation creature inspired by
Rob Harrell’s Monster on the Hill.
Courtesy of Mt. Lebanon Public Library

Librarian Dana Jones has conducted stop-motion programs at the Mount Lebanon Public Library in Pittsburgh, PA, for second to fourth graders and also for ages 10 and up. The first group meets as a graphic novel book club. “We read a graphic novel, then discuss, draw, and do STEAM extension activities,” Jones says. After reading Rob Harrell’s Monster on the Hill (Top Shelf, 2013), they made stop-motion creations starring clay monsters inspired by Harrell’s story. The older group met at the library’s maker space and used Play-Doh and cut paper for their movies. Both used iMotion with iPads.

Jones recommends allowing adequate in-person sharing time at the end of the program instead of uploading or emailing the finished projects. Another tip: “The adults running the program [should] play with the app ahead of time so they can offer tips and troubleshooting.” Her young filmmakers “frequently end up teaching me something new or they take the project to a place I never could have envisioned,” she adds.

Julie Bowers, community librarian with the Deschutes (OR) Public Library system, hosted a stop-motion event using a variety of technologies during the library’s “STEAM Team” programs. Teens and tweens used digital cameras to import image shots into a trial version of Frames. Younger kids tried out LEGO Movie Maker with an iPad, and participants also experimented with Zeitraffer, which can create time-lapse videos.

Bowers would also like to explore “old-school animation techniques” with kids, she says, such as creating phenakistoscopes, early animation devices that use spinning discs and sequential images, or flip books. Wall advises aspiring stop-motion workshoppers to start with whatever space they have available. “With maker programming, any place is a maker space.”

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This article was published in School Library Journal's May 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.