One of the things I most look forward to in the late winter is starting a project with the kids at Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Butler County. Big and Little pairs meet at the elementary school just around the corner from my house one day each week after school throughout the school year. In this instance all of the "Bigs" are Miami University students. The "Littles" range in age from kindergarten through 5th grade. The first year I worked with this group they wrote and created an original shadow puppet play loosely based on Peter Pan. Someday I will try to write a post about that project, it was great! Last year was Space Quest, when we created our own solar system. This year I wanted to explore stop motion animation. I really enjoy working in stop motion animation and new apps have really simplified the process. We always do a project with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters kids and then have them share their work with the community at the Kinetics Festival. The Festival is on a Sunday afternoon and sometimes a number of the kids cannot get there which makes me sad. I thought is we made stop motion animation videos we could show the videos at the festival and then if they were not able to be there they could still share their work. My plan was to make videos about things that occur cyclically in nature so that the videos could be loops. If you have ever made stop motion videos you know that it takes a lot of work to get a short piece of video, so looping seemed like the way to go. As ever, my plan and what actually took place were a bit askew, but it was a great project regardless.
We started out just showing some examples of stop motion using various materials and techniques. My delightful friend Kelsey Kirkpatrick came in town once a week for this semester to help out with STEAM Club and the BB/BS project. She was an invaluable resource, I don't know what I would have done without her. The first day, after showing some cool but not intimidatingly cool examples of what other people have done, Kelsey and I made a crazily rapid-fire little video so the kids could get an idea of how we would be working.
After some time to talk we went around to see who wanted to work in a team with another big/little pair and who would be working independently, and if anyone had any initial ideas of what they wanted to do. Much to my amazement all most every kid already had in mind what they wanted their film to be about.
I had given a few examples - I was thinking about things like the life cycle of a butterfly, the water cycle, maybe the life of a fruit tree. They had very definitive ideas which were not exactly as strictly about cyclical events in nature but I was thrilled they were so gung-ho with their plans and embraced whatever they felt driven to pursue.
We finished up the day exploring the idea of making a two or three dimensional representation of a character for their film. It is great working with BB/BS because each kid has a helper to work with them on their project. There was some concern when we first started working with the on group projects because the aim of their organization is to strengthen the bond between the big and little pairs and their was worry that a group project would dilute that experience. But so far each year we have come up with something that is a group final project but one in which each pair is working on their component together throughout the project and then it all comes together in the end. It has turned out to be a great dynamic that works out great for all involved.