Animations with Kids

Mr. Turtle gets sick and other animations: stories that kids can tell

I like to make animations with kids. First, I write a short children’s story dealing with an environmental issue. Then, I find a class of kids to help illustrate, narrate, and animate it. These steps require kids to use reading, advanced computer, and math skills. However, the kids almost universally think animating is really cool, and don’t notice all the skills they are being forced to practice. They see first-hand the fruits of teamwork, and engage deeply with environmental issues and careers. The local community is invited to the viewing party of the final film, which is then uploaded online, available to anyone with Internet. Videos below, and pictures. Enjoy!!

The program I use to make these animations is called Blender3D. It’s free and open-source, and I love it. I learned how to use it by following tutorials on YouTube and Vimeo, of which there are an incredible amount. I had been using the program for two years when I decided to start incorporating animation with outreach in schools.

As of October 2018, I am funded by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the American Geophysical Union,  and partnering with the Walt Disney Family Museum for this program.

Latest films: The first two films below were created by kids at a summer camp run out of the historic Logan Community in Concord, NC, summer 2019. The kids were so into it and gave it their all!

Latest film: When Anders, Dilsa, and Reza were mean (a bird story)


Latest film: A lesson on nurdles

Mr. Turtle Gets Sick

This is where it all started. I made this film with a class of 25 second-graders in Chapel Hill, NC, just as I was starting my Ph.D. back in fall, 2014. It was based on a true story — while I had been working in Maryland along the Chesapeake Bay, a dead turtle did indeed wash up with a rusty belt buckle, a broken hair comb, and tons of plastic in his poor little stomach.

Mr. Glump and the Poisonous Pond

I worked with the entire second-grade body at McAllister Elementary in Concord during the 2018-2019 school year. Not bad! This story was born out of a little sketch I wrote like seven years ago. Now brought to life. The kids came up with the title.

A handbook to taking care of the Earth: a fish story

This was the second film the kids at McAllister Elementary made. It’s like a companion film to “Mr. Glump.”

The grass is not trash

I worked with 2 fifth-grade classrooms at Wolf Meadow Elementary, also in Concord, from January to April, 2019. Those kids were true artists. Check out their work on a topic of especial importance here.

The desperate tale of the last tree snail

My other class of fifth graders, also at Wolf Meadow in Concord, animated a story about a tree snail going extinct. This really happened — a species of tree snail in Hawaii was wiped out on January 1, 2019. That was just before I was set to start work at Wolf Meadow, and it seemed liked a good topic. And the issue of invasive species is one that I dealt with when I worked for NOAA in the Chesapeake Bay, so it was of especial interest as well.

Just check out the artwork in this movie, though!

All about butterflies!

Made this with two classes of second-graders at Irvin Elementary in rural Concord, NC. We chose the butterfly subject because that was part of their life cycle curriculum. And I got to stick some satellite images in there – turns out that Ph.D. came in handy. This was in fall, 2018. A plucky little girl from the class came up with the title.

The little bike path

This was a “summer camp” if you will that I led at the main branch of the Concord, NC, library, in August 2015. Eleven kids in elementary and middle schools came from all over the county, and this is what they made. In the space of a week, too!