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.

Mr. Turtle Gets Sick

This is the first story I animated with kids. It was with a class of 25 second-graders in Chapel Hill, NC. 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.

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.

Just check out the artwork in this movie!

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. This story was born out of a little sketch I’d written about seven years before that. 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.”

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. 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. 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!

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

I made these next two videos with a great group of kids at a summer program in my hometown in 2019.

Latest film: A lesson on nurdles

Vem hugger ner Yusufs träd? (Who’s cutting down Yusuf’s trees)

I made this with about 40 kids in Stockholm, Sweden. It is my dream to go back and make many more animations with kids in Sweden.

Water Youth Trustees in Jordan

Last but not least, this next one is not an animation, but a video. I spent summer, 2014, in Jordan as an intern with EcoPeace (Friends of the Earth Middle East). While there, I was able to partake in a training for Jordanian youth – teaching them how to become environmental leaders within their rural communities. The training took place at a beautiful Ecopark. While there, I recorded the youth giving a tour of the park, and then, I guided two of them in editing all the footage into a film, which you can watch here:

An essay of my time at this Ecopark.