Third grader Marissa Lopez teaches her mom, Liah, how to animate a bouncing ball. Students in a special after-school enrichment class at Timber Trail learned animation techniques that taught computer and problem-solving skills.
Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
A bouncing ball. It seems like a fairly simple image. Just a single sphere, bouncing a single time, across a static background. But as parents of students in Timber Trail Elementary’s animation class learned, making a ball bounce is a painstaking process.
“The first job of any animator is to make a ball bounce,” said Dawn Smith, the school’s library and technology support teacher. Smith taught the after-school animation class, along with fifth grade teacher Eve King.
Students in the class spent the last three months perfecting their animation techniques using a computer animation program called “Flip Boom.” The final class session allowed students to be teachers to their visiting parents; the bouncing ball lesson powerfully showed how an animator must think.
“Animation is a really valuable way to teach students how to break things down into small steps,” said Smith. “It’s a different way of thinking about things that can really be helpful when students are problem solving – in animation and in other areas.”
Students were excited to share their skills, as well as show off final projects, which demonstrated skill well beyond that first bouncing ball.
“I really liked this class, because someday I’d like to be a director,” said third grader Brandon McNeil. McNeil’s final project told the tale of a fish rescued from a shark attack by a well-timed intervention from an unsuspecting fisherman. “I learned a lot in this class that will help me later.”