Wednesday, April 4, 2018

6 Reasons Learning Animation Makes Kids Smarter

iPad Spring Break Camp at the McLean Project for the Arts

I had a wonderful time working with these students last week. It was exciting to see their dedication, focus and creativity. I have a great deal of respect for their intelligence and ability to move forward successfully as they maneuver their world. You will see some samples of their work below. 

I appreciate the opportunity to help them expand their skill set and get even smarter! Here are 6 of the many ways kids get smarter by learning animation:

1. Putting Things in Context: What Does To Animate Mean?

I always start my animation workshops by asking this question: What does to animate mean? This is tricky because I have one very precise definition I am fishing for and rarely get it immediately. This time I did...which was nice. To animate means to bring to life. 

I want to boil things down to the essence of what we are doing. Pull away the associations to computers, cartoons, anime, 3D, all the details. Not that they are not part of an expanded definition, but not the essence. I wanted to get down the the basics, as an animator this is a very thrilling concept. I can bring a line to life and well as a whole universe. I love what I do and it's important to me to share the creative possibilities.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Have You Thanked a Tree Today?


Reciprocity is an exchange with equal benefits for all parties. This is a concept that I am thinking about a lot more these days for a number of reasons but primarily because I'm listening to the book Breading Sweetgrass by biologist Robin Wall Kimmerer.


Learning about Trees and More:  Braiding Sweetgrass

Braiding Sweetgrass is a beautifully written thesis featuring her sensibilities as a woman, scientist and a Citizen of the Potawatomi Nation. It has been a delightful, informative experience with almost 4 hours of listening to go. She has a beautiful voice which makes the it even more enjoyable. I am quite sure no actor could imbue her work with the enthusiasm she feels or pronounce the Potawatomi language correctly.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Artist's Intuition Meets Science Fact

Falling Leaves

I love watching leaves falling. I created this short animation last Fall to celebrate this annual event. In the process, I researched why leaves fall. Something I had never really questioned just happened. Turns out, trees release their leaves because they are a liability during winter. Maybe everybody else knows this, I just had not wondered. I was too caught up in enjoying the show.

I believe my anecdotal experience indicates that focusing on even brief phenomena in the natural world can generate questions and substantive learning experiences. A new resource is providing evidence from science educators that this is true.


My stumbling onto the North American Association for Environmental Education website, via Twitter was a very fortuitous event. I am discovering a treasure trove of opportunities and resources for my project Anim8Nature, helping children connect to nature.

Monday, February 12, 2018

6 Lessons I Learned Searching for Grants

I am an animator/media producer and educator. I am developing Anim8Nature to promote environmental stewardship by exploring science with art and careful observation of the natural world. I have received a seed grant but I am seeking additional funding.  InMotion: Squirrel
Are you also running around looking for money and trying to find that golden stash of acorns? This is what I have learned as a newbie after almost two years researching and applying for grants.

Grant writing is universally acknowledged as being a pain in the neck.However, I am finding that it really can be "fun" and transformative. Here's why.

1. Foundations Need You as Much as You Need Them

Charitable organizations are tasked with giving away 5% of their net investment assets each year. That's good news for those of us looking for a small piece of that money. 

2. Lots of Help Out There: Databases and Webinars

There are many resources/databases online. Google searches have introduced me to the Foundation Center as well as FoundantGrantWatch and more. 

After over a year of taking advantage of the Foundation Center's online database, I finally made it to their offices in Washington, DC. When I queried them on the phone why onsite visits are preferable, I was informed it was their knowledgable staff. That is an understatement. I was so grateful for the assistance I got at the Foundation Center, at least 30 minutes of one-on-one when I first arrived and then answers to many questions during my visit. I am working to get my local library here in Lynchburg, VA to join their network.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

InMotion: Snippets of Nature

8 Seconds of Animation

I spent 4 days this week working on 8 seconds of animation. Why?


InMotion is a series of very short animations documenting movement in a variety of organisms or natural objects for Anim8Nature, a resource to explore science with art. Many are creatures I see regularly but others are new discoveries for me, like the seadragon.

I strongly believe that we all benefit from carefully observering the natural world. Part of my natural world are piliated woodpeckers. I hear them sometimes on my walks in the woods and see them when I'm lucky.

I want to inspire others, especially children to be careful observers of their immediate environment and beyond by creating these shorts and suggesting ways to explore the science facts with art and animation. We do this on our websiteYoutube and in workshops for kids and families.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Anim8Nature: Making A Better World

InMotion: Oak Leaves

My efforts to find funding for my series of animated short science documentaries, Anim8Nature has included viewing various webinars. New to this process of convincing funders to support my work, I am appreciative of expert advice.

The last webinar I watched was presented by GrantHub with Jana Hexter of What I got out of this hour was to take the widest possible view of my work and focus on what it's "about" and how it makes the world a better, more beautiful place.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Animating the 4th Grade: Part 2

On Monday, I had the pleasure of working with approximately 90 students at Greenbriar East Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia. I was invited to help every student in the 4th grade explore science with art and animation. I met with two classes in November and these were the remaining three classrooms of 4th graders. 

Art teacher Christie Miller in her classroom with students getting ready to start working on their animations. Greenbriar East staff assistance during the workshops played a major role in our success.

As I mentioned in this post, teaching 30 students at a time with these tools (PC laptop and a web-based application) was not what I considered ideal. My workshops are generally with iPads and less than 10 students per session. The staff convinced me how important it is to give their students instruction with tools they can access 24/7.

I am so pleased to have found an appropriate animation tool and developed a curriculum that I tested during these five workshops. I determined that this kind of learning environment can be very successful.

6 Reasons Learning Animation Makes Kids Smarter

iPad Spring Break Camp at the McLean Project for the Arts I had a wonderful time working with these students last week. It was exciting to...