Friday, July 6, 2018

Kids Observe and Anim8Nature

Anim8Nature Workshop at Claytor Nature Study Center

Milkweed at Claytor
Last week I had the great pleasure of working with students during a summer camp session at Claytor Nature Center of the University of Lynchburg, located in Bedford, Virginia. It was a fabulous opportunity to combine direct experience in nature with an exploration of natural phenomena using art and animation.

Getting Acquainted

I met with the students in a classroom at Claytor to introduce myself and give them an overview of our process. I talk a little bit about my work and learn their names, ages and where they go to school or if they are home schooled. 

We started with an introduction to the concept of exploring nature with art. I showed them this animation I had recently completed. Kids love cicadas and were instantly engaged with the idea of animation as a way of looking at natural phenomena.

Anim8Nature Life Cycle: 17-Year Cicada

Friday, June 15, 2018

Read This: 5 Easy Ways to Learn More about Life on Earth

If you're like me, your continuing education is very important. The past few months I have been delightfully entertained and educated by a series of books I’d like to recommend. I listened to all of these as audio books. My public library offers a service, Hoopla, that makes audio books free and easily accessible. Hope you have as easy access as I did.

Andra Wulf
I had heard of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), probably during my years living in California, where a county and a college, among other locations are named for Humboldt.  Considering the significance of his work and his reputation during his lifetime, it is shocking how few people know about him today. (There is an explanation for that in the book.) 

Monday, May 7, 2018

The New Storytelling: 101

The Old Storytelling

Lots of talk about storytelling these days. Of course humans have been telling stories as long as we have existed, it's part of our DNA. What I am finding fascinating is how my long career as a producer of preschool media prepares me for the current brand storytelling we are hearing so much about and our work at Anim8Nature.

Kristin Reiber Harris

Saturday, April 21, 2018

How Students Make Science Come Alive

Animating Science Workshops

I recently taught Animating Science for kids 8 to 14 at the Academy Center of the Arts in Lynchburg, VA. I am offering these kinds of workshops at the McLean Project for the Arts, the Bower Center and other venues. As I am doing more research about best practices in science education, I am finding evidence supporting my use of both phenomena based learning and animation. 

What is Phenomena-Based Learning?

Educators are using observable events in nature to explain or predict core concepts in science. Their curiosity sparked, students work to understand the phenomena in their own words/way.  This is done by presenting the events for the students to experience and then discussing, questioning and pondering.

This makes sense to me. When something peaks my curiosity, I start asking questions.  
I want to understand what I am seeing. This is what scientists do. In Anim8Nature workshops, students have the opportunity to then animate a science phenomena. How is this a powerful educational tool?

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.

Kids Observe and Anim8Nature

Anim8Nature Workshop at Claytor Nature Study Center Milkweed at Claytor Last week I had the great pleasure of working with student...