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Using the LunchBox to Teach Science

by Ken Winkley
Vancouver School of Arts and Academics
Vancouver, Washington

 

Science and animation are a perfect match. Most processes in science teaching are presented as a static operation, yet they are all in some way "moving". The universe does not sit still. That is why I use animation when I can to teach some simple and elaborate processes.

The first time I used animation to teach science concepts was in biology. Student were to create a metaphorical representation of a biological process. Some of the concepts were active or passive transport, photosynthesis, DNA replication, etc... The purpose of the metaphor, was to allow students to make models in their minds to represent abstract processes. We cannot actually observe these processes happening in real time, but at some time somebody had to make a model and then improve upon it.

The second time, I was teaching physical science and wanted the students to create an animation that presented Newtonian laws of physics. Can you imagine what kinds of mischief a student could get into with a blank sheet of animation paper? Well, that is what I got. There were several things going splat, especially when a couple of vehicles with different masses were hitting head on. It was a lot of fun.

I can use the Lunchbox for these assignments because of three reasons:

  1. Cost: It does not take elaborate equipment for students to get started. I cut a ream of white paper into four squares and I have enough animation paper for two classes.

  2. Keeping Organized: Each class has it's own reel.

  3. Students LOVE it!!!: Even some of my most reluctant homework delinquents are focused on the task during class. Plus, they get a chance to show what they know through something besides a test.

Along with the animation, students are assigned an "Artist Statement". This where students explain how their animation represents the topic. It is in their own words, therefore deeper understanding is obtained. This is something the parents can see and hear. For this reason, I have been given three grants from the Parent Teacher Student Association. Two of the grants were smaller and paid for 20 lightboards. The third grant is going to pay for a second Lunchbox in the school. There is an animation class in the school and I have to compete with that class for time with the lunchbox.

Finally, when assessing students I sit with them and discuss their animation. This is usually done near the end of the term so that the discussion could act as a mini-review session with individuals. The other students are studying for their end of the term test. It gives me a chance to talk one-on-one with my students.

 

"the LunchBox Sync really is a magical thing... I love the new model", Wendy Jackson Hall, Animation Magazine, Aug 2001

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