Animated Ambitions

Welcome to Mel Mel's...*ahem*---errr---Ms. Eckstrom's Introduction to Animation Class. I am excited to share that I am co-teaching/creating an animation course for two art classes (9th and 10th graders) at a high school in my community. The goal is for students to create animations that celebrate Jamaican culture, such as folklore, national heroes, or music. We are hoping to create a syllabus that other high schools can easily use across the island. Considering I haven't done anything with animation since my own days in high school, I am learning to teach, teaching to learn, and couldn't be more delighted!

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This opportunity to teach art awakened a buried energy in me that I think I dug deep during a horrific full-time education volunteer position I once did (2009) at a now closed school in Philadelphia. In my older age, I think I could have handled the mental exhaustion of the work, but as a 19 year old girl,the whole experience broke my teenage heart and made me swear off the possibility of ever wanting to be a teacher. One positive thing I clearly remember was my attempt to use the art of making comics to engage/trick the 4th and 5th grades boys into reading and writing during the after-school programming, and it was working!

I can't deny it---I LOVE to teach and I love to encourage creativity. I love to make well thought out lesson plans, improvise lesson plans, and at the end of the day, evaluate how I would do the class better the next time (if there was a next time). I love finding (make-do) materials to engage students in learning, and see the lightbulbs go off.

I especially love teaching comics because students loosen up on their drawing insecurities when it comes to cartoons. Furthermore, it teaches the principles of storytelling, which I think is one of the most valuable gifts that you can give a student.

I am not a professional animator. I am not a professional comic artist. I am not even a professional teacher! However, I am full of energy and in collaboration with the actual art teacher, ready to do whatever it takes to inspire creativity, teach good storytelling skills, and help the students apply these lessons and their ideas to go as far as they desire.



In the very first class, we had a small lecture on the history of animation, reviewing some of the earliest examples of sequential art---cave paintings, vases, and tapestry that had stories to tell.  From there we worked our way forward through Magic Lantern shows, the kinetoscope, flipbooks, and the eventual birth of 2d animation as we know it today. We discussed the importance of telling stories, and touched on some examples of Jamaican folklore, such as Anansi stories.

In the second class, we began making our own flipbooks to explore timing and spacing to create convincing movement in animations.  After students brainstormed what their subject matter was going to be (a person, a ball, a car, etc.), as well as what action it was going to do, they began to cut and staple together their flipbook. We watched videos of many flipbooks examples, some simple, and some not so simple. While the students were busy assembling their flipbooks, I put on silent Felix the Cat cartoons from the 30s for them to watch as they worked.


What are the odds? I contacted one of the few animation organizations in Jamaica (that can found on the internet, at least), KingsTOOn, to see if we could bring in a guest speaker for a class, and got even better Animation Conference coming up this March! We were invited to come and now I am trying to organize for the classes to go--cross your fingers!


"KingstOOn 2016 is being launched as a 2-day Animation Conference, Marketplace and Film Festival as a part of the continued effort to catalyze the growth of the animation industry in Jamaica, and to continue attracting the attention of international clients."


I have good feelings about 2016.