Animation Apprenticeship

Students are introduced to the art and technology of animation as they explore the Animation exhibit. Students design, engineer, and create their own animations while learning how the art form developed over time and how it works. They record their findings about the animation processes that interest them most so they can continue studying the subject back at school.

Lesson extensions for before or after your visit

The following activities are designed for your class to enjoy before or after your museum visit. Familiarizing students with the lesson concepts can enrich their museum experience.

Ask essential questions before and after your visit

  • What steps are involved in creating animation?
  • What math and science concepts are important to animation?
  • What forms of technology are used in animation?
  • How can I become an animator and what types of careers exist?

Change over time

See how animation has changed over time. Have your students view the following YouTube videos and then use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast their observations.

Math connection

Look at the ratios that emerge with 24-frames-per-second in film. If there are 24 frames per second, then there are 12 frames in a half second, eight frames in a third of a second, and so forth. Extend this discussion by reviewing how many pictures are needed for one minute of animation. Have students calculate how many pictures each of the videos listed above required.

Literature connection

Author Mark Twain was born about a year after the zoetrope—a device that produces the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of static pictures—was invented. Read aloud excerpts from one of Twain’s stories, such as "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," or novels, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Discuss what people did for entertainment before the invention of movies.


1. Ask students if they have a favorite animated cartoon. Explain that animators create a script for a cartoon with pictures called a storyboard. After developing a draft storyboard, animators pitch the story to the director. Using the board, animators act out the story with silly voices and simple sound effects.

2. Break students into groups and challenge them to use characters from a legend or fairy tale such as Paul Bunyan, the Three Little Pigs, or Goldilocks and the Three Bears, to create a storyboard that tells a new story. For example, the pigs could go to the grocery store to buy milk. Have students include drawings of what the revised characters would look like. Once a new story is developed, ask students to decide which parts of the story are most important. Have each student draw at least three key moments in the new story.

3. Once all the drawings are completed, each group should display their images in the proper order on a classroom or hallway wall. Each group should discuss their story and make any necessary changes. For example, some scenes may change order, some scenes might need to be edited out, and new scenes may need to be added.

4. Once storyboards are completed, ask each group to choose members to voice each of the characters and present the new tale to the class.

Film scores

Most movies and TV shows use music to elicit a specific emotion from the viewer. The music that plays when Darth Vader appears in the Star Wars movies helps the viewer understand he is a bad guy. Viewers would feel differently if he entered to a jovial tune. Play different pieces of music and have students describe how the music makes them feel.

Some examples of music that evoke an emotional response:

  • “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana by Orff, and “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt by Grieg feel suspenseful.
  • “Morning” from Peer Gynt by Grieg feels light and happy.
  • “Entry of the Gladiators” by Julius Fucik, the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah by Handel, and Sabre Dance by Khachaturian feel exciting.

Show students a clip from a popular movie with famous music. Play the video again with the sound off, and then play it again with different music. Ask students how the lack of music or different music changed how they felt about the scenes.

Sound effects

Have students make sound effects with various household objects. Use tinfoil or wax paper to make a crackling fire, coconuts to make horse hoof sounds, and so forth.