Students learn about the elements of the Periodic Table and create an animation to represent one of the elements.
Chemistry, animation, elements
Computer graphics can help drive home concepts that once fell flat because they were too abstract or lackluster. Lessons have more immediate meaning for students with moving illustrations and cartoons. Bridging art and technology education, as well as other subject areas, digital animation projects lend themselves to both collaborative and individual projects. Animation is an ideal medium not only to express surreal action, explore fantasy, and make imaginative links, but also to elucidate processes and concepts such as the meaning of Constitutional Amendments or the action of foreign language verbs. This unit will introduce middle- or high-school students to the main principals to be considered when planning simple animation and help them gain a deeper understanding of chemical elements and compounds.
Explain to students that at the end of this lesson, they are going to be asked to choose an element from the Periodic Table of Elements and create a computer animation representing that element.
Introduce students to the periodic table of elements and discuss the concept of chemical compounds. A fantastic site to really get kids excited about this topic is The Periodic Table of Videos. Assign, or have students choose, an element or compound and evaluate its chemical makeup or equation. Discuss the basic characteristics of elements and compounds. What do they do? What reactions do they have when mixed with other elements?
Play your demonstration animation several times (on a computer screen or projected onto a screen). Explain that in animation, action is an illusion in which still drawings appear to move. Examine your animation frame-by-frame and ask them to spot the changes from one frame to another, e.g., the main character moved his foot up or down, the color changed, or something was deleted. Ask students if they can guess what element or compound you have illustrated. Ask them what idea or concept they believe the animation is trying to communicate.
Ask students to consider how they might illustrate and animate the elements and compounds theyve chosen. This could be an in-class brainstorming session, a homework assignment, or both. A main character, such as a stick-figure drawing, animal or other image, would work best to tell a story in the animation.
For example, a basic animation of nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas due to the exhilarating effects of inhaling it, could show an animated figure of the compounds symbol, N20, and send the words nitrous oxide" bouncing around the computer screen followed by the words ha, ha" popping up against a solid or multicolored background.
Start a new animation and introduce pupils to the animation software with a brief overview of the interface, main menus, features, and tools. Demonstrate how to create a figure using a ready-made shape. (More advanced lessons might examine how to create an original shape.) Model how to duplicate a frame and alter it slightly from the previous frame. Show them how to insert words and alert colors and fonts. Keep up a running commentary as you create the new animation, introducing new language as you go. Show students how to save and preview their work. A simple project could work well with a total of 10 frames to demonstrate movement. Talk to students about how changes in the timing of different frames affects the appearance of the action.
Students’ grades should be based on their ability to understand and communicate the concepts of the lesson’s content; on whether they use correct terminology to discuss the subject matter; and on whether they have shown movement in their animation.
Robb Ponton, instructional technology integration resource teacher, Williamsburg-James (Virginia) City County Public Schools