Animation Brings Lessons to Life
about 25 fifth grade students in Virginia peered closely at pulsing computer screens as
atoms became animated with bulbous
electrons and neutrons swirled around
them. They didn’t know it, but a software program was helping them more
clearly understand the periodic table
The fifth graders in the Williamsburg-James City County Public
Schools were using Serif’s DrawPlus,
a vector drawing software solution
with powerful and intuitive graphic
tools, as part of their science lesson.
The project made the elements burst
to life for the students.
Teachers in the district quickly
realized that kids were engaged and
learned more when using computer
animation and other graphics to
supplement their lessons. Once the
teachers saw the students’ reaction—
their smiles, their excited chatter, their
fingers pointing at computer monitors—they were hooked. The students’
projects impressed their parents, and
the kids were proud of their work.
This fifth grade project is just one
of several in the district using computer animation to invigorate existing
lessons and deepen students’ understanding of core subjects.
Another has lower-elementary
teachers begin by showing students
a drawing from a professional artist.
They then show how the image can
be broken down into its basic shapes.
Next, they have the students put the
shapes back together. Teachers then
give students a picture of an animal
and show them how to create the animal’s face using shapes. Using graphics software, students begin to see how
they can create their own dogs or cats.
Alejandro Nava, a fifth
grade English language
learner from Bolivia
created this animation.
Nava was one of
several English language learners who
used the computer lab
to practice English. His
animations were so
good, they were used
on the school website.
All 13 schools in the district are using computer animation and graphics
software across multiple disciplines,
• All fourth grade classes created
animated images of the amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Even though teachers say the
amendments are often a hard
concept for fourth graders to
grasp, the project enabled them
to bring to life particular amendments.
• Seventh and eighth grade Spanish
students who had trouble with
verbs used the program to set in
motion words including dance,
surf, skate, and sing. The visual effects helped the students not just to
translate, but to truly understand
the meanings of the Spanish words.
• A high school chemistry class used
software to animate compounds,
bringing to life the chemical equations and concepts behind reactions. As part of an illustration
of laughing gas, one student sent
the words nitrous oxide bouncing
around the computer screen and
set the words ha, ha to pop up
against a blue background.
Educators at the Williamsburg-
James City County schools have found
computer animation helps drive home
concepts that once fell flat because
they were too abstract or lackluster.
Bridging art and technology education, and other core subject areas,
lends itself to both collaborative and
individual projects. Animation and
graphics are ideal mediums not only
to express surreal action, explore
fantasy, and make imaginative links,
but also to elucidate concepts and
processes. The Virginia students are
thinking more deeply about their
subjects because lessons have become
more interactive and, consequently,
more meaningful to them.
British Film Institute, children’s section: www.
Serif DrawPlus: www.serif.com/education/
“Wallace and Gromit,” Aardman Animations:
Williamsburg-James City County students’
graphics and animation projects: www.wjcc.
—Robb Ponton is an instructional technology
resource teacher for Williamsburg-James City
County Public Schools in Virginia. He previously
taught in Los Angeles and many foreign locations, including Tonga, Saipan, and Liberia.
By Robb Ponton