Experience Teaching Stickman to 3rd and 4th Graders

My 3rd grade son is in an honors type program at his school in which
he is pulled out of his normal class once a week for 3 hours and
tossed in with other 3rd and 4th graders who excel in Math and Science
skills. The class is designed to offer them additional challenges by
doing a variety of critical thinking type of projects and experiments,
and in general learn "out of the box".

I had been showing Stickman to the teacher of this class recently, and
so when she found that she needed to miss this week, she asked me to
fill in for her, and asked if I would be willing to teach the 27
students about animation and how to use Stickman. I accepted, and
started preparing for the last 3 weeks. My son helped out by being my
test student as I started planning out how the class would go, and he
was very excited to have his Dad teaching the class, so that put on
some pressure.

My normal like is as Director of Engineering for a computer security
company. As a developer and manager of other developers in a very
complex field, the technical aspects were not a problem. Being in
front of 27 3rd and 4th graders on the other had... yikes.

In preparation I had copied all the demo videos from the site, had
downloaded all the online documentation to a local directory, and had
gone thru them all very carefully. I had created a number of
additional short projects of my own to be ready to show them.

So the day arrived. I arrived early and made sure all the computers
were up and running with Stickman ready to go. I waited anxiously for
the kids to arrive. Then they came. To my great fortune, these are a
great group of well behaved private school students, so keeping them
focused turned out to be fairly easy.
I launched into a brief introduction of myself, then asked who knew
what animation was...many hands raised, and then I explained some
basic concepts such as frames/cells and time slices, then I showed
them the sample videos and projects I had brought. House-by-road2.wmv
got some giggles, sticky.wmv got quite a few as well when the old man
started talking about how great stickman was.
Then I skipped around pianospilling.wmv to get to the middle where the
other characters show up, specially midway in where the Hedgehog
character shows up doing his dance, then splits apart and so on.
I then jumped into stickman and started teaching them about the
control points and the matrix tool, and quickly created a little
sequence of having a stickman doing a little dance. Now the kids were
eager to get going, so I had them all turn on their computer screens,
and to a 10 frame sequence with a figure of their choice.
They all did so VERY fast, and I could quickly tell I hadnt prepared
enough. I had not expected them to be 20 minutes into the class and be
totally comfortable with these concepts, and with using Stickman. What
a testament to this great app.
I had them shut off the monitors again (this is the technique the
teacher told me to use in order to have them focus on the big
projected screen I was in control of) and I showed them how to add
backgrounds, and additional figures and how to keep multiple figures
in sync, such as dribbling a basketball and moving the arm in time
with the ball bounce. I also showed them how to adjust the slices
between frames to speed up and slow down the action. I told them to
create a sequence that would last for at least 250 slices. They turned
back on their monitors and started work. I walked around the room
helping kids as they asked for it, and would wander around asking the
kids to play their movie for me.
Some kids did struggle, but mostly they had a blast. A fair number of
the kids, maybe 8 or 9 did some really cool stuff. They managed to
sync up a number of figures to create a story in the action.

The biggest problem I had was when kids would adjust the slices
between frames, and then start creating new frames, which would
inherit the time slice gap. So they would go half way in, at a normal
pace, then the gaps would somehow be in the 100-150 range and the
resulting movie was half in slow motion. Manually correcting this key
by key was a mess. I have already posted the question about how to do
this. If I had a way to uniformly correct a situation like this, we
could have accomplished even more in the class.

The end result was a very fun time. The kids had fun, there was
laughter around the room the whole time, and kids were showing off
their work to their peers and then working harder on their own stuff,
learning from what tricks the other kids were doing. It was great to
see them learn, and create from their own mind with such an easy tool.
By the end of the class we had 6 or 7 kids ask how they could get
Stickman on their computers at home. So I quickly wrote up a note to
the parents explaining what we taught in class, and gave them the URL
to cutoutpro explaining that they could download a copy that would
work for free for 15 days, after which time it would cost only $15.I
ran off copies of this and gave it to each of the students as they
left class. I would be curious how many kids and parents from the
class end up downloading and purchasing it, but in any case it was a
HUGE hit with the kids.

The regular computer teacher at the school is now talking about
letting the after hours students (kids that stay till their parents
get off work) come to the computer lab and learn how to use stickman,
so they can have fun creating something while they wait at the school
for a couple hours each day. Pretty exciting stuff.... Thank you Sven!

Dan, California (USA).
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