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Idea 21 Lights, Camera, Action! Using Stop Frame Animation to Model Geographical Processes

Lights, camera, action: Using stop frame animation to model geographical processes

This project idea was contributed by Katie Broadribb

The requirement to teach about geomorphological and tectonic processes is common to all GCSE specifications


River, coastal and glacial processes, and also plate tectonic movements, can be concepts that students may find difficult to grasp. Through using simple animation software, students can develop and deepen their understanding of geographical processes and engage in collaborative teamwork with their peers. Many simple animation software packages are very affordable and easy to use and are becoming a useful tool in other curriculum areas such as science and technology, which involve the teaching of processes. View our Quick Guide to Animation Packages for information on getting started with stop frame animation.

What follows is an example animation on the topic of constructive plate margins- this is the kind of thing your students are working towards creating.

Key Objectives

This lesson could be adapted for the study of any geographical process.

  • To understand geomorphological and tectonic processes
  • To be able to use stop frame animation to demonstrate such processes
  • To work collaboratively to achieve a common goal

Planning the Activity

  • It is suggested that this activity runs over two lessons. The first lesson should be used by students to storyboard an animation, and the second used to facilitate the recording of their animations
  • Resources permitting, students could add titles, music and further media in packages such as Windows Movie Maker in order to develop their animation further in a third lesson
  • Resources needed to run this activity for a whole class include:
    -5 laptops or PCs
    -5 camcorders or equivalent such as webcams
    -Site license for animation software.

Running the Activity

Lesson 1 – Storyboarding

1. The learning objectives will be shared with the class.

2. Encourage students to work in groups of 3 or 4. By working in ‘away’ groups as chosen by the teacher, students can be supported and challenged. Working in ‘home’ groups which students decide themselves can also support students learning and be more conducive to enabling this task to be extended and students to work beyond the classroom.

3. As students begin to develop their ideas and storyboard their animation encourage pupils to structure and begin to think about camera angle, background, props needed etc.

4. Encourage students to identify the key vocabulary needed to demonstrate their knowledge of processes.

5. As a review task encourage students to move around the classroom, viewing each other’s storyboards in order to share ideas with their peers.

Lesson 2 – Filming The Animation

1. It is useful to have the cameras/webcams set up before the lesson begins so that pupils have the maximum amount of time to record their animations.

2. Whole class demonstration of how to use the software which involves the use of the spacebar and delete buttons to record each frame and erase any mistakes. See the two example animations, one of which uses plasticine and the other mini wipe boards?

3. Before students begin their animations ask them to designate roles in their groups; to identify who will control taking the shots, who will move the props etc.

4. Facilitate the animation

Animation Packages – A Quick Guide

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