Case study: The animation expert bringing stop-motion lessons to schools worldwide

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Originally from Lincolnshire, Helen ‘Animate’ Piercy has quickly established a name for herself in schools across the globe as a leading practitioner of stop-motion animation. With a background in media design, illustration and animation, Helen is often found travelling between schools, museums and theatres to teach students about animation and how it can be used across the curriculum. Last week, bee-it spoke with Helen to find out more…

Helen begins:

“After several years working in web based design – and with a background in animation – I spotted an advert looking for people to teach animation workshops at a school in Hackney, East London. I applied and, in conjunction with a youth media company, we began to develop lesson plans, analyse software packages and deliver animation classes to the students.”

With the workshops proving to be a success, Helen soon decided to set up her own business teaching animation to school children worldwide. She recalls:

“Armed with six laptops and webcams, and having analysed a number of animation tools, I contacted Zu3D about licences, as I felt it was the perfect platform to teach children.”

Zu3D is a stop-motion animation package designed specifically for use in schools. The software is designed to be straightforward to use, requiring little to no previous animation experience, without compromising on features. Using Zu3D, students can create short animations that incorporate music, subtitles, green-screen effects and more.

Zu3D case study Helen Piercy workshopHelen Piercy visits schools, museums and theatres to teach students about
animation and to demonstrate how it can be applied across the curriculum


Elaborating on why she chose Zu3D to support her animation workshops, Helen comments:

“Zu3D is just great. It looks lovely, is intuitive, pictorial, easy to understand, and full of features. I deliver workshops that are either 45 minutes long or all day events, and I needed a platform that would work for both. Zu3D can be placed in front of students and with just a little information, they understand it, enabling us to focus on storytelling, character building, set design and so forth, rather than just how to use the technology.”

Animation is rapidly becoming more commonly used in schools, owing to its ability to help students develop their artistic and creative skills and its wide range of applications across the curriculum. Helen recalls how, during her all day events and in her previous role working with schools, she has witnessed how animation can be used to teach core skills in music, art, English, design and technology, history and more.

Explaining her approach to the animation workshops and what they usually entail, Helen explains:

“When I go into a school, I take a range of worksheets that I have created specifically to help students understand the principles behind animation and storytelling. With these worksheets, students begin to think about their characters, how they will appear, what their personalities are, and how they would interact with other characters, for instance. The children then begin to create their characters, design backgrounds and plan their story, before moving on to animating the piece and uploading the final video to the Zu3D gallery.”

The Zu3D gallery is a safe online space where students can share films with other students, providing inspiration on how to approach a variety of topics through animation. Moderated by the Zu3D team, the gallery is available to all Zu3D users to showcase their work, get ideas for new films, and learn different techniques through with tutorials.

For schools that would like to explore how animation can be used for cross-curricular teaching, Zu3D is available on a 30 day free trial here. In addition, Helen’s worksheets can be downloaded for free to help kick-start stop-motion animation lessons here!

Helen Piercy is the author of Animation Studio, a book which aims to help children get into animation. Featuring tips and tricks, cut-outs characters, backgrounds and props, Animation Studio is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to animation.

Zu3D will be exhibiting on Stand C159 at Bett 2015, which takes place from 21 to 24 January at ExCeL London.

To see more upcoming education technology events, visit the bee-it events calendar here!