I posted this photo on International Day of the Girl 2018: a flashback to 25 years ago, of me at a girls’ school in Bangkok, hopefully inspiring and encouraging my beloved students to be anything they wanted to be... but really learning so much more from them.
I lived and worked in the school for two and a half years, teaching Art to phrathom 5-6 for six months, and then English to mathayom 1 (i.e., 11-year olds) for the rest of the time. In addition to the host of things that children can teach us about being human, the girls taught me to speak playground Thai. We laughed so much.
Although we did all sorts of thing in the art classes, this photo was taken when I was doing animation. The first class, which is pictured here, was making a picture appear to move by having two images positioned one laid over the other, and then curling the top one around a transverse pencil. By rapidly moving the pencil up and down you can reveal/hide the bottom image with the top one. That’s a repeating two-frame animation running at about 4 frames per second. The next stage up was to make 16-page flick-books. That’s a 16-frame animation running at about 10 frames per second. And finally I repurposed a big old fan and built a zoeotrope. That allowed the children to create repeating 12-frame animations at around 24 frames per second (i.e., movie rates). The kids did some great work and maybe to this day appreciate the mechanics of animation better than the children who weren’t in my classes :-)
I love this photo because it’s captured that not only did the children make animations, but that — of course — they loved showing their work to each other. The girl at the front of the group here is kneeling down, holding down the bottom image for me because it was starting to curl up too — so these are probably her drawings that we’re all looking at. There were up to 38 children in each class, so the children in this photo are just those who have animations to show or test, while others are back at their desks, drawing. The girl on the right is just about to go back to do more work on hers but is watching the animation anyway, and the others are clearly amused by whatever it is the animation is doing (most — but by no means all — were of silly faces). I learned early on that a huge part of getting children enthusiastic about art is for them to discover the joy of seeing their work hold their peers’ attention, and by that measure these animation classes were amongst the most successful I ran.
I repeated these lessons with four different classes, I think. One detail I remember about the zoeotrope is that I didn’t tell the children to look through the slots; I would just spin it round, and when they all looked inside, disappointingly they saw nothing but a blur. But sooner or later one child would look through the slots and suddenly notice what was going on. Then she would excitedly tell the others how to look at it in this new and magic way. It was such fun to help the children make and share discoveries like these.