It’s funny how culture and ritual can define a place. In my studio, I have always had an old phonograph player. Children know, in their free time, if they choose, they can make a whirly plate. For 13 years, it has become a daily act, again and again. Sometimes children add a string or streamers to the plate. Sometimes they glue jewels. For some reason, it is very important. For some reason, it is an obsession for some kids. For some reason, it never grows old.
Last week, Mark, a Kindergartener was waiting his turn. Instead of crowding around the machine, he began to draw bears in a circle, directly onto the plate. When the machine opened up, he casually said, ” I’m going to add lines now to my drawing.” He placed the plate on the machine and carefully let his hand go gently up and down creating waves. He came and showed me.
“It’s like a movie!” I exclaimed, you should show your friends. Through play, Mark had discovered how to animate his drawing.(Clip takes a minute to load) markwhirl
The next day, Charlotte, a Kindergarten student from a different class was waiting for the whirly plate machine. “Hey, Charlotte. Yesterday, Mark from room 9, drew bears in a circle, and then he placed it on the machine and added lines, and it made it look like a movie. If you want, you could try while you are waiting too.”
Charlotte drew all types of Halloween characters holding hands. She added the word “Boo” several times in the circle as well. For her, the results were enchanting. I ran and got Mark to show him how his idea inspired Charlotte to make a different movie. A small group gathered round to view this 2nd animation. (Clip takes a minute to load) New Project CC
Today, Casey gave it a try, inspired by the images on my computer of Mark and Charlotte’s animation. “First it’s people. When it’s fast, it’s a snake.” I showed him how to control the settings on the machine. As he went from slow to faster he exclaimed, “They’re going down the stairs now.”New Project 1
Will, on the other hand, created an almost wheel like structure out of 2 plates and put it on his finger. When it kept falling off, I gave him a dowel to experiment with. He found many ways of creating movement and sound with the dowel and plates. “Hey, are you ready to film mine?” (Clip takes a minute to load) willplatesmall
This happened in between painting and building dream houses, talking about color, and taking care of brushes after using acrylic paint. In free time, in choices, in play, in rich studio environments is the space for a 5 year old to invent and discover animation. And if an adult is watching, therein lays the opportunity for such a discovery to grow so that it touches another child. And when the next child takes the idea and adds their experimentation? This is creativity at it’s best. An act of curiosity, that becomes a theory, that becomes a shared value. This is Constuctivist Theory in action. And to think I was wondering if the childrens addiction to making whirly plates was healthy!