Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 8

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

Bryan and I have been in somewhat sporadic contact since the fall when I received an email out of the blue, asking me if I would consider being his “virtual mentor.” Bryan is a senior in Kansas and his senior project was around claymation. I guess I never asked where he got my name. I just assumed it was from some folks in the National Writing Project or maybe it was through some various online activities around stop-motion animation that I have done.

Bryan wrote:

“Seniors are required to research a topic and complete a 2500 word essay. Also, we must have a demonstration of knowledge. This project will be time consuming and will take most of the school year to complete. I have decided to study claymation and filming a claymation movie. I was informed that you may be familiar with this topic and wanted to know if you would be my outside mentor. This may sound like a big responsibility, but it really is very simple. I would email you about twice a semester with any questions I may have on this topic and it would be fine if you didn’t know all the answers. I just need an outside source who knows something about my topic.”

I was flattered and I loved the idea of trying to help someone get deep into claymation movie making, even if it was from afar. Bryan is a thoughtful student, it seems to me, and quite interested in exploration. I like that Bryan and his class have to find a virtual mentor to help them delve deeper into a topic of interest. This seems to me to be yet another way to tap into the strength of connections through the Web World.

Every few weeks, I would get an email from Bryan, asking questions and advice on:

  • the type of webcam to get;
  • the editing program I use;
  • how important the lighting is to the final movie;
  • what kind of clay to use;
  • the process of creating a movie;
  • where to share it.

I did my best to guide him , although it is clear now that he had plenty of ideas of his own and that his investigation into claymation was really a love of his this year. I tried to share with him some different stop-motion animation sites and movies that I found that seemed to be good examples of how clay can be used for creative expression.

A few weeks ago, Bryan informed me that he had finished his final project — a collection of short movies that he had made throughout the year. Now, we struggled with how to get the movie to me. My online storage site did not allow movies that big to be uploaded by a guest. I suggested a few video sharing sites, but I urged him to get permission from his parents first (and to check in with his teachers).

Finally, the email arrived, and he gave me the link to his claymation collection on YouTube. Oh. I love it. I think it is fantastic and since this is the first time I have seen Bryan’s work – after all those emails — I feel proud to have been able to give him some tidbits here and there, if it helped him. Maybe he just needed a sounding board from time to time. Whatever.

Here is Bryan’s Claymation Movie Collection:
I have now turned the tables on Bryan, asking him to become a mentor to my sixth graders as they begin filming their claymation movies around climate change. I have asked Bryan to write up some advice for my students, using his experience for reflection. Will he do it? I hope so, but I know that graduation and other things are now consuming his time.Good luck, Bryan. It was great to be your mentor this year!Peace (in movies),

  1. You know I was expecting something weird was going to happen after your first few sentences, maybe that the silence was going to prove something bad was going to happen, but NO, something great. The work was so smooth, so professional. It would be great o read a reflection about this process, that’s the way I always think these days.
    Probably will be great to show to your kids.

  2. I like some of the moments of humor. He also did a good job of making the animation move very smoothly (I’m used to K-5 student work) and some of it like the bird flapping wings and the guy juggling seem really difficult to do. Good work to you both.

  3. Dear Bryan and Kevin,

    Your partnership has proven to be a fantastic way for a wonderful visual result! Great, Bryan. Your claymation shows how hard you worked. It would be great to hear the stages to make it, the behind the scenes, so others could profit from your own journey.

    kevin, thanks for sharing with us your inspiring mentorship!

  4. Thank you for all of the responses. I feel as I did little but offer encouragement and some resources. Bryan did all of the work and infused it with his creative spirit.

  5. Kevin-mentoring isn’t always about doing something concrete for the mentee… it’s about being available and offering encouragement among other things. Seems you did both very well. Proof is in the pudding… I mean clay. Loved the shorts. Your “virtual mentoring” experience could be a very interesting concept for a future professional article.

  6. Nice work Bryan and Kevin. A great example of what social networking affords and the value of using the Internet to support individual learning. Bryan’s teacher had a brilliant idea and it worked well for this student. I’m sure Bryan will return the favor. How could he not?

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  8. Hey, this is cool! I love the idea of having him work virtually with your students. That will really strengthen his own skills and how excellent for your students to have an older kid mentoring them this way. As always, Kevin, you impress me with your teacher-mind!

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