May St. students learn animation

‘Big Changes in our Schoolyard’

Doug Buckalew and Tyler McCrea, fifth-graders at May Street Elementary School, sat at a table last week with a lunchbox. Rather than food, however, this lunchbox contained a powerful computer that the students became adept at working after only a few minutes.

The lunchbox — officially called a LunchBox Sync — is a computer used for animation, and a group of 24 May Street fifth-graders have learned to use it over the past month as part of a special project that will culminate in an animated film created by the students.

The project is the conclusion of the year-long “schoolyard habitat” project spearheaded by artist Shelley Hight at May Street. The schoolyard habitat project has resulted in an outdoor biosphere that the students created and will maintain. It serves as a sort of outdoor “living” classroom at the school.

Kateri Osborne-Lohr, a technology specialist and former teacher, obtained a grant to finish off the schoolyard habitat project with an outreach effort that would show others how to create their own schoolyard habitats. The grant brought professional filmmaker Sharon Niemczyk of the Northwest Film Center in Portland to the school to help the students create their own animated film of the schoolyard habitat.

Called “Big Changes in Our School Yard,” the film will show the creation and maintenance of the habitat — all in an animated film lasting about eight minutes.

Last week, armed with a story board and sketches created by Osborne-Lohr, Hight and Niemczyk, students paired up to work on their assigned scenes with the filmmaker.

Niemczyk showed the students how to operate the lunchbox, and how moving the construction paper cutouts of people, birds and other items in their scene in small increments — and then capturing each small change with a computer snapshot — creates animation.

“This is exactly the process a professional animator would use,” Niemczyk said, as Buckalew and McCrea created a scene with a hummingbird flying to a feeder and drinking the liquid.

The students agreed that working as film animators was fun, but challenging.

“The hardest part is not moving (the paper) way too fast,” Buckalew said. The students finished up the “filming” last week. A rough cut of the film with no sound will be ready for them to view before school lets out next week. Over the summer, local musician Jon Cyparski will add music to the film — including the sounds of the Native American flute. Voices in the film include those of May Street Principal Dan Patton as himself, and retired environmental planner Jurgen Hess as Grandfather Tree — as well as several students.

Osborne-Lohr said the students will be invited back to the school in the fall for an open house and showing of the completed film. Each student will get a copy of the film, while additional copies will be sent to the Environmental Protection agency to satisfy a requirement of the schoolyard habitat grant. The film will also be available to other schools, and the Northwest Film Center plans to enter it in a contest for young filmmakers.

While creating the film has offered a unique learning opportunity for the students, Osborne-Lohr has continually stressed to them the point of making the film.

“The film’s message is to show off our habitat and encourage others to make one, too,” she said. She thinks the message got through to the young animators.

“They were not that jazzed about doing the artwork (for the scenes),” Osborne-Lohr said. “But when they actually put the artwork into animation, I think there was some ownership to it.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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