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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Lego stop-motion animation class offers way to expand fun with popular toy

Dylan Nusbaum moved quickly setting up Lego props as he heard ideas flow from his daughter Claire, 8, to film a movie with a castle scene.

The pair then took a blast of quick photos using an iPad as they slowly moved tiny characters around the set to create stop-motion animation. Claire only stopped her motion long enough to search for a mermaid minifigure.

“It’s cool to see a little movie come together in just a matter of minutes,” Nusbaum said as he and his daughter refined the castle set with a forest backdrop during a Thursday class at Otis Orchards Library.

“My daughter is very imaginative,” he said. “She creates little worlds in her room. She came up with all of this.”

Most homes with kids have stashes of Lego toys. Spokane County Library District also has multiple bins of them, so instructors found another way for children to get creative with the interlocking blocks and Lego minifigures.

The Spokane County Library District offers Lego Stop-Motion Animation for children ages 8-12 to learn how to use a free animation app on smart devices to film stories with Lego characters moving, jumping and talking to each other.

After a three-year hiatus, the class drew 10 children for Thursday’s session. Other Lego animation classes are scheduled during April in Airway Heights and Medical Lake.

“It’s a gateway to where children can use their STEM progress and implement that into real-world tasks, so we’re seeing a lot of that with development of film production,” said Jeremy Mullin, a SCLD technology instruction specialist who teaches the class. “We use numbers, we use collaboration.”

At the class, children worked in pairs at tables or with an adult. Lexi Canale, 9, decided to create a picnic scene with the help of her grandmother, Davina Achen.

“It basically lets you show any kind of creativity,” Lexi said.

Mullin talked to the group about using storyboards to create ideas for their short films and walked them through how to use the software.

Gwendolyn Haley, an SCLD public services manager, said instructors realized the popular toy could be an easy way to introduce kids to the concepts and mechanics of filming and stop motion, and then many students keep the hobby going at home after they leave.

Students use the library’s iPads and a free application called Stop Motion Studio, which they can later download to any smart device.

Haley said she heard from parents who said their son enjoyed class so much that he spent summer hours creating storyboards and making more Lego movies.

“It really sparked his creativity,” she said. “You can use Legos to build sets, and the minifigures are your stars.”

Another plus to the class is that it links the creative side of storytelling with the analytical skills for the technical filming aspects, Haley said. Learning more about how to tell a story with a plot, conflict and other elements are essential literacy skills, while tapping technology skills.

To create the animation, children need to plan out the sequences, do problem-solving and critical thinking and break down multiple steps.

“And at the end of the program, everybody’s got a little video that they’ve created and they have a chance to watch everybody’s film, which is fun,” Haley said. “If you create a movie, you want everybody to see it.

“We put it on our bigger screen in the meeting room, so everyone can watch it together and they can celebrate what they’ve done. Then, they all get to take it with them either on a thumb drive or we share it as a file digitally that they can take and work on it a little more if they choose.”

Each film is short, perhaps a few seconds long.

The stop-motion classes are always popular.

“We provide everything they need,” Haley said. “We do the class in our meeting rooms so it’s one big space they can work in, and it’s a tabletop project.

“It’s a big hit. Kids like having an idea, bringing it to fruition and then being able to watch it. There is something very satisfying about that, when you’ve done something you can share and sit back and watch your own movie.”

SCLD’s next Lego stop-motion animation classes include ones at 4-6 p.m. April 13 at Airway Heights Library and 3-5 p.m. April 22 at Medical Lake Library.

Space is limited and registration required at libraries or Several other classes for children are lined up for spring break during the first week in April.