Project-Based Learning for Animation Lovers

Project-Based Learning for Animation Lovers

Project-based learning is hard. Often times, we fall in love with the research and stories of PBL but find it incredibly hard to effectively implement in our student’s life. This is especially true if our students are interested in something less traditionally academic like animation.

You may wonder if it’s even possible to tie an interest in animation to “school” work. But from our experience working with high school students at Sora Schools, anything’s possible! So, let’s jump into scaffolding learning and thinking of project ideas for animation-loving students.

Quick Background

PBL is effective because it follows the “Principle of Directness” which states, in the paraphrased words of author of Ultralearning Scott Young, always try to learn in a situation that mirrors the ultimate use case of the skill. Or, in more human words, do the thing to learn the thing. This is because research shows humans are quite bad at transferring what we learn. That means, if you want to learn a language, speak the language. Or, if you’re interested in learning animation, then start animating!

The first step to making your student care about “schoolwork” is showing why it’s relevant to their lives. You don’t like wasting your time and neither does your student. That means, your number one priority is tying every lesson back into how it could help them later. With that knowledge, we’re ready to start!

Identify future careers

If your student is interested in animation, then they’re fortunate in that careers in animation have exploded in growth in the last decade. More and more movies use complex animation in their production. As video games have become more and more complex, the tools and skillset required to produce them have also risen in demand. We’ve seen a proliferation of tools and softwares for both amateur and professional animators. It’s even possible to make a living off being a hobbyist animator nowadays.

In the future, your student could ascend to multiple types of roles. They could become an art director, a key player on an animation team that’s working on a project with heavy visual elements. Initially, they might start off as someone like a storyboard artist, who help map out the story of a piece of media with conceptual artwork. They could become a stop motion animator—incredibly painstaking work, but with worthy payoff. More on the software side, they could go into 3D modeling, compositing, or even a mathematical modeler (they use complex algorithms and advanced software to generate models for things like video games and movies with heavy animation).

Of course, if your student is focused on a different career and doesn’t necessarily want to animate all day, you can still use the upcoming strategies to create your own project ideas!

Projects for Young Animators

On average, projects about cars will skew towards math and science in terms of the subject areas covered. But they can still be enriching experiences that may get your student really excited about cars or help them figure out that going into the automotive industry in the future isn’t something they want to do. Either way, your student will be better off for it.

Project Ideas and Points of Inquiry for Young Animators

  1. Learn animation software with beginning projects. Software like Adobe Animate and Toon Boom Harmony are the most common tools used in the animation industry. Animate is pretty straight forward to learn—there are plenty of tutorials online that will teach you how to use it and more than enough beginner-level projects to try. It’s best for basic 2D animation for places like websites and videos. However, if your student is interested in making an animation with actual narrative and richer content, then Toon Boom is probably the way to go. It’s harder to learn, but has more advanced features. The point of this project is just to learn the tools, which can either spark interest in your student or turn them off. Either way, it’ll be helpful to them!
  2. Make a video with basic animation in it. Perhaps your student isn’t into animation specifically or is otherwise intimidated by it. Well, a fun way to break into animation is through video production. With just their phone, almost anyone can make a decent video nowadays. Using software like Adobe AfterEffects, they can animate elements within a video and create their own cool sketches. Once they’re done, your student can upload their videos onto YouTube and even try to build a following! This work is a LOT of trial and error, but the best way to get better is to start small, make one video with some basic animated effects, and continue improving. Use free resources like Khan Academy’s Pixar in a Box, which teaches kids about how Pixar movies are created.
  3. Make a stop motion video. Stop motion is very detail-heavy and can turn off a lot of people. But if your student is like any artist, they’ll really enjoy the payoff of a successful stop motion video production. The most basic version of this type of video is to simply take a LOT of pictures—frames of a video, basically—and create a story with them. They can use real people, small action figures, or anything they can think of. It’s up to their creativity! Like with most things in animation, there are plenty of stop motion videos and tutorials available for free on the Internet. They can use software like Stop Motion Studio, or just basic video editing software like iMovie.
  4. Practice 3D animation with Minecraft. Many kids already love Minecraft. So, they can learn how to do 3D animation with Minecraft-themed software: Mime-Imator. Here, they don’t have to worry about lighting, rigging, or the real world aspects of making an animation. They can get started right away with assets from Minecraft!


When approaching academics using project-based learning, it’s best to give your student choice. As we know from self-determination theory, intrinsic motivation doesn’t occur unless choice is present. So, send this list to your student, support whichever choice they make, and try to fan the fire of their new interest!

If you’re interested in learning more about our online, project-based high school, please check our website and reach out to our team to learn more about how Sora can work for your student!

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