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Grand Valley student organization connects young students to animation profession through community project

  • Grand Valley's Animator's Guild collaborated with North Park Montessori Academy students to create animated videos for Kent County Friend of the Court.
  • Grand Valley's Animator's Guild collaborated with North Park Montessori Academy students to create animated videos for Kent County Friend of the Court.
  • Professors Suzanne Zack and Julie Goldstein assisting students from North Park Montessori Academy with their animated video.
  • Students from North Park Montessori Academy working on their animated video.
  • Students from North Park Montessori Academy working on their animated video.
  • Alex Faber and Julie Goldstein assisting North Park Montessori Academy students with their animation project.

Posted on October 09, 2017

Grand Valley students and faculty members are spreading the wonders of animation to local middle school students while solving the needs of local community partners.

Members of Animator’s Guild, a student organization at Grand Valley, mentored 20 seventh- and eighth-grade students from North Park Montessori Academy in Grand Rapids as they created multiple stop-motion animation videos for Kent County Friend of the Court. The animations, which can be viewed on the Kent County Friend of the Court website, will help educate the community about the organization and its services.

Over the course of the project, students collaborated in small groups to create visual assets, and record sound effects and narration for the animated videos.

Alex Faber, a senior majoring in film and video production who serves as the president of Animator’s Guild, said one of the goals of the group is to create a sense of community among animation enthusiasts.

“Projects like this unite Grand Valley students to give back to the community, and also provide an experience for younger students that they might not normally get in grade school,” Faber said. “We want these students to know that anyone can be an animator."

Abby Ettinger, an eighth-grade student, said that she most enjoyed participating in a workshop at the Community Media Center in Grand Rapids.

“I liked moving the pieces around and seeing all of our progress; it was really satisfying,” she said. “The Grand Valley students are awesome. They’ve been so helpful and we couldn’t do this without them.”

The project additionally called upon the talents of students from Grand Valley’s Writing Department who crafted eight scripts for the animations.

This project is not the first outreach effort by Animator’s Guild since the group was established in 2016. Faber led 15 sixth-grade students at North Park Montessori Academy through a demonstration of the history of animation, and other guild members worked one-on-one with students to teach them pre-1900 animation techniques by creating flip books.

“At the middle school age, these students are still tapped into their imagination,” said Julie Goldstein, assistant professor of film and video and faculty advisor of Animator’s Guild. “They’re connected to their sense of play, but their motor skills have developed to the point where they can now begin to construct things. Instead of feeling like animation is always presented to them, they now actually understand how it’s constructed.”

Goldstein said that piquing interest in animation in students early in their educational journeys can ultimately lead to future successes because societies around the world are becoming more animated.

“We’ve become a culture that communicates visually and everything that we’re seeing outside of things that are maybe shot in live-action is constructed animation,” she explained. “We’re seeing animated logos, banners, infographics and GIFs, communicating with emojis and playing games where we embody avatars, so we’ve been coupling with animation as digital technology has evolved. Our identities are intertwined with animation.”

The Animator’s Guild and North Park Montessori Academy connection was established by Suzanne Zack, affiliate professor of film and video, via Grand Valley’s Animation Outreach program.

Since the program was established in the 1980s, Animation Outreach has enlisted Grand Valley students and faculty to engage in a variety of projects for professional clients and community showcases around the world.

Zack joined Animation Outreach efforts in 2013 and promptly introduced the group to teachers at North Park Montessori Academy. Since then, Animation Outreach has facilitated multiple workshops for elementary and middle school students.

"For middle school students, the opportunity to engage in meaningful work helps define who they are and how they fit into the larger community, which is a crucial developmental step," said Zack. "It helps them realize that they are capable of making contributions that are relevant and can have influence, which cultivates a sense of purpose to their education and their lives."