Monday, 8 July 2013

Ash School, Zoetropes and my Dad's record players!

L-R: Making the zoetropes, a finished Beetle zoetrope ready for spinning and a butterfly sequential image.

Recently I had the pleasure of delivering a two day workshop at Ash School with the fantastic and talented pupils in year 5. Our objective was to make zoetropes based on the Cranes living on the Somerset Levels and their wonderful habitat. Zoetropes invented in the mid-19th century were a spinning drum with slots in the side, that when spun caused a sequential image inside to give the appearance of movement.

It was a wonderful couple of days - each pupil made their own zoetrope that they tested on a variety of record players I borrowed from my Dad. Dad went into the loft at home and dusted off a record player he had from 1965 (the cream one below) and I found two more in the garden shed from the 80's, on which I used to play my Duran Duran records at full volume!

Ash School pupils test their zoetropes out on the record players and film them themselves too!

The oldest record player had three speeds, 33, 45 and 78 and the pupils worked out that depending on the sequential image they had drawn (the detail and complexity had to be taken into account) - meant different speeds had to be used. A Crane flew better at 45, whereas a beetle scuttled more effectively at 78!

Ash School zoetropes in action!

As well as making their own cardboard zoetrope by hand - the pupils also filmed their zoetropes spinning on the record players using new camcorders. So we actually ended up using three forms of technology to bring the artworks to life - the zoetrope - the record players and a brand new camcorder bought this year! Great to see these different pieces of technology that all share the same 'family tree' being used by the pupils in the creation of such beautiful work!

Year 5 pupils with their zoetropes, spinning them on a pencil!

See the pupils work on show at Slimbridge as part of ‘The Company of Cranes Part 1’  until 5th August and then again at the Levels Basket Centre in Langport from 21st September until 5th October, where I will be showing ‘The Company of Cranes Part 2’.


  1. Well done - looks great!

  2. Oh! what fun for these children Melanie, and how fantastic for the Great Crane Project to gift these children with the interest, knowledge and enthusiasm for the survival of these lovely birds. Zoetropes, how fabulous and unique to show the children how to make them, see their artwork work, film it and have something to treasure to take home to their families, and spread the word!! The children I am sure will always remember this experience and think more about birds in general as well. How inventive to use your Dad's old record player, what fun use to put to some old technology and link it in with the modern equipment. Don't throw anything away, it may be useful yet is now my motto!!! What happy and proud children and what a team you all make. The school must be very pleased to be involved in helping the Great Crane Project. You have a smashing imagination and I look forward to seeing your exhibitions and hopefully the Cranes. Keep blogging
    Julie Emms