Archive for Animoto

Jul 19

The words “chemistry” and “polymers” strike fear into the hearts of high school students, so when the challenge presented itself to create an innovative week-long summer chemistry camp for elementary school children, Pam Yates and I had decided to “go hard or go home (to Atlee High School where we are science teachers)” to create the first pilot of it’s kind to see if very young children can understand a complex chemistry subject. Here are the overviewed activities of our camp:


A [poly (“many”) + mer (“parts”)] is any material made from repeating parts of a simple piece of matter. There is an award-winning video called “A World Without Polymers? by Yvonne Choo” explaining a world without polymers and plastics.

Students are given time to reflect in their journals what the world would be like without polymers and describe the two types of polymers, natural and synthetic (plastics) polymers.

Students created polymer structures out of paper clips – linear, branched, and cross-linked and from the paper-clip structures learned how there structures make plastic properties such as flexibility and strength.


DNA is a cross-linked polymer structure that is found in all living things. Students used soap, salt, and rubbing alcohol to extract DNA from strawberries they mashed in a plastic bag.

Dawn of Plastics

Rubber from trees was mass-produced at the height of World War II. Experimentation of plastic compounds created Silly Putty (from Silicon), synthetic dyes, and Post-it notes. Students brought in a ball as homework to compare their properties. We also created gel balls (“spit balls”) and bouncy balls from kits where you add water to dehydrated polymers.

Code-Cracking the Recycle Codes

As homework students had to locate the recycle codes on plastics at home and bring it in to pair-share the next day.

A good breakdown of what the 1 – 7 codes is “What Do Recycling Symbols on Plastics Mean? by the Daily Green.” We also discussed why our local recycling centers only accept certain codes (only 1 and 2). We talked about The Big Cleanup with Discovery Education featuring Philippe Cousteau, learning how plastic affects our waterways and how we can take action to protect our oceans.

Recycling Polystyrene Pellets (Styrofoam Packing Peanuts)

When Styrofoam is added to acetone (nail polish remover) it seems to disappear but becomes a melted type of plastic putty that you can mold into shapes that become hard plastic figures when dry.


Bioplastics remove the necessity of using petroleum (a non-renewable resource) in creating synthetic plastics. We used whipping cream to create a bioplastic, and cornstarch can create a bioplastic. Only ingredient of cornstarch… Corn! We also created bioslime and puffy stickers using a biopaint. We also created home-made gummy candies using a kit that extracted the main polymer compounds from guar gum and seaweed.

Spider Silk and Kevlar

The new Spiderman movie was released the same time as our camp, so we discussed how modern scientists were trying to create materials as strong as spider silk. We had an officer bring in 3 types of “bullet-resistant” (as opposed to “bullet-proof”) equipment to discuss how Kevlar (a synthetic polymer) helps protect law enforcement.


The use of journals after every activity/lab was essential for students to be able to incorporate what they have learned and be able to remember the objectives of the camp whenever they open their journals. Also Discovery Education media was essential in presenting all subjects in this camp.

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Jul 02

I have a young son who enjoys the great sport of football, and I am a high school teacher of Computer Science. The two facts are normally not related, so for the sake of time I am not going to explain how I was tasked to create a video about the K – 8th grade football and subsequent conditioning camp.

I have used Animoto since 2008. I had lost a great deal of my pictures when my computer crashed a few years ago, so it was a delight to see some of my pictures still archived (and recoverable) on Animoto several years later (Note: NOT a football video I became a diehard fan, and as long as they offer free educator copies ( I will continue to use this site as an example of why cloud-based applications are the coolest way to archive our valuable media files.

Given, Animoto is AWESOME in running your media to the music so you don’t have to. Animoto can also make a boring slide-based video look professional with it’s algorithms of effects, but no amount of video affects can replace better content. Several Animoto videos were created with lessons learned, so I will explain the iterations with pointers on making better content to your Animoto video.

Point A:  Get CLOSE with your camera… REALLY CLOSE… So you can get video with sound

There is a glaring difference between the team parents with camera lenses that stretch out more than a foot
versus my itty bitty digital camera that stretches out less than an inch
My video was less interesting because I am too far away. It is not economically feasible for me to attain an expensive camera with an extensive lens, and it is not nice as a parent to storm the field during a game, but for the football camp I told the coach ahead of time I was going to get really, REALLY close to everyone. If I allowed the audio to be played while I recorded several series of my first iteration of the football video
(especially the running sequence at the beginning of the video) you would hear me say something like “I’m gonna die!”
I also wore my school attire, so I would be recognized as a school official. You can get the needed audio sequences that make the video footage more authentic that you could not achieve with those far, far away telescopic lenses. Also being close gives you multiple footage angles and views that make for better video.

Point B: Don’t be afraid to say, “Could you do that again?” or “Can you repeat what you said, only BETTER?”

In the first iteration of my video on the first day (especially blue shirt lineman without sleeves) ( I discovered that some of the coaches never completed their sentences, and it was too late to ask for a repeat. Some of the video footage was just too long, even with the editing capability of adjusting the video in 10-second segments in Animoto. The sad microphone on my itty bitty digital camera amplified a slight breeze to make it sound like a hurricane-force wind.
A big difference between the first video ( and final video ( is when I found out the majority of the Captains on the Football team training the children were actually campers themselves many years ago, I redid the majority of the interviews. This is NOT telling people what to say (fabrication). This is asking people to repeat what they said before, and often it will be a better result.

Point C: The J.J. Abrams Effect is more Authentic than Traditional Tripod Videos

This is really just an elaborated Point A, except we’re talking about literally running alongside the kids. I call it the J. J. Abrams Effect,” where the video is not completely stable (slightly shaky) and the sequences are short (No more than 4 seconds between transitioning between video clips even though Animoto gives you 10 seconds). The majority of effects of Animoto templates actually support non-stable video. An example of some stable, long sequences of video
are in this sequence
then remedied in this sequence
The most powerful video sequences are when I am running behind the campers in the obstacle courses (

Point D: Mix it Up!

Just images in Animoto are a good video (

Just video in Animoto is a mediocre video
A combination of images with video (especially after text sequences) makes a much better video, especially when you combine Point A through D (

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