Monday, June 15, 2009

Persistence of Vision - Zoetrope, Thaumatrope, Phenakistoscope and Daumenkino

Our afternoon look into simple animation, has ended up taking the better part of two days, and has turned into a lesson in the 19th century's love of Greek, as much as in persistence of vision.

The children were not overly impressed with the coffee can lid zoetrope I had hoped to wow them with (look back one post for the how-to of a zoetrope). I think this is due mainly to the fact that my printer ink is getting a little low, and so the animation strip I printed was too light for a good effect.

Not wanting to give up completely, I suggested we work through a flip book (that's Daumenkino, or thumb cinema to you lovers of German) demo or two online. My son produced a couple of the books from the Jack Stalwart series by Elizabeth Singer Hunt, that he's reading for the library summer reading program, and showed us that there is a little flip book image of the main character at the bottom of most of the pages. So, we didn't really need to watch a demo after all.

We moved on to thaumatropes (from the Greek, thauma for magic, and trope referring to things that turn). This little device doesn't animate a series of pictures, but rather puts two images together into one. We printed out, and used examples that we found at , but also discussed possibilities of creating secret messages mixed up between the sides.

Buoyed a bit by our success with the thaumatrope, we moved on to the slightly more complicated phenakistoscope (Greek for phainen, to show, kinein, to move, and skopos, to aim). We started out with the example and printout at under movie wheel, because it was simple, and had really clear instructions. The kids were thrilled when they looked through the device, into the mirror, and could actually see the images moving. We also watched a video presentation of the animation efforts of a 5th grade group using phenakistoscopes at

Now the kids are ready to try their hands at a little animating themselves. It definitely puts a different slant on home movies. And, if I could get them to remember the names of one or two of the devices they're making, think how impressed the Grandparents would be.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Anonymous said...

Where in the world do you come up with these? I can't even pronouce them.
We're doing VBS this week, so no school again. But after this week, we're hittin the books for 4 weeks. Sammy needs to finish 2nd grade!!!!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

That's the fun of being the teacher - the kids don't know if you pronounce them right or not!