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Movie making marvels

​Claymation engagement—Chevallum State School students premiere their movies for parents, family and friends

It may have started with mere lumps of clay, but with intensive collaboration, creativity, and a huge mound of patience, the multi-age Prep to Year 1 students at Chevallum State School have produced a claymation movie event worthy of any Wallace and Gromit opening night blockbuster.

For these 5 to 7-year-old students, their claymation project was the culmination of more than 600 photos, countless hours, numerous script revisions, set designing, extensive negotiation and compromise, all reduced to just 5 minutes—a fleeting bit of time, filled with a lifetime of learning.

The special screening encompassed the whole cinema experience: from ticket sales to seat ushers, snack bar sales, and even a Q and A by the student filmmakers themselves.

This style of learning is part of Chevallum State School teacher Michelle Scheu's Thinking Play—an investigative, play-enhanced approach to learning, where the child–teacher partnership plays a vital role, alongside close collaboration with parents and the community.

Michelle said that, with teaching partner Kate McBride, she created an educational space where students took ownership of and responsibility for their learning.

'Thinking Play enables students to design and create real-life events. They are given the curriculum content to be explored, and then they decide how they would like to investigate and showcase their learning,' Michelle said.

'The students were presented with many ideas to stimulate thinking and decided on movie making, which they narrowed down to claymation,' she said.

Selecting this form of cinema was no easy option. For 2 hours every day over a 12-week period, the students got involved in every bit of minutiae inherent in claymation. Students took turns, shared tasks, and worked together to solve the issues they confronted.

'They broke into 4 groups and decided on characters and settings for their narratives. The children designed and made their claymation figures, wrote the scripts, transformed large cardboard boxes into various scenes, and finished off with sound recordings of the narration and dialogue.'

Michelle said their Thinking Play covered several curriculum areas including Science, English, Geography, Maths, Art and Technology.

'Students explored science by creating solutions for the environmental threats presented within their storyline. They learned about geography through identifying and describing the features of habitat and observing changes that may occur due to environmental threats. They then proposed a solution as to how the habitat could be cared for by humans.

'There was maths, in which students measured dimensions and had to use the correct ratio to create the set design and characters. As theatre vendors and snack bar assistants they had to calculate payments and the correct change required.'

Michelle said the students also gained essential life skills.

'Throughout the project Kate and I were continually amazed at the development of personal traits such as grit, tenacity, perseverance and resilience,' she said.

'I have learned to never underestimate a child. Just when you think you may know what they want, they completely surprise you. When children are allowed to be involved in their own learning, the possibilities are endless—and it's very rewarding.'

An extract from a claymation video, produced by Chevallum State School students
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0) ( )
Last updated
10 February 2020