Motion Picture Craft


Zoetrope Craft
Click the photo to view or print the pattern and instructions for this craft.

20th Century Modern

The Century of Electricity

The Atomic Age

“Mairzy Doats” was a popular song from the 1940s.  Our mom taught us the song when we were kids.  It was fun to sing it because the lyrics were funny nonsense words.  One day my mom decided to slow it down and say each word individually, “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.  A kid’ll eat ivy, too.  Wouldn’t you?”  I was so amazed and delighted when I realized I’d been singing real words without even knowing it.

“Where the Red Fern Grows” was the first chapter book my son, Jack, was assigned to read in elementary school.  He wasn’t a big fan of reading, so we read the book together, as a family.  The book is about a boy who lives in the Ozark Mountains during the Great Depression.  He enjoys hunting and saves his money to buy a pair of coonhound puppies, Old Dan and Little Ann.  We had a new puppy at the time, so the book had a special meaning to our family.  We read a chapter every evening.  The final chapters were read during a car trip.  I’d never read it before and didn’t know how it ended.  It was a great story, but not suitable for car reading.  We actually had to pull over because our eyes couldn’t see the road through our tears.


#10 Modern Art – Art styles were rapidly changing.  The camera made it possible to record moments in history.  It was no longer necessary for artists to recreate those images.  Artists began to look at subjects in new ways.  They wanted their art to have meaning beyond what the viewer saw on the canvas.  New styles that re-imagined perspective on 3-dimensional objects were invented.  The modern artists made paintings that showed emotion through color and brush stroke.  Some of the new art styles included:  Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism.

#9 World War I – A new nationalism divided Europe.  World War I began in 1914 with the assassination of Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand.  The Allies (France, Great Britain, Italy, Serbia, Russia, Japan, and the U.S.) fought the Central Powers  (Germany, Austria,  Turkey, and Bulgaria).  The United States didn’t want to enter the war, but when the Germans sank a British ship with Americans on board, the U.S. decided to fight.  The war ended in 1918.  It was a horrifying war.  Soldiers battled with modern weapons.  Millions of lives were lost.

#8 The Roaring 20s and the Stock Market Crash – In the 1920s,  people were making lots of money in the stock market.  The economy was booming and people were spending money on merchandise and entertainment.  Women had new freedoms and the right to vote.  People were optimistic about America’s economic future.  They started buying merchandise on credit.  America’s debt grew quickly.  In the meantime, many American banks and businesses were unregulated and used poor business and accounting practices.  Much of the wealth was held by a few people. Stock values soared.  People thought this prosperity would go on forever, but it didn’t.   On October 29th, 1929, the stock market crashed.

#7 The Great Depression was a period in the 1930s when the economy tanked, leaving about a fourth of the population homeless, hungry, and jobless.  Homeless Americans built temporary housing out of  junk like wood scraps, cardboard, cement blocks, and tar paper.  They lived in these make-shift shantytowns near soup kitchens so they could get a warm meal each day.  These shack towns existed in most U.S. cities.  They were called “Hoovervilles,” named after the president people blamed for the bad economy.

#6 The Dust Bowl was a terrible drought in the Midwest in the 1930s.  Lack of rain created soil that was so dry, it turned to dust.  Wind picked up the dusty soil creating black dust clouds.  The giant storms were called “black blizzards.”  Sometimes, the dust was so thick, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  Farmers couldn’t grow crops in the dusty soil.  Their animals were choking and dying.  People packed up and left their farms.

#5 The New Deal was a series of government funded programs, initiated by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, that helped Americans recover from the Great Depression.  It changed the way people thought about the role of the government.  The New Deal created a public works program that provided jobs for people who were willing to help rebuild city roads and buildings.  There were programs to help farmers improve their farms.  There were housing programs to help keep people in their homes.  The Social Security Act was passed in 1935.  A labor act which guaranteed rights to unions and workers was also passed.

#4 World War II  was a war between the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) and the Allied Powers (Britain, U.S., Russia, and France).  The Nazi party of Germany promised the German people that it would once again become a great economic and military power.  They banned free speech and a free press.  They persecuted people who were not of “pure” Aryan descent by taking away their rights and hauling them away to concentration camps.  Meanwhile, Japan had invaded China.  They wanted to control all of Asia.  They signed a military alliance with Germany and Italy.  The United States hoped to stay out of the war, but in 1941, the Japanese made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.  In 1944, the U.S. Army Air Corp began a massive bombing on Dresden, Germany.  They completely destroyed the city and killed many civilians.  On June 6, 1944, D-day took place.  It was a huge military operation.  The allied forces attacked by land, sea, and air to drive the Germans back into Germany.   On August 6 and 9 in 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bombs on two cities in Japan, killing and wounding thousands of people and destroying the cities.  On September 2, 1945, Japan officially surrendered.  The United Nations was formed to provide a forum where member nations could discuss their grievances and solve problems to, hopefully, avoid war.

#3 Airplanes and Automobiles – The first airplane flight took place in Kitty Hawk, NC on December 17, 1903 when Orville Wright made a 12 second flight in a plane he and his brother, Wilbur, designed and built.  On May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh was the first pilot to fly from New York to Paris.    In 1932, Amelia Earhart was the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

The automobile or “horseless carriage” changed everything.  One very noticeable difference, streets were cleaner once horses stopped using them as bathrooms.  There wasn’t just one inventor of the automobile.  There were many scientists whose innovations eventually led to the creation of the engine.  Nicholas Otto was not a scientist, he was a traveling grocery salesman who taught himself engineering.  Otto made the first efficient gasoline engine.  Karl Benz built a carriage that used the engine.  His wife and kids took the “car” on a road trip without asking.  The boys had to get out and push to car up every hill.  That test-drive gave Benz the idea to put gears in the car.  In the 1800s, Charles Goodyear discovered the secret to making good tires.  But it was Henry Ford’s idea to manufacture cars on an assembly line that made owning a car possible for many Americans.  Ford cars cost $260 in 1925.

#2 The Atomic Age Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity changed the way scientists looked at the world.  (E=mc² is one equation from his theory.)  Einstein’s work set the foundation for many new inventions including the atomic bomb and nuclear energy.

#1 Entertainment – People from both sides of the United States were watching the same movies and listening to the same music and radio shows.  The first film to be distributed internationally (1902) was Le Voyage dans la lune or “A Trip to the Moon.”  It’s about 14 minutes long and you can watch it on YouTube.   The silent film era lasted from 1895 to1936.  “Talkies” or films with a soundtrack were commercially shown in 1923.  The first full length talkie was “The Jazz Singer,” released in 1927.  “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone With the Wind” were the first Technicolor films (1939).

Before television, people listened to the radio.  Radio broadcasting began in the early 1900s.  People listened to music, news broadcasts, sports games, fictional stories, lectures, and weather reports.  By 1930, 60% of American homes had radios.  On October 30, 1938 a broadcast of H G Wells novel “The War of the Worlds” caused mass panic when listeners thought aliens were attacking Earth.

Because motion pictures have changed the way we see the world, I decided to make a ZOETROPE craft.  The zoetrope was a toy that showed the viewer a series of pictures in motion.  In 1877, Edward Muybridge set up 12 cameras on a racetrack to photograph a running horse.  He put the photos in a spinning wheel to show the motion of a galloping horse.  Click ZOETROPE to get the pattern and instructions for the craft.

Click the link to go to 20TH CENTURY MODERN on my website for FREE activities or to purchase the unit.

X-ray Magic (Thaumatrope Toy)

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Halloween Costumes

Picking out a Halloween costume was pretty simple when I was a kid.  In mid-October the stores would fill a few shelves with costumes in cardboard boxes.  You could see the mask peeking out through the plastic covered lid.  The side of the box had a picture of the entire ensemble.  I always knew exactly who I wanted to be – Spiderman, but my mom always had another idea – homemade costumes.  Lots of kids made their own costumes; mostly ghosts, hobos, and witches.  I was usually a witch.  Witches had powers like superheroes, so I was okay with that.

When my daughter, Alyssa, was little and I would ask her what she wanted to be for Halloween, it was never a costume that could be quickly purchased at a store.  Her ideas were super specific…  “I want to be a Halloween mermaid.”  “I want to be a girl skeleton.”  “I want to be the painting called “The Scream.””  She’d make a drawing of her idea.  Then I’d have to figure out how to make the costume.  Her costumes were always really unique and she liked it that way.  She wanted to be different from everyone else.  So, naturally, my dad would always pretend he was making the exact same costume for himself.  He made the claim every year and she always fell for it and argued that he needed to come up with his own idea.  I can only imagine what my dad would have looked like as a Halloween mermaid or a girl skeleton.

Little Jack never cared what his costume was.  I’d usually buy a costume at the store and change it a bit to make it unique.  But when Jack was five, his  buddy told him he was dressing up as a superhero he’d invented called, Dino Boy.  He said his mom was going to help him make the costume.  Jack loved that idea!  Jack had also created a superhero.  His guy was called, Pickleman.  Pickleman looked like a pickle and dissolved into pickle juice whenever he needed to make a quick getaway.  I tried to imagine my child walking into his kindergarten classroom dressed as a giant pickle in a red cape.  I just couldn’t put him through that humiliation.  Some of the kids in his class were really mean.  I talked him into being his favorite TV superhero, Teen Titans’ Robin.  It was the most difficult costume I ever made.  Green leggings were impossible to find.   I think I found a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajamas that had green pants.  Robin wore black high-tops.  I could only find red, but several Sharpie markers later, they were black.  I sewed the black and yellow cape; made the logo and the mask.  I bought black hair gel to give Jack the spiky dark look of Robin’s hair.   Jack felt so cool in that costume.  It was totally worth the effort!

It doesn’t really matter if the costumes are store-bought or homemade, simple or complicated, standard or unique.  It’s always fun to put on a costume and become someone else for a few hours.



This craftivity is inspired by a toy from the 1800s.  It’s called a thaumatrope.  It’s an optical illusion toy.  You make a disc with a picture on each side.  Then attach the disc to a stick and spin it between your palms to see a flicker movie effect.  Click “X-ray Magic” to get the template and instructions for this craft.

Optical Illusion Toy