A Marriage of Arts & Science

Summer Camp to Focus on Eclipse
Assistant Teaching Professor Katina Bitsicas

Assistant Teaching Professor Katina Bitsicas will help students create digital animation projects to convey their eclipse experiences during the Summers @ Mizzou camp in July.

Jordan Yount
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science
Digital Storytelling
Physics and Astronomy

The fact that Columbia, Missouri, is in the path of totality for the August 21st solar eclipse is going to make this year’s Summers @ Mizzou camp a lot more interesting. Camp participants—mostly high school students—will be “Telling the Stories of the Stars” by learning the science behind the solar eclipse and then creating oral stories and digital-animation projects to convey what they have learned. The students will share their stories with their parents on the final day of camp and later will have the opportunity to share those stories live on stage during the 2018 St. Louis Storytelling Festival.

Professor Angela Speck, the director of astronomy at MU and part of the National Science Foundation–sponsored eclipse planning committee, will teach students the scientific foundations of a total solar eclipse (see the video at the end of the story) during the first day of camp.

On the second day of camp, Sherry Norfolk, an award-winning storyteller and teaching artist, will help students develop effective storytelling techniques. Norfolk is an adjunct professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lives in St. Louis. Katina Bitsicas, an assistant teaching professor of digital storytelling at MU, says Norfolk will talk about the mythology associated with total eclipses and help students develop their own stories. Bitsicas will take over on the third day of camp, helping students develop their short stories into stop-motion digital-animation projects.

“We will break down their stories to create storyboards, and then use the storyboards to draw out the animations scene by scene,” Bitsicas says. “Then they will create either clay figurines or drawings or some combination of both and animate them frame by frame for a stop-motion film.”

The stop-motion films will then be shared with other students and parents on the final day of camp.

A total solar eclipse of the sun will sweep across the continental United States Aug. 21, 2017. The eclipse, with a total duration of 90 minutes, includes an area of “greatest duration” that falls above Columbia, Missouri. Here, eclipse totality, starting at 1:12 p.m., will last 2 minutes 26 seconds.

Bitsicas says the most exciting aspect of the camp is that it bridges digital storytelling and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“With science there has to be art, and with art there has to be science, and when the two worlds collide is when the most successful and interesting projects come about,” she says.

Lisa Overholser, the director of the St. Louis Storytelling Festival and an urban region community arts specialist with MU Extension, says the camp is a great example of arts and science combining to create something unique.

“What they will learn at camp are the basics of a solar eclipse as well as storytelling techniques—both oral storytelling and an understanding of how storytelling throughout the ages has dealt with this phenomenon,” Overholser says. “They also will get hands-on experience with digital-media and stop-animation techniques, and they can then take the skills they’ve learned and apply them in an actual performance at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival next year.”

The Summers @ Mizzou camp, “Telling the Stories of the Stars” will run July 16–20 on the MU campus. Overholser says commuters may still register for camp and full Mizzou Advantage scholarships are still available. To register, contact Teresa Bishop at (573) 884-0554 or bishopta@missouri.edu.

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