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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Make Your Own Movie Reel

Explore the art of images and storytelling as you design your very own DIY movie reel!


Materials Needed:

  • Brass fastener
  • Drawing materials (crayons, colored pencils, markers)
  • Paper plates (one large and one small)
  • Pen or pencil
  • Scissors

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Take your small paper plate and cut a circle with a diameter of about 2 inches.
  1. Turn the big paper plate upside down and place the small paper plate on top, right side up
  1. Take the fastener and poke a hole through the middle of the plates, and then separate the fastener clasps on the back to secure the plates together. If you don’t have a brass fastener, you can use a pencil to poke a hole through the plates and hold them together.
  1. Trace the small plate’s open circle shape onto the big plate. Rotate the small plate and trace the shape over and over until you complete an entire circle
  1. Remove the fastener and separate the plates. Then, draw an object or scene in each circle (e.g., an animal, a person, a piece of food, a beach).
  2. Secure the small paper plate, right side up, on top of the upside-down paper plate using the brass tab.
  3. Make sure you are ready to go for a spin! Try turning your wheel. If you are having trouble getting your wheel to spin freely, try:
    • Spinning it several times to create a larger hole.
    • Taking a pen or pencil and poking a larger hole in both paper plates.
    • Loosening the back of the fastener.
  4. Use your drawing materials to make your paper plates look like a real movie reel.
  1. Spin the small paper plate three times and see where the circle lands. Create a story using the images that appear. If you land on the same image twice, use your creativity to generate more than one idea for the image!
  2. Get your wheels turning by thinking about the following:
    • Where will your story take place? You can have multiple settings in one story.
    • Who are the characters in your story? What are they like?
    • Try filling in the phrase: Once there was a (insert character) who wanted to go to (insert place), but to get there, they had to (insert challenge).
    • Focus on introducing who will be in your story, then creating a problem for them to face, and finally having them overcome their problem.
  3. Get your family involved by inviting them to spin the wheel and create a story together!


What Are We Discovering?

There are many inventions and inventors who have helped make it possible for us to enjoy movies. National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Charles Jenkins was an innovator in early cinema. When he demonstrated the “motion picture projecting box” to his parents, friends and reporters, it was one of the very first times an audience watched a projected movie. More recently, NIHF Hall of Famers Kristina Johnson and Gary Sharp invented Polarization-Control Technology, which formed the basis for the 3D movie industry! What new inventions could you create to make the moviegoing experience even more fun?


Recharge Your Summer

Looking for an engaging summer program that embraces the same type of hands-on exploration found in this STEM activity? For more than 30 years, Camp Invention® has inspired millions of children across the country through innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fun and learning.

Not sure if you’ll want an in-person or at-home experience for your child this summer? No problem! With our new Peace of Mind Promise, you can sign up for camp today and switch your in-person or at-home format choice up to six weeks before camp starts.

To learn more about the fun-filled activities we have in store for this year’s Camp Invention program, we invite you to visit our website.

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