Teaching Blender to Children

I am a technology educator at a science museum. I teach middle/high school students (11-18 years old) enrichment classes on robotics, programming, and video game development. I would like to offer a sequence of courses on Blender in the summer (target ages may vary per class). Each course is 3 hours a day for 5 days. My goal is to give them enough positive association and practical skills so that they will self teach after having left the class. I am trying to figure out how to do that, and would greatly appreciate any feedback I could get from the community.

I am an engineer, not an artist, but Blender Guru’s tutorials have done a good job of making me feel like an artist. Also, the UI updates are a huge improvement from the Blender of years ago!

So far I’ve been trying to sketch out what a curriculum on Blender that emphasizes video game production and general stuff that would get kids to go “Wow! Neat!”. This is what I have:

Modeling, Sculpting, & Texturing
Rigging & Animation
Particles, Fluids, & Sims (etc)
Camera & Object Tracking
Materials, Lights, & Rendering
Terrain Creation

Remember each course is 15 hours long (which translates to ~12 teachable hours). As a general rule of thumb, high school students move 2-3 times faster through material than middle school students do.

Major concerns are the length of the material (I have no experience teaching Blender) and its difficulty (specifically, the learning curve from hot keys). Screencast keys and printing out a list of the hotkeys we will be using that day will help, but still not be trivial for them.

I find Camera & Object Tracking to be a suitable penultimate class (targeting 15-18 year olds?). How cool would it be to shoot a very short clip featuring the students of the class, and have them edit in something fanciful, like flaming swords or a wizard’s lightning?

I am not sure where the best place to start such a sequence of classes would be. Modeling/Sculpting/Texturing seems like a natural place (certainly the most fundamental skill set), but I want them to have made something with significant “Wow!” factor by the end of their first day. I could spend Monday on making a flaming Suzanne head, then Tue - Friday on modeling/sculpting/texturing but that seems… disingenuous. On the flip side, having particle/fluids/sims be the focus of the first class seems to rob them of the skills necessary to do a lot of meaningful things.

I am currently trying to turn my approach on its ear, and focus on not what cluster of skills I will be teaching them but insteadon how that will be achieved. That is to say, decide which projects we will work on, and then figure out how to hammer that into a usable form.

Terrain creation will be based off of Wenda111287’s excellent youtube tutorial, but where Blender takes the role of Maya, Mudbox, and Photoshop (how about that!?). It covers compositing, (some) sculpting, baking AO maps, texturing, and the use of World Machine and UDK (outside software).

My simulations are likely to be based off of Blender Guru’s fluid sim (cookie falling into milk), smoke sim (flamethrower [or as I will brand it: dragon’s fire]), and a bunch of bouncy balls for physics.

For modeling I like that approach that Hess’s book Blender Foundations took (especially that table) but that one is obviously not a free tutorial. I did find a cool tutorial that modeled a shotgun, but violence/weapons are a no-go.

Materials, lights, and rendering will also feature UDK’s (Unreal Development Kit) material editor, a node based implementation of HLSL with all sorts of cool features. I have a number of cool things set up there already (vertex painting, entropy shaders, dissolve effect, etc). Honestly I could do a class on just that, but I would like to include Blender. Don’t know how, yet.

Rigging and animation will feature Blender Guru / Lee Salvemini’s tutorial on the same. That tutorial is the reason that I am so gung-ho about teaching people Blender: years ago I tried to learn Blender and failed miserably. Recently I watched that tutorial and the next day I had a reasonably well rigged character! I would also like the have a displacement modifier tied to animation that, say, wrinkles the forehead when the character looks shocked.

I am not really concerned with the camera tracking course yet.

PS: All rights of anyone whose work I am taking as inspiration will be well respected. The purpose of what I am doing is to broaden children’s horizons, not claim credit or make money. I point all of my students at the wealth of free resources that I used to be able to create any of my classes, as my aim is to inspire autodidactism. I am merely in the early planning phase, and am trying learn from example before I presume myself ready to deliver innovative curriculum.

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I’ll be interested to see where this thread goes. I’m a high school tech ed teacher (what we used to call shop) and teach a class in CAD using Autodesk Inventor. Last year I spent a lot of Fridays turning the kids on to Blender but this fall I’m just showing the advanced kids who finish their work fast some links to good tutorial sites. I think in the spring semester I’m going to go back to spending some Fridays on Blender alone. I think the kids in my spring class are going to be a sharper group :wink:
Here’s a good site for basic tuts
http://gryllus.net/Blender/3D.html

and somewhere on blenderguru’s site he has a cheat sheet for hotkeys

Dave

I see this thread is a wee bit old… How did it go? I’ve agreed to teach an intro Blender course to autistic children in April. Looking for any and all resources to that end. Thanks!