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College animation students collaborate to make one of our favorite TED-Ed Lessons to date

‘The History of Tattoos’ TED-Ed Lesson marks an exciting milestone for TED-Ed: it’s our first lesson animated by a team of college students! But if you expect the final product to be amateur due to their age and student status, you’d be mistaken — it’s one of our most vibrant, clever and stunning animations to date. We caught up with the rowdy five person crew to talk about art, tattoos and creating animation in a group.

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Our newest TED-Ed Lesson was made entirely out of chalk

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When Justin Dowd worked as a food runner, he would sometimes doodle on the chalkboard in the restaurant where he worked. He might have been surprised to know then that this skill he was developing would someday win him a trip into space. We caught up with Dowd, who wrote and animated today’s TED-Ed Lesson ‘Could comets be the source of life on Earth?‘ to talk about his upcoming trip to the cosmos, the wonders of working with chalk, and a few of the most amazing scientific discoveries in recent history.

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An animated lesson full of adorable animals made of autumn leaves

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Ten percent of plant matter gets eaten while it is alive. The other 90% falls to the ground and becomes detritus, which supports microbes, insects and, yes, us, as we feed on animals that grazed on it and plants that grow in it.

When it came time to animate a TED-Ed lesson about this so-called “brown food chain,” the animation team of Celeste Lai, Lisa LaBracio and Biljana Labovic had an idea. LaBracio had a vast collection of dried leaves at home, and the trio conspired to create animals by layering these leaves into a visual representation of the idea that all living things are made up of dead matter.

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How do you animate a thing like cosmic rays? The story behind a TEDxCERN TED-Ed lesson

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Cosmic rays. Active galactic nuclei. Nucleosynthesis. For physicist Veronica Bindi, this is the vocabulary of the everyday. A ten-year collaborator with AMS-02 — an experiment analyzing the data coming in from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle detector mounted on the International Space Station — Bindi deals with dark matter, solar activity, and the ins-and-outs of flight particle detectors with ease. But for someone without a double-digit career in particle physics, these topics can seem intimidating. 

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A fractal film noir: Using narrative to help teach math

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The TED-Ed Lesson “The case of the missing fractals” isn’t just an introduction to the immensely intricate and beautiful world of fractal geometry; it’s also a fully realized film noir short complete with plot, drama and its fair share of ridiculous puns. This educational and cinematic creation is the product of a TED-Ed dream team, with writing by veteran TED-Ed Educators George Zaidan and Alex Rosenthal and animation by our own TED-Ed Animation Producer Jeremiah Dickey. We met up with this trio to talk about the process of approaching an educational lesson with a narrative eye.

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Inside the animator’s studio: Creating universes and (literally) shattering the Earth

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If you haven’t seen the TED-Ed Lesson “A rare, spectacular total eclipse of the sun,” you should really check it out. Not only will you learn a good deal about the science behind these extraordinary events, you’ll also get to soak in some beautiful and detailed artistry from accomplished animator Bevan Lynch. We caught up with Lynch for a quick, behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to create an entire universe from scratch (with a few Earth-shattering pitfalls along the way).

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How you (or your students) can use stop-motion animation in your classroom

Photo by Sarah Nickerson

As enthusiasts of the combined power of animation and education, TED-Ed held a stop-motion animation station during breaks at TEDActive 2014. Using a fairly basic setup (iPad, tripod, black tablecloth, table, two lights and a stop motion app such as iStopmotion), TED-Ed animators Jeremiah Dickey and Biljana Labovic led attendees in creating their very own stop motion animations inspired by a growing library of TED-Ed Lessons. Here’s how they did it.

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Deconstructing the first live-action TED-Ed Lesson (featuring Victor Wooten)

The TED-Ed team feels lucky to have created the first live-action TED-Ed Lesson with five-time Grammy winner, and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones bassist, Victor Wooten.

The shoot took place on a Saturday, and while the ten-person camera, lighting and sound crew primed the cello-riddled second level of Manhattan’s David Gage’s Repair Shop, a few of us decided to try our hand at documenting the creative process of each artist in the room. These pictures, taken with our cell phones, tell the story behind the “one-shoot” TED-Ed Lesson entitled, Victor Wooten: Music as a language.

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