GEN Helps Girls Get Past “Onion Skin”

Contributed by: Lindsay Pease



Onion skinning in the tech world is where several frames of an animation can be seen in a single frame. It creates a blur where you can see a little of the old character along with the new character position. Before computers, professional animators used thin onion skin paper to create these never-ending flipbooks, also known as stop motion films. Now, with Dell laptops and tiny serpentine cameras, students can create their own stop motion videos. Next school year, more than 700 Central Texas school girls will get the chance to learn stop motion technology and other STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) principles as part of a Girls Empowerment Network program supported by Dell. GEN is planning to infuse its GirlConnect programming into clubGEN afterschool workshops.


The STEAM-infused workshops were piloted this spring at Small Middle School in Austin and Dailey Middle School in Del Valle. Girls at these schools are not unlike the onion-skin animated frames. Before starting their projects, they discussed their daily challenges, or “sunny, cloudy and rainbow” moments. Cloudy moment recollection flowed more easily than the sunny and rainbow ones. They talked over one another. They each wanted to be heard. It was all a blur, resembling the fuzzy onion skin frames in the stop motions videos. However, once the projects started, girls spoke clearly about their video ideas, began working together, learning new concepts and building video stories. The girls immediately dove into video topics of their choosing: animal abuse, love triangles, and navigating family relationships.


Through innovative programs like GEN’s GirlConnect, girls can emerge from the onion skin frames of their lives into clearer, more confident versions of themselves. Sometimes it takes creating a safe, fun atmosphere to explore the tough topics girls face in school. Community partners like Dell help provide funding for program enhancement and expansion. As a Dell Youth Learning Partner, GEN was able to participate last fall in the Thinkery’s EdExchange program. Only 20 Central Texas organizations were selected, and GEN is the only one serving an all-girl audience. EdExchange participants attended professional development workshops, experimented with technology kits, and brought a Thinkery activity to their campus or program location. Educators received this training at no cost to them.


GEN Program Manager Ally Miller attended the training, and is now introducing STEAM activities including stop motion video creation at the pilot programs, in addition to regular session topics. At Dailey Middle School, Ally asked the girls for examples of stop motion animation, and every hand was raised.


“Box Trolls!”
“Frank & Mimi!”


Ally then shuffled some music on her phone and the students began working on their video creations. She listened to their story ideas, asked a few questions and allowed the girls creative freedom. With this freedom came lots of questions and discussion, some about life, relationships, school, music, and travel. Girls molded and shaped characters from playdough, pipe cleaners and plastic googly eyes.


GEN continues to mold the future generation of women leaders through innovative additions to its clubGEN programming.

Felicia Gonzalez