The Transit in Pictures

Smithsonian Institution Libraries

These exercises and lesson plans are designed to accompany and enrich the study and discussion of the June 2004 Transit of Venus.




Students write screen play and produce movie or animation of the transit including narration.

Grade Level:



  • Identify the differences between storytelling and storyboarding
  • Describe the Transit of Venus in terms of the setting as on a stage and the movement across that stage.
  • Use the principles of flip animation to create a simple animated Transit of Venus
  • Narrate their animation.

  • Subject Area or Standard:

    Science, Language Arts, Media

    Materials Needed:

    • Small notebooks with blank pages that can be flipped (a 2-3 inch square of sticky notes works well).
    • Pens, pencils
    • Drawing paper and art supplies
    • Sources describing the Transit of Venus


    Chasing Venus
    Smithsonian Institution Libraries Online Exhibition, March 2004 to January 2005, http://www.sil.si.edu/exhibits/Chasing-Venus.htm
    How to do it
    Origins of American animation


    Chasing Venus
    Smithsonian Institution Libraries Exhibition, March 2004 to January 2005, Smithsonian Institution Libraries Gallery, National Museum of American History, Washington, DC

    According to Pixar, a film goes through 4 stages: 1) development, creating the storyline, 2) pre-production addressing technical challenges, 3) production, making film; and 4) postproduction "polishing" the final product. Upon completion, ask students to describe how their development matched that of Pixar.


    Note: The process if just as important as the product. Students can produce a very simple product and still learn the process.

    1. Students research the Transit of Venus by visiting various sites or looking at printed information.
      down load the poster


    2. Students come up with idea for an animated film about transit and pitch their idea to class.

      Student writes a "treatment"-- a short document that summarizes the main idea.

      Student may submit alternative treatments.

    3. Class chooses or endorses one treatment or combination of treatments to produce and assigns various tasks to individuals.

      a. One will produce storyboards or blueprints of the various scenes
      b. One will start writing script
      c. One will create models for each "actor".
      d. One will design the background or setting.

    4. Together decide on mood, lighting, look and feel for animation, e.g., scientific and studious or fun and imaginative.

    5. Demonstrate simple animation using a circle placed at different positions on ten or more slips within a small sticky notepad. Tell students that increasing or decreasing the number of sheets of paper and the difference of the circle's position can affect the look of the animation. Then have students experiment with their own images and animation.

    6. Layout final version of animation including number of frames used for each.

    7. Create frames and "in between" frames where needed and match to a recording of the script.


    If class has access to cameras, scanning equipment and other software and hardware, use in place of pencil and notepads.