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Pixar in a box: New on Khan Academy

This week Khan Academy launched a new project that will absolutely engage your math, science and media teachers, and young filmmakers as well.

Pixar In A Box is an new online curriculum that

analyzes how the studio fuses art, tech, science, engineering, and math to develop top-shelf animated cinema. Created with middle and high school students in mind but available to everyone, Pixar In A Box’s interactive exercises, in-depth video lessons, and hands-on activities are an informative addition to Khan Academy’s extensive educational resources.

The curriculum spans the pipeline of the production process.

As might be expected, any Pixar project would reach well beyond the mortal powers of your typical explanation video. These do. They include the voices (and personal stories) of authentic Pixar people working in authentic workplaces on movies that already form the mythic storyboards of our kiddos’ lives and dreams, and often, their career aspirations.

Teachers will appreciate the fully sequenced, appropriately chunked, engaging curricula and activities that animate abstract mathematical and scientific concepts and make them vibrantly and authentically meaningful.

Librarians could easily unglue and embed relevant content into web resources across the school program.  Or consider turning this curriculum into an after-school or lunchtime informal STEAM experience.

Here’s a sample video introducing the importance of math, and the unit on parabolic arcs, in creating the landscape for Brave.

And here’s the curriculum outline:

Overview of Pixar in a Box for students & teachers.

Environment modeling: Explore how blades of grass in Brave were created using parabolic arcs.

Character modeling: Explore how clay models are transformed into digital characters using weighted averages.

Animation: Explore how animators bring characters to life using different kinds of animation curves.

Crowds: Explore how swarms of robots in Wall-E were made using combinatorics.

Sets & Staging: Explore how virtual sets are constructed using geometric transformations.

Rendering: Explore how pixels are painted digitally using algebra.

 Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for this lead!


Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Great modeling environment presentation. Thank you!

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