Immersive and sensory-rich environments make learning fun and memorable. They are essentially what "drama" is all about --pretending you are there in the story. Using lights, flashlights, and filters to illuminate your classroom ceiling and walls with stars, galactic colors, fire, or clouds, and other special effects is always a crowd-pleaser --and it gives non-actors a way to contribute and feel part of the story.
In this first post, we'll describe some "DiY" Do-It-Yourself techniques for creating fun nighttime "Galaxy and Nebula", "Starfield," "Fire" and similar such lighting effects for your classroom drama.
Since most of the following materials and ideas can be reused for other stories, we're going to leave the budget restrictions up to you. In a Rotation Model Drama Workshop, however, the following supplies can be considered part of your regular equipment kit.
[There are also some neat "galaxy and star projectors" on the market. See our notes below about our experiments using the Bliss Sky Lite 2.0 projector. It's cool. It was this $60 projector that sent us looking for DiY alternatives and the discovery of how "mermaid" fabric can create a fun similar effect if you own a bright flashlight or two.]
Introducing your New "DIY" Star and Nebula Projector!
Sequined "Mermaid" Fabric and a Strong Flashlight
The following Do-It-Yourself "galaxy" and "starfield" projection technique was originally developed by our Writing Team for the Drama and Music Workshop in its "Story of Creation" lesson set. It uses easy-to-find and use materials, such as sequined "mermaid" fabric and flashlights (strong ones for best effect). We developed this DIY Galaxy and Star Projector technique as an alternative to the "galaxy and star" projectors you can buy online and can cost as much as $60.
Ceiling shot of the "Story of Creation" nebula we made using a piece of blue/silver mermaid fabric and a 1300 lumens flashlight.
Here's the video of the effect. Our camera wasn't too good in the low light of the dark room. The colors and light are brighter in person. We shot this testshot during the day with the blinds closed.
- Lay the sequined fabric on the floor or table at a short distance from the actors.
- "Flip" a few sequins to show their silver side if you want to create white spots or stars on the ceiling.
- Shine one or more strong flashlights at the fabric to reflect the color of the sequins onto the ceiling and wall.
- Move the flashlight to create movement on the ceiling.
- Play with the angle of the flashlight and different colors of the sequined fabric to see which results will suit your drama. Add a second color of sequined fabric next to the first to mix and match colors/clouds/nebula/stars on the ceiling.
- You can also change the angle of the fabric by laying it on pillows. This can help "project" your effect across the room or onto a wall. Experiment! It's fun.
Note: Higher powered LED flashlights usually have two or three Light Emitting Diodes in them which will create multiple reflections.
Note: Make sure your special effect wizards move their flashlight SLOWLY --otherwise you can make everyone dizzy with your effects.
(((**As cool as those fancy projectors are, one of the problems of the better ones is that they use laser lights to create their stars --which are a health hazard. So depending on which one you get, it may have limited use. Sequined fabric and a strong flashlight is a worthy replacement, And Sequined fabric has many other uses. It can become part of a "royal" costume. You can also have your "angel" wear it and have someone shine a bright flashlight beam on them so they sparkle.))
Not all flashlights are created equal!
Cheap or low-powered flashlights will barely illuminate across a distance. For best special effects over a distance, use flashlights that have over 1000 lumens more of power. Inexpensive 300 lumen flashlights are only good for hobbies and shining on a path.
Have $35 to $60 to spend?
Then consider buying one of the many Star Projectors sold online. I tested the "Bliss Sky Lite 2.0 - "Galaxy Projector" with kids and they absolutely loved it. And depending on where I sat the projector it DID INDEED FILL the walls and ceiling with bright stars and moving colors. I could control the colors, shapes, and starfield with an easy-to-use app too. Was plenty bright enough in the bedroom, living room, and classroom. Very cool piece of equipment that lived up to its advertising.
The only thing you have to watch out for is that the stars are projected by lasers so you need to place the projector ABOVE the eye-line of your students so they don't look into the laser light, or position it so the star projection is behind them and they can't see directly into it. It's not hard to do, just have to pay attention to your positioning. You can turn off the "star" lasers and just use the "nebula" effects.
There are other slightly less expensive "star" projectors online (check Amazon), but read the reviews first and don't trust the product pictures for how "bright" the projection really is. I can only speak for the Blisslight product because I tested it and it worked great.
- The projector can be used to create effects for MANY stories/dramas.
- High powered flashlights and batteries are not cheap.
Whether you go the DIY or purchase route, you'll still want to have some "mermaid" sequin fabric on hand for special effects and shiny costumes (like the radiant angel at the empty tomb).
When could you use these special effects?
Here's a short list of Bible stories that take place at night, or feature stars, or clouds, or fire --all of which can be dramatized with fun lighting effects:
The Story of Creation
Psalm 8 When I look to the heavens
Psalm 19 The heavens declare your glory
The Birth of Jesus
The Wisemen following the Star of Bethlehem
Jesus walking on water (during the fourth watch of the night)
Pillar of fire and smoke
Star or nighttime effects can also help tell a story that happens over several days.
*You can also use lighting effects for water, waves, and storms.