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Make a Zoetrope

Make a Zoetrope

(Ages 10+)

Number of Attendees:


How many did you plan or set registration for? Was it a drop-in?:

Registration for 12

How many did you actually have attend?:

15 (extra younger siblings helped by parents)


45+ minutes

How long did you need to prep for the program?:

1 hour (this was to cut the bottoms of the paper mache boxes to size, otherwise it was little to no prep!)

How long did the actual program take start to finish?

About 45 minutes to an hour


  • White paper
  • Black Construction Paper
  • Paper Mache box lids (or round tin foil pans)
  • Marbles
  • Masking Tape
  • Exacto Knife
  • Scissors
  • Markers/Pencils/other drawing materials
  • Scotch Tape

Description of Program:

Zoetropes are the precursors to animation as we know it. This is a low-fi way to make your own drawings dance and move and understand how it works on the big screen. This program was done in our teen zone after school as well as part of our Create Camp summer programming for teens. 

Instructions (modified from https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Zoetrope):

  1. Start with a circular box or lid (or, for cost savings, use a round aluminum pan).
  2. Make a hole in the bottom of the lid or pan. The size of the hole should be should be slightly larger than the diameter of your marble. Make sure the hole is centered on the bottom of the lid/pan and place a piece of masking tape over the hole from the outside. Cut radially from the center.
  3. Tape a marble from the inside so that it extends beyond the bottom rim. Trim the tape from the bottom surface of the marble so the box can spin like a top.
  4. Draw flipbook-style pictures on a paper strip (the paper strip should be the same length as the circumference of the circle).
  5. Make a black paper strip slightly smaller than the circumference of your lid/pan. Cut slits in the black paper strip the same distance apart as the pictures.
  6. Place the black paper strip around the outside edge of the box. Set the illustrated paper strip on the inside of it, with the illustrations between the slits.
  7. View your animation! Look through the slits in the black paper to the pictures on the opposite side, and spin the box on the marble, like a top.


Marbles - $2.28 (Oriental Trading)
Paper Mache Boxes - $3.97 each (Consumer Crafts) From one box you can get two “lids” - the lid itself, and trim down the bottom of the box to size. Or, for a cheaper version, use round disposable aluminum cake pans (like these).
Most of the other supplies are things we all have on hand!


When I did this with a large group as a drop in project, I used the aluminum pans to keep the cost savings down. But over the summer when I had a controlled number of attendees for this program I used the paper mache boxes and used the lids as well as cut down the box part to size so I could get two for the price of one. The paper mache boxes are definitely sturdier and more impressive looking, but it's totally doable with the cheaper aluminum!

Submitted by:

Emily Witkowski, Teen Librarian, Maplewood Memorial Library - emily.witkowski@maplewood.bccls.org

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