What is an Educational Animation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An educational animation is a cartoon developed to be used in classrooms, on educational television programs, and in other settings where people want to provide information to people of all ages in a clear, accessible, and informative way. A number of companies specialize in the production of educational animations, including shorts for use as clips and inserts in larger produced pieces. Such cartoons are often available online through company websites or video sharing services.

A flower drawn by an animation artist.
A flower drawn by an animation artist.

In an educational animation, information is broken into chunks that are easy to present and understand. The animation may involve a story with characters interacting with one another to present the information. It can also simply be an animation of the information, like an explanation of how volcanoes work. The animation can include prompts like discussion questions, as well as tools like mnemonic devices designed to help people remember key pieces of data presented in the animation. Songs and rhymes may be used in cartoons designed for younger viewers.

Some educational animations are interactive.
Some educational animations are interactive.

Instructors can use an educational animation in the classroom during a teaching unit to provide students with a more dynamic learning experience. Some students learn better through visual and audio information like that in animations, and will recall the course material better when presented with this type of video. Animations can also make the classroom environment more interesting, capturing attention and keeping students engaged. Animations can also be used for general public education, as for example in a public service announcement about recycling accompanied with an informative animation.

Educational animations on the computer may allow people to interact directly with the animation, manipulating variables to change the circumstances. By being able to change the settings, people can see how different factors change a situation and they can apply this knowledge to their understanding of the real world. People studying weather systems, for instance, could change wind speed and direction in the educational animation in order to see how factors in the climate interact with one another.

Producers of an educational animation usually provide rating information about the age range the cartoon is designed for. Animations intended for younger audiences will use simpler language in their explanations and will establish building blocks for learning, rather than assuming that viewers understand basic information. Animations for older audiences will be more complex and may be presented in a different tone to appeal to teens or adult viewers.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Most voters, from all persuasions, have little idea about how an economy functions through production, saving and investments. Most are interested even less. An animated cartoon would help fill the gap.


@irontoenail - Actually I was going to suggest that one of the very best ways to educate children through animation is to get them to animate their own little movies and documentaries or to watch those that have been made by other kids and loaded online.

It doesn't take a lot of money or know-how as long as you've got enthusiastic participants.


@pastanaga - I have seen some very silly educational animation in my time, but it's difficult to say whether or not children will respond to it based on the quality. I have re-watched cartoons that I thought were awesome when I was a kid and I think they are embarrassing now.

Religious education seems to be the most varied in tone when it comes to making animation. I've seen everything from barely moving still images quoting the bible to top notch computer animation depicting the flies who were present in the stable during the first Christmas.

I guess it comes down to how much money the organization backing the project happens to have. And how well they spend that money.


One thing I noticed when I was a kid was that often animators seemed to think that putting something in cartoon form was enough to make it interesting for children. I still remember some of the "special messages" we'd occasionally get on TV that were supposed to stop us from doing drugs or whatever and often they were ridiculously bad quality.

This is particularly pointless these days since most children's animation seems to be of a very high quality from what I can see and they would recognize bad quality even more quickly and be much less likely to respond to it.

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