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Tommy Hguyen, 11, right, and Aaron Lin, 9, both of Pleasant Hill, share a laptop computer during a workshop called Imaginary Worlds held at the Pleasant Hill Library in Pleasant Hill, Calif., on Thursday, July 3, 2014. The workshop is intended to teach kids and teens in grades 4-12 how to make a 3-D animated movie. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

PLEASANT HILL -- With their shared affinity for all things Pixar, Thea and Abby Winterich, clad in matching salmon and white striped T-shirts and matching pink-tied ponytails, sat huddled in front of a laptop, collaborating on creating animated scenes, be it the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or snowfall in Cleveland to commemorate their large family gatherings with a drag and a click.

"We work pretty well together. We share the same genes," said Thea, 11, who lives in Pleasant Hill.

The cousins were part of a group of young people who were exploring how to work with three-dimensional characters and myriad backdrops at an Imaginary Worlds class at the Pleasant Hill Library.

It was the notion of making her own movie that brought avid reader Emily Lin, 12, to the class, where she toyed with what to do with her dragon protagonist, her library book, "Merlin's Dragon," at her side.

"The library is not just a place for reading stories, it's a place for sharing stories.," said children's librarian Patrick Remer. "Obviously there is a strong connection among successful readers and successful writers and communicators, but that connection isn't automatic. We need to give kids the tools and the time to make their own narratives and support creative storytelling."

Ashley Erickson, 13, an avid storyteller, with an estimated 50 composition books of her realistic fiction, was inspired to attend, given her penchant for computer animation.

"It's like making your own little world," said the Pleasant Hill resident as she tries to make her dragon dive into and out of the water.

Meanwhile, Emily's brother Aaron, 9, and his friend Tommy Nguyen, 11, teamed up that day to create a talking banana.

"We kept resizing until the banana disappeared," said Aaron, noting how the fruit would emote "ahh, not the growing potion" and "darn, it happened again."

"I was just like a director in a movie," said the Pleasant Hill resident.

The menu of characters, movements and settings were part of the free download software created by the late Randy Pausch from Carnegie Mellon University.

Chrysanthemum Fliehmann, 9, with future aspirations to program NASA rovers, was busy building an online amusement park in space.

"This is another form of literacy ... It's part of the future wave of kids coding and creating their own content," said her mother, Martha Fliehmann of Concord.

Class instructor Tamara Helfer, who has a doctorate in astronomy, was delighted to see the number of girls who had opted to attend, citing middle school as a critical juncture for those who may choose a path in the sciences or technology.

The Walnut Creek resident started offering the Imaginary Worlds 3-D class after school at Sequoia Elementary School after her then-kindergartner had laughed uproariously while she first tinkered with the Alice program, trying to get a cow to jump over the moon.

I instantly realized how powerful this could be for kids, to really engage them in a way that they're not being challenged," she said, citing the need for more hands-on science and fostering their making multidisciplinary connections.

IF YOU GO
WHAT: Imaginary Worlds: Making a 3D Movie
WHEN: 3-4 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 21
WHERE: Pleasant Hill Library, 1750 Oak Park Boulevard, Pleasant Hill
COST: Free
INFORMATION: Call 925-927-3235, or visit www.ccclib.org