Why can’t all school projects be like this.

By now, quarantine has brought enormous amounts of frustration among students who are 100% DONE with online classes. With piles of homework accumulating, confusing learning platforms, and final exams around the corner, it’s no mystery why school can be a nightmare during these pandemic times. But animation student Lumi Barron has managed to turn this lockdown into a chance to get creative with his strangely adorable final project: training, observing, and filming squirrels enjoying tea parties.

Sciuridaes” is what Lumi, a student at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art, named his final project for his Experimental Capture class. In fact, you can keep track of his adorable squirrel captures on Instagram.

The inspiration for his project came from children’s book illustrations of animals enjoying picnics together in the forest. In them, he writes, “the squirrels perform uniquely ‘human’ activities such as reading and ‘baking’. They eat from tables with teapots and snack on bagels in their kitchens”. He has surely managed to bring that innocent book magic into real life with the bizarre yet heartwarming videos that make up his project.

Even though squirrels have adorable faces that just make you want to activate your Snow White-mode and bring them all home, squirrels are wild fur babies. This means that Lumi had to train them to approach his tea parties and hang out around them. So far, he has used an 8lb bag of squirrel food, two bags of walnuts, 4.5 apples, some carrots, a full jar of Jif peanut butter, and half a jar of Costco peanut butter to lure the squirrels into joining his parties. 

The second part of his project was, of course, to capture his adorable friends. Lumi mentions in his project’s site that he uses a Canon M50 camera and a long USB to control the camera remotely so that he can watch for squirrels out the window in real-time. He also uses an iPhone 7 to record audio (which he has to put in a ziplock bag near a pile of snacks). 

Lumi’s commitment to these animals has clearly paid off, he has now accumulated a total of 8 constant visitor squirrels and an extra 5 new visitors. This dedication can be seen not only in the videos he creates but also in the adorable parties he puts up. I mean, can we talk about the amount of DETAIL in those tiny food boxes, kitchen supplies, and the little books he leaves on the table for the squirrels to enjoy? 

According to his class’ overview, the course is “concerned with new ways of seeing, and the creation of systems to enable new ways of seeing”. Most of us can agree that seeing squirrels enjoying themselves and having a relaxing time among teeny-tiny tea sets and books is definitely the “new way of seeing” we never knew we so badly needed.