“SUPER STEAM to the Rescue!” was a semester long collaborative project.
North Elementary School Assistant Principal Anne Lupo, North Elementary Art Teacher Sonda Cheesebrough, 4th Grade Teachers Leona Thompson, Kevin Kieffer, Sara Pennington, WVU Sculpture Professor Dylan Collins, and I coordinated the project. It was funded by a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
This project went from February-May 2016, and I made multiple visits each month to see how the projects were progressing. There were three main aspects to this project:
1. Students did research into creating a friendly garden environment for regional birds, and made a new garden that relates to the already existing garden curriculum at North Elementary.
2. Students kept a sketchbook for their research, and made mini-comics based on the information they learned.
3. Some students were asked to draw regional birds onto metal sheets that were used to create a large bird house structure.
In April and May students were drawing, drawing, drawing. This was the time to take all the information, research, and sketches made from the last two months and put it together.
North Elementary Art Teacher Sonda Cheesebrough worked with me to create a new comics curriculum. Sonda is AMAZING and was a ton of fun to work with!
Sonda and I talked about the basics of visual story telling and creating a comic. Students were asked to consider elements like plot, character, and voice. Students also had to think about efficiency with their image and narrative. The comics were only 6-8 pages, and each page was only a few inches big. Students were forced to consider what were the most important aspects of their story, and only incorporating those aspects.
Students wrote a script and drew thumbnail sketches before they were allowed to start working on their final comic. This is an often overlooked aspect of creating any kind of visual narrative. Artists and writers have to map out the story and consider how the visuals will relate to and support the story.
Students were also told to revisit their sketchbooks. This was another important aspect of this project. Students saw the role sketches have in creating any kind of art. Through sketching and experimentation, students become comfortable and confident in what they are drawing and how they want to draw it.
I wanted students to use some materials they may not have used before, and get the feel of how actual comics were/are made. We gave each student a non-photo blue pencil to use for their sketches.
Students were also given some special markers to ink their comics. This was probably their favorite part.
On top of all this, Sonda set aside some time in the day for a few students to come back to the art room and help WVU Sculpture Professor Dylan Collins work on his part of this project. Dylan worked with both North Elementary students and WVU students to create what I have been calling a “bird apartment complex” for the gardens. A large structure that has both a visual and functional purpose. Above, Dylan and Sonda talk about the project and what the kids will do on this day.
A smaller group of students were each given a steel square. Again, students were told to reference their sketchbooks to find a bird they would like to draw. Students were then told to sketch out a drawing to the scale of the steel.
Using a piece of chalk, students then drew their bird on the steel.
Dylan brought the steel squares back to the WVU School of Art, and had WVU students cut the drawings out. His students also learned how to forge and attach decorations onto each piece of metal. Above is an example Dylan brought to North for students to see what the end product will look like.
This was also a really exciting day. I don’t think the students exactly knew what they were doing, or how this was all going to come together, but I think that mystery added to their excitement. This was definitely something they had never done before.