I was one of the editors of my own high school yearbook. Back then, we laboriously developed film, hand cropped, scanned, and edited using simple software, under the direction of a big yearbook company representative. This person would pop in from time to time, just often enough to keep us from spending all of the petty cash on junk food and sneaking into offices during after-hours. Back then, the representative seemed to be an essential part of creating and publishing our yearbook.
When I signed on to advise the yearbook as a teacher, I was surprised to find out that not much had changed in that capacity. There were still only a few big companies out there competing for their chance to represent each school. For my first 2 years as adviser we worked with a representative who visited the school twice a year to make sure things were going smoothly. The yearbook was created using an online editing software that was difficult to use and had no real world application for the students learning how to use it. The yearbooks were expensive, deadlines were unreasonable, and we were paying for services that we were more than capable of producing ourselves.
When our contract was up I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. With my graphic design background, I knew it would be a manageable task to design the books in-house without requiring special yearbook specific software. I also knew how to handle printing and creating deadlines that time-managed efficiently.
I set out space in my graphic design curriculum to teach the students Adobe InDesign (which we would have covered anyway) We decided on a theme, learned about photography and a whole mess of design skills, and set out to create the book.
In the end, we achieved the following:
Less expensive book - This is huge, being that we are such a small school. We were able to get out of our yearbook debt due to not having to pay a company what we could do ourselves.
NO ADS!! - We didn't have to sell 'em. That's huge.
Same printing quality - The yearbook company tries to tell you that their printing process is better. We chose to print digitally, with the same print quality as the previous company produced (digitally printed) yearbook.
No Quantity Minimums - We purchased as many books as needed. They arrived 2 weeks after we put the order in.
More control over printing - Not only was the quality matched, but we could actually PROOF the printing quality including color.
No Deadlines! - Yes, I created my own, but I was able to get the Spring sports and Spring theatre production in there which is really important to those graduating seniors.
More Creative Control - We weren't stuck using templates, which to me, was the easiest way to navigate the editing software that the company had us use.
Applicable Skills - The students used editing software that they might actually use in the real world.
We created a great looking book with less effort, less buck, and less headache.
Why aren't more schools doing this?
I will say, through this experience...Adobe really should think about adding a photo organization option into indesign. It would be great to be able to organize which photos were used in a document. Maybe they do already? Enlighten me....
In today’s world, students are exposed to negativity around every corner. Watching the news can easily put someone in a state of anxiety or depression. The activities that students engage in are often far from positive and uplifting. The purpose of this assignment is to help students become aware of the positive things in their lives that are readily available and don’t cost a cent. The arts offer an experience that a person can appreciate and feel and can improve their lives in a simple and important way. Beauty exists all around us, all of the time, and yet we easily get sucked into the negative and the ugly. As an art teacher, my role in parent teacher conferences is often much lighter than some of my colleagues. Parents come to me to make sure their children are doing well, behaving themselves, but most often; enjoying art. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I just want my child to be happy.”
Most parents wants their children to be happy above all else. While happiness means different things to different people, the essence in the same. I often get bogged down by the traditional ways to be happy in my own life. The stress of trying to become happy often diminishes the results. Every once in a while I sit and realize that the things that make me most happy are not associated with the success of my job or my accomplishments. Family aside, since most people can agree that the people in their lives are most important; its the little things that we enjoy that result in bits of happiness that carry us from moment to moment. Hearing a song that means something, seeing a moving photograph, witnessing a heartwarming moment; these are things that we can expose ourselves to, to ensure moments of happiness.
With this in mind, my students and I focused on ways to appreciate the things we are exposed to on a daily basis that spark moments of happiness, inspiration or creativity. Students looked at the work of Barbara Kruger, a contemporary artist who works mainly with conceptual installations. They discussed how her art often conveys a very strong message to the viewer from which it is hard to dismiss or escape. After analyzing this work, the students set out to develop a slogan that could help their peers find moments of happiness in small ways. Their slogans were transferred to an installation using a medium of their choice.
In the end, students seemed to focus on the act of being happy as something they wished to communicate to their peers. While I had hoped for more practical ways for students to notice beautiful and inspiring things around them, I appreciated the students' simple statements of being happy, or not, and being ok with it. Their collective voices told me that they were tired of people telling them to be a certain way and wanted to let their peers know that being and feeling whatever they wanted is just as well. This was one of those projects that hadn't turned out the way I envisioned, but actually ended up impressing me even more because of that. The students seemed to really enjoy having a voice in this visual, tangible way and took their job of coming up with a message very seriously.
Installing Happiness Lesson Plan:
Students in my 10th grade class are calling themselves published children's book authors, a title that they have earned through their hard work in their Foundations of Design class. The project, which took about a month to complete consisted of writing, illustrating, and publishing a children's book about being brave and starting school for the first time. This project is one of many in our new and innovative 10th grade art curriculum at Mount Everett which emphasizes design thinking and practical problem solving.
To start off the project, students read and analyzed children's books to come up with elements that make a book successful. They decoded the creative process of writing a great story and brainstormed ideas that could work in a group setting. The topic of the book was given to them as a way to make their work multi-functional. Not only would they be creating a book and publishing it, but the school would be able to use the book as part of a welcome kit to incoming youngsters.
Students then took part in a design charette with a mixture of teachers, administrators, and community members. A charette, typically used in architecture refers to a group of people involved in an intense period of planning to solve a problem. The group led a brainstorming session to determine the skeleton of the story and aesthetics of the book. With the information gained from this session, students took off on their journey of challenging, yet satisfying work.
What evolved from their initial problem: " How do you create a story that helps a young child start school for the first time?" was the story of Benny Everett who uses a pin with his favorite animal, the eagle, on it to find his bravery. After losing his pin, and making it through his day anyway, he realizes he had nothing to fear and that he can be brave even without needing a reminder. The book includes a side-story of another student who finds her own courage to make a new friend. All of the details of the book were meticulously chosen or crafted by the students. They researched meanings of names to make sure that each had significance. They were very excited to learn that the name Everett can also mean "Brave" which worked out quite well seeing as how we are Mount Everett eagles! The illustrations were created using an acrylic wash, collaged painted subjects with an outline created on a clear piece of film.
This was a time-consuming and challenging project. A lot goes into writing a children's book and the students definitely felt the enormity of this very professional endeavor. I wouldn't hesitate to repeat this lesson though. The class bonded in a way that I haven't seen in some time and the students learned a variety of design lessons in this one project alone. The most important lesson was that of revising. It can be difficult to explain to the students that work in design is not really their own. The outcome is meant to function successfully and ownership takes a different form. Having to rewrite, redraw, and reconceptualize was often very difficult. After repeating the process multiple times I began to see the students understand the design process a little better. Even though it was hard for them to "let go" of the story, characters, and illustrations, they knew that they wanted to book to be successful and that other voices would offer a way to ensure that success.
My 8th grade studio art class is learning about Surrealism. We paint and write in the style and even create manifestos. These declarations never fail to amuse me. Here's a favorite from today:
" I wish to change the fact that there is only one dessert. I will not have dessert three times, only twice. I believe that people will be much happier if there are two desserts and this will lead to world peace. If I know two things about people its that they like dessert and that they like world peace. I mean come on, its a win-win situation. Join me."
I have been teaching art and design at the middle and high school level since 2006 and learning about both for a lot longer.