For the Willow Creek Voices pilot program, we worked with select 5th and 6th graders in the realm of digital photography. After getting our feet wet learning how to use the camera and hands-on practice with the visual elements that go into composing your photo, we were ready to dive in the class project…visual adaptations from student generated poetry!
In the Adobe Youth Voices Curriculum, we found two great poems to model from… George Ella Lyon’s “I am From” poem and Lisa Storm Frank’s “I Am” poem. What’s so great about these poems (which youth all over the nation have made iterations of), is that structure of the poem asks the writer to dig into sensory-based experiences and unique sweet spots to express who they are. Students plunged right in, and some even took creative liberalities with the poem structure, to include how they see the world, from their perspective.
In both the 5th and 6th grade classes, students were shown both poems and asked to select the template that spoke to them and write their own “I Am” and “I Am From” poem. After writing the poem, students selected one line from the poem and were tasked with taking a photo that would visually describe their poetic line. Students were reminded to think not only of content, but also how framing, angle, composition and color would enhance their meanings. After students took the photos, we set back to the computer lab to learn the basics of Adobe Photoshop Elements and use tools and techniques that would stylistically clean up and enhance their message.
Many students took advantage of the ability to crop and re-frame the image once in the photoshop editor….some used the clone stamp to get rid of unwanted elements in their frame (the backpack that was distracting, the bright color on the student shirt that distracted attention from the focal point, the bright spot in the frame that needed to be dulled down). The magic wand was a tool used often, to add subtle color and levels enhancements to specific parts of the image.
Overall, students explored the process of artistic creation – from creative writing to surfacing content to capturing an image via a camera to bringing it all together in the photoshop platform. There were some students who decided upon viewing the image they took, the line from the poem needed to be revised, to match what the photo was saying…so they rewrote their poems. In this way, active listening, to the artistic process and to the relationship between content, form and meaning was encouraged in the workshop.
When adding the text to the photo, students chose between adding the text outside of the photo or in the frame and then made decisions on how to present the text, so it fit with the image.
Although we were all doing the same basic assignment, each student took a different path and approach. After this process students reported that they now take in color in different ways, saw in terms of framing, and were in awe of all the exciting tools photoshop offered to digitally design their image. Throughout, our intent was to use the tools in the digital design world to navigate our way in the terrain of visual language and artistic expression, and from there to share our creations with the world.