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.
For the 2012 spring quarter, a handful of 7th graders from Willow Creek Academy were selected to participate in a pilot program, Willow Creek Voices. While 5th and 6th graders in this program explored digital photography, the 7th graders embarked upon filmmaking!
Filmmaking opens up so many rich possibilities…from expressing your inner creativity, to dancing the fine balance between teamwork and individual contributions. And then there is all the craft that goes into making a video…from the technical side — how to operate a camera, how to edit it, and the creative content side — what content to show, how to frame it, what angle, how close or far should the camera be. Making a video also allows us the opportunity to get up close and personal with something we care about in the world, and do something about it! While some people may think 7th graders don’t care about social issues and the culture around them past the latest fad, it’s not true. The videos created in this workshop certainly stand up to this stereotype.
Throughout the workshop, we drew from process, techniques and tools detailed in the Adobe Youth Voices Create with Purpose Video Curriculum. To set the filmmaking stage and create a film common language [Media literacy], we watched several PSA’s and short videos, to tease out the important elements of a successful video, and to witness how Story, Audience, Message and Style (SAMS), each play a pivotal role in making a video successful.
Students then got into groups and brainstormed social issues they cared about and what they wanted to contribute to the conversation. From there, students selected one topic and pitched their ideas. Building from our media literacy and critical explorations, students used the SAMS structure in relation to their own videos, coming up with a clear Story, Target Audience, Message and Style for their PSA. Students went through the process of Inspiration/Media Literacy, Brainstorming/Pitching, Pre Production (SAMS structure, script, storyboard, story arc), Production (filming) and Post Production (editing, using Adobe Premiere Elements).
Throughout the process, students crafted the video and made choices based in intention and creating with purpose, while leaving room for the artistic muse to provide inspiration along the way. Team work, as well as leadership and playing to our strengths was encouraged at every turn. For example, some students students took the lead finding copyright free music, while others assembled the rough cut, both working in tandem and with the final project in mind.
Making a video was eye opening at every turn. Perhaps the greatest impression left on the students is that each of us has the ability and opportunity to make a difference, to make a change. And with these videos, this is exactly what these youth hope to do!
Since March we’ve been working with 5th and 6th graders at Willow Creek Academy and following the Adobe Youth Voices Digital Design curriculum. In this workshop, students have been exploring various key concepts fundamental to digital design and also getting their feet wet learning how to take photos with digital cameras and edit them in Adobe Photoshop Elements.
To set the stage, we started with media literacy, viewing a variety of visual examples to develop a common language and see, in full vibrancy, how subject to camera distances (close up, medium shot, long shot), composition, framing, and color play pivotal roles in photography. We leaped from critical analysis to hands on practice with our first exercise — creative portrait.
While taking the portraits, students were encouraged to explore the difference between the close up and long shot, to look what it’s in the frame, what’s left out and connect how technical choices pair with creative meanings.