Workshop Spotlight: University Hill Elementary, Boulder

Pop Culture Classroom’s workshops offer a unique, engaging and dynamic ways for students to become engrossed in educational topics through the lens of pop culture. Our innovative workshops are offered at sites across the Front Range, including elementary schools like University Hill Elementary in Boulder, where we recently wrapped up an exciting 12-week comic-creation course using our arts and literacy curriculum, Storytelling Through Comics.

Each week from February through May, a group of 10-12 4th and 5th grade students met with Pop Culture Classroom instructors on Thursday afternoons to learn about, write and illustrate comics. According to Ana Silvia Avendano-Curiel, Uni Hill’s Family Resource School coordinator, “Every time I would take a peek at the classroom or would go in to check about a student with the instructors, students seemed so engaged, focused, imagination being pushed beyond what they could do and it was so exciting to see.”

Each day, Avendano-Curiel says, she saw students leaving the class “re-energized with imagination…more willing to participate at home with their responsibilities…. and more intellectually nourished and challenged. Overall, they seem more focused and eager to do more drawing when they get home.”

Marisa Pushee and David Gann, the Pop Culture Classroom instructors for this workshop, were an integral part of making the Uni Hill workshop a resounding success. Both instructors agreed that students seemed to truly feel empowered through the study, analysis and creation of their own comics, and in each session students pushed themselves to learn and apply new comic techniques to their own work.

According to Pushee, one student, Wallace, “joined our class with an enthusiasm for comics that only grew during the course…. Always eager for the weekly drawing lessons, he developed an entire world of characters. For his final project, Wallace created a superhero alter ego named “Wonder Wallace” who battles crime. He completed the first book in what will be an ongoing series and was eager to reproduce his comic to gain an audience for his work.”

In addition, instructor David Gann added that many students seemed to discover their inner voices and creative passions through the development of a comic book. He shared the stories of two students in particular:

“Alex was a quiet student at the beginning, but once we began working with the students on their story ideas Alex let his imagination run wild. Alex naturally grasped storyboarding and created some creative action sequences in his comics. He worked on his comics at home and created some very polished work.”

“Most weeks we would give the students optional homework assignments. Diego was a student who would do multiple drawings for homework each week. He would experiment with different poses, costumes and facial expressions and was always excited to show us the new additions to his sketchbook each week.”

By the end of the course, these and the other students had created an amazing array of comic, all centered on problems they see in the world, that truly showed the power of comics as a tool for inspiring self-expression and creativity. Our utmost thanks to the University Hill Elementary and the students, families and educators who made this workshop possible!

If you’d like to learn more about Storytelling Through Comics, click here.