Workshop Spotlight - Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Workshop Spotlight: Whittier Elementary

Pop Culture Classroom is dedicated to offering students in classrooms all across the Front Range dynamic workshops exploring educational topics through the lens of pop culture. The latest of these was an exciting 8-week comic-creation course at Whittier Elementary. Using Storytelling Through Comics, an arts and literacy curriculum created by PCC, students had the unique opportunity to create their own comics.

The process of creating comics empowers students in their education, making learning and creating fun and relevant to what kids are already interested in. Starting in January, six students began learning about comics from PCC educators Marisa Pushee and Shawn Bowman during an after-school program.

At the end of the creation process, these students had each created a 6 panel comic from scratch. Their comics focused on a problem in the world and overcoming it through their superheroes.

According to Pushee, four students in the class “were good friends who regularly made comics together. Already dedicated comic book fans, they were excited to learn more about developing their layouts and improving their drawing techniques. At the end of the class, they decided to each make their own final comic, but found ways to include crossover characters and influence each other’s work.”

The students artistic and storytelling skills grew over the course of the class resulting in a fun and rewarding experience for both students and educators.

For more information on Storytelling Through Comics, visit here.

 

Spotlight: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Whittier PCC workshop participant Kate hard at work on the final draft of her comic.

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Students Jun and Rivers creating cross-over comics together.

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Mira, age 10, working hard on her original comic “Changes.”

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Enrico and his comic “Waterfall” about a bird named Kirby who drinks from the fountain of youth.

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Rhys having a fun learning to draw her first-ever comic.

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Hyunmin, 8, diligently drafting his comic, “Bird’s Revenge.”


 

MARCH Review - Comic Education Outreach - Pop Culture Classroom

MARCH Review

By Eric Kallenborn

Last August, I was privileged enough to hear Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, co-authors of the award-winning graphic novel trilogy March, speak at Evanston Public High School in Evanston, Illinois. It was there, about three months before the Presidential election that I understood, that no matter the outcome of the election, we, as a nation, were going to be alright.

Listening to these men speak was nothing short of amazing. As they explained obstacles they faced getting the book published, Rep. Lewis and Mr. Aydin also told the story of struggle, persistence, community, and choosing love: not surprising, as these are some of the most powerful themes in March. Heck, they’re powerful themes in life too.

ABOUT THE BOOKS

There is a reason that March, the story of Rep. John Lewis’ life and struggles through the Civil Rights Movement, has seen much critical acclaim recently. The book series, which consists of three volumes, delves into issues that many in this country would like to keep in the dark corners of American history. March shines a light into those dark corners, forcing us to face the horrors of segregation and racism while also celebrating the brave men and woman of the Civil Rights Movement.   

MARCH Review - Comic Education Outreach - Pop Culture ClassroomThe art of March’s illustrator, Nate Powell, is a perfect juxtaposition to the writing of Rep. Lewis and Mr. Aydin; much like in Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Powell’s choice of white, blacks, and grays for the color scheme forces the reader back in time and makes it easier to focus on the details of Lewis’ life and struggles.    

MARCH Review - Comic Education Outreach - Pop Culture Classroom

A recent winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the March series is quickly becoming a must-read in most circles, literary or not. While violent and heavy, this book can and should be read by anyone over the age of twelve. And if you have that certain someone in your life that still might question the validity of comics or graphic novels as part of the social lexicon, slip them a copy of March, and see if you can change their mind.       

IN THE CLASSROOM

I’m not saying that you have to put March in your classroom library, but I’m sort of saying that you should put March in your classroom library. It’s an important book, and much like the comic book that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to spread the news about the Montgomery bus boycott, it’s an example of how graphic texts can shape our understanding ofhistory and help us better empathize with cultures and people beyond ourselves.

  • For the history lesson alone, March should find itself in schools across the nation.  Not only can this book be taught in the English classroom, but it has connections to many different Social Studies classrooms as well. For the most part, at least in my experience, we do a poor job in this country of teaching students about the Civil Rights Movement; March helps get much-needed information into the hands of students while also keeping them engaged.
  • The complexity of the images allows for deep analytical conversation. As you may hear me say many times in the future, one of the best things about this medium is that we are adding to an already rich English classroom vocabulary. On top of tone, mood, symbolism, diction, etc., we are adding terms like “panel,” “special effects lettering,” “graphic weight,” etc. The inclusion of these new classroom terms allows for more complex discussion at all levels and Nate Powell’s artistic decisions are a perfect inroad into those discussions.
  • As you might have already guessed, this book would be an amazing companion piece to a multitude of texts that you may use in your classroom, both fiction and non-fiction. This includes films as well.  What a cool project it would be to write a comparative analysis of March with the film Selma.

CONCLUSION

Sometimes to get an important message out to certain audiences, we need to change the way in which that message is created. Delivered by Rep. Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powel, March is further proof that changing the construction of a message can take that message to people and places that might have not received it otherwise.

This is especially important in a time when many of us, on both sides of the isle, are unsure and often weary of what is to come, and messages like the ones found in March may be what we need to fuel our passions for persistence, community, and choosing love.

Cosplay Update - Denver Comic Con 2017

Big Update from the DCC’17 Cosplay Team!

Denver Comic Con has some new and exciting changes to announce for 2017! We have a brand new Cosplay team and lots of improvements to our Cosplay Programming this year. Read on for the some of the biggest updates!  And, now you can either send questions to cosplay@popcultureclassroom.org, or submit them through the new DCC Cosplay Facebook Group we just launched (details below)!

NEW COSPLAY CANYON

First, the cosplay Photo-shoot Gathering Stage, Contest Craftsmanship Judging, and Cosplay Panel Room (previously room #507) will all be consolidated into one new area called Cosplay Canyon. It will be located on the Southwest end of the street level floor. This centralized area will be a hub for the cosplay community to access all main cosplay programming at Denver Comic Con.

INTRODUCING THE “COSPLAY CLASSIC”

The official DCC cosplay contest formerly known as the “Cosplay Shindig” is now the “Cosplay Classic!” Do you have what it takes to join in the Cosplay Classic? You bet you do! Creativity, passion, and a little bit of bravery! Check out our Cosplay Classic guidelines to get all the information you need to bring your best to the stage. Please make sure you carefully review requirements, divisions, and stage rules before registration on April 29th, 2017.

If you would like to enter into the new Cosplay Classic, you may do so starting on Saturday 4/29 at approximately 12 noon MDT, which is when the entry webpage will go live.  Start by going to the DCC website (www.denvercomiccon.com), then click on the “COSPLAY” tab.

COSPLAY PHOTO-SHOOT SIGNUPS AND DETAILS

Cosplay photo-shoot gathering signups are now open! Submissions are open on the DCC website (popcultureclassroom.org/dcc/cosplay/cosplay-photo-shoot/) from April 22nd-April 29th. After collecting the submissions, we will also post a poll on that same page from May 6th-May 13th to vote for the groups and ideas you’d most like to see at DCC! Themes will be scheduled and prioritized according to popular vote. This final schedule will be posted, online and in the DCC Program, after May 20th. The Cosplay Photo-shoot Stage welcomes all cosplayers and photographers to gather at any scheduled theme to network and show off their talent! 

NEW FACEBOOK GROUP DEDICATED TO DCC COSPLAY

There is also a new DCC Cosplay Facebook Group – specially created for the DCC Cosplay Community as a means to network with each other and have one place to go to ask questions and get official answers from the DCC Cosplay Team. This group will be closely monitored and moderated by us, so be sure to read through all the group rules and guidelines before joining. You may find that group here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1826254787635942/

ATTEMPTING THE GUINNESS BOOK WORLD RECORD!

Denver Comic Con is also going to officially attempt to beat the Guinness Book World Record for “Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Comic Book Characters.” Note that this any “comic book characters” count, not just “superheroes!” So, for example, Power Rangers and Pokemon work just as well! We as a unified Cosplay Community can surely beat this world record and invite all costumed comic characters to gather with us on Sunday, July 2, by 3 p.m. MDT at the Bellco Theater to be a part of this world record breaking event! Stay tuned on this one – many more details to come!

Ticket Drops - Denver Comic Con 2017

Announcing the 2017 Denver Comic Con Ticket Drops!

Pop Culture Classroom is excited to announce that we will be doing a limited number of ticket drops for Denver Comic Con 2017! Denver Comic Con is supported by Pop Culture Classroom, whose goal is to inspire a love of learning, increase literacy, celebrate diversity and build community through the tools of popular culture. As part of this mission, over the next few months we’ll be traveling to locations all across Denver and nearby cities with bags containing two (2) 3-Day Passes to this year’s Denver Comic Con and exclusive DCC’17 swag. General locations will be announced 24 hours in advance of the drops on the Pop Culture Classroom Facebook and Twitter accounts, and when the ticket drop goes live we will post a picture/video of where to find the swag bag in that location. Be sure to stay tuned on those sites and be the first to know where the drop will be. Don’t miss out on your chance attend the hottest event of the summer! Check out this video for more information!


Captain Colorado

Littles Need Comics, Too: Comics and Graphic Novels for Early Readers

By Ronell Whitaker

“Are there any comics or graphic novels out there for the primary grades?”

This is a question I get all the time from fellow teachers. It seems simple, but for years I found myself struggling to find a good answer. While I’ve always had great suggestions of comic and graphic novel titles for high schoolers and the middle grades, I had never gotten around to finding out what options there actually were for the K to 2nd grade crowd.

When I did a preliminary search, I was frustrated to see that even those comics aimed at younger readers – like Marvel’s Little Golden Books, or licensed properties like My Little Pony and Adventure Time – are often rebranded picture books or written above primary reading levels. Frustrated, I began to think that the answer to their question might be a deflating, “No.”

Until now.

Below, I’ve put together a list of great books and resources for the little readers out there. Covering an array of content, styles, and age levels, these books showcase the diversity and potential of comics to reach students of all ages, and make great additions to any ECE or elementary classroom:

The Ordinary People Change The World Series
By Brad Meltzer and Chris Eliopoulos

The Ordinary People Change the World Series

These books blend traditional comic style with the readability of picture books. The series is a collection of biographies centered on heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, and Rosa Parks, but the book presents these historical giants in a kid-friendly, pint-sized way that is endearing and relatable for early readers.

Tiny Titans
by Art Balthazar

Tiny Titans

Art Balthazar’s world of crayon and sidewalk chalk heroes is especially appealing to young readers. Although it’s at the upper end of the K-2 age range, the stories in each book are normally no more than five pages, and the vocabulary isn’t overly challenging. The writing is joke a minute, and kids love seeing characters they recognize in the big kids comics.

Owly
by Andy Runton 

Owly

Andy Runton’s Owly is an adorable character, who goes on kid friendly adventures with his forest friends. What makes Owly especially attractive to emerging readers is there are no words. Readers use images to follow along as Owly learns concepts like cooperation, sharing and compassion.

Toon Books

Toon Books

Toon Books was the “A-ha!” find of this entire search. What’s great about them is they organize their titles by age level, and they hire top notch, award winning talent like Jeff Smith (Bone), Eleanor Davis (How To Be Happy), and Toon Books co-founder Art Spiegelman (Maus). Toon Books focus on publishing books specifically for early readers is what makes them the best option for readers ages 3 and up.

Comics are a great way to captivate emerging readers, and these books will go a long way toward creating a life long love of books.


Action Lab and Pop Culture Classroom

PCC and Action Lab Comics! Extend Partnership to 2020

Pop Culture Classroom is pleased and honored to announce the renewal of a continued partnership with Action Lab Comics! PCC’s arts and literacy curriculum Storytelling Through Comics (STC) is greatly supported by Action Lab, and the partnership will continue through 2020. This is a continuation of a strong relationship between like-minded organizations that stand behind the use of comics as powerful educational tools.

STC is a standards-based curriculum that explores age-appropriate comic literature with the goals of igniting a love of learning and increasing literacy by using pop culture as an educational tool. After discussing how art and words work together to tell a story, students are then given the chance to create comics of their own.

Action Lab licenses their comic Princeless #1 for use in the STC curriculum. Teachers have the opportunity to use this comic book as a teaching tool in the classroom in association with STC. Thanks to Action Lab’s generosity PCC will be able to continue to provide teachers with the very best of curricula and tools while keeping costs to educators low. PCC’s goal is to promote literacy through what children are already interested in, fusing pop culture and education together. Action Lab’s support in these endeavors is greatly appreciated and we look forward to a continued partnership built on these ideals.

I AM BREWT - The Official Beer of Comic Con 2017

The Official Beer of DCC’17 is “I AM BREWT”!

Breckenridge Brewery and Denver Comic Con proudly announce that “I AM BREWT,” submitted by Rhiana Elizabeth Henry, is the name of the 2017 DCC beer, a Bohemian Pilsner. Thank goodness we have such a lovable and strong Guardian of the Brewery.

Artist Noah Eisenman of Boulder, CO, will be creating the artwork for this year’s DCC I Am Brewt collectible pint glass which will be given away at select events leading up to and during the con. Check out more of Noah’s work at www.noaheisenman.com.

Congratulations to Rhiana who gets free Breck beer for a year and an official DCC tap handle!

Stay tuned for the Beer Launch party announcement coming soon.

Vote for the Official 2017 Denver Comic Con Beer

Vote for the 2017 Denver Comic Con Official Beer Name!

Click on the button below to cast your vote!

Denver Comic Con and Breckenridge Brewery have carefully selected 4 finalists and now it’s up to you to vote for your favorite! You can vote for as many as you’d like but you can only vote once per name. The winning name will be illustrated by a hand-picked comic book artist. The person who came up with the name will receive a custom prize package from Breckenridge Brewery that includes free beer for a year and a Comic Con beer tap handle!

Pride of Baghdad Review

By Michael Gianfrancesco

Brian K. Vaughan’s and Niko Henrichon’s 2006 masterpiece Pride of Baghdad combines fact and fiction in a way that not only creates an impactful and poignant story, but also makes serious and complex themes accessible to just about any reader. This text has been in my regular classroom rotation for years and has remained relevant and powerful due to its universal motifs of war, family, loss, and (dare I say it) skewed perception of what it means to be proud.

OVERVIEW

Based very loosely on events surrounding the bombing of the Baghdad Zoo by American forces in 2003, the story follows four lions that hop the crumbling walls of their shattered enclosure and seek freedom in the burning remains of the city. Vaughn has made these animals semi-anthropomorphic (not to the degree of the characters’ human dimensions and animal faces in Spiegelman’s Maus, but only in that they can talk to each other and other animals) and given each a backstory and role to play in the book’s sad but all too inevitable conclusion.

What makes this novel all the more special is the beauty of the artwork itself. Hernichon masterfully recreates post-war Baghdad in all its shorn grandeur. Present are the famous landmarks including the sword clutching arch known sometimes as the Hands of Victory and the not-yet-razed statue of Saddam Hussein. The abandoned streets are presented awash in deep red and orange sepia tones that invoke the bloodied and burning remains of what was once a bustling Middle Eastern city.

The text pulls no punches in terms of its treatment of war and the atrocities therein. Within the first few pages, readers are treated to a faithful giraffe getting his head blown off in graphic detail. The book’s mature themes don’t end there, and this is where I would caution any educators to vet Pride of Baghdad carefully. There is a scene implying sexual assault of one of the females, a bloody battle between a bear and the male lion, and an ending that will not send you home happy. You know your student population, your district and building culture, and what constitutes “appropriate” in your classroom, so tread carefully.

USE IN THE CLASSROOM

  • You can pair Pride of Baghdad with Maus as both share similar themes about how war impacts the individual and the family and its gorgeous color and panoramic artwork are a stark and welcome contrast to Spiegelman’s thick lines, claustrophobic panels, and black and white presentation.
  • You could also toss this into a unit with novels The Things They Carried, Night, Diary of Anne Frank, or A Thousand Splendid Suns to scaffold similar themes of the horrors of war and loss.
  • There is an opportunity to bring Pride of Baghdad to a social studies classroom as the text offers an accurate artistic representation of war torn Iraq. Pulling news articles and primary sources on the conflict and discussing the real story of the war and the bombing in and around the zoo can help students with their visual understanding of the consequences of war.
  • The motifs of feminism and the nature of a patriarchal society are certainly at play here and can foster discussion in your class about the cultural nature of the lions as representative of various human cultures.
  • As mentioned above, there are mature themes and scenes that should be considered before committing the book to your students.

IN CONCLUSION

To sum it all up, Pride of Baghdad is a brutally honest and heart wrenching book with enough conflict and action to engage even the most skeptical reader. It offers no quarter in terms of expectations of survival when war has come to your front door. Its brutal honesty is complemented with real characters with whom even the most stoic of readers will find themselves connecting on an emotional level.

Name the Denver Comic Con Beer!

The annual “Name the Denver Comic Con Beer” contest starts today! This is the 6th year Breckenridge Brewery has brewed a special beer just for the con.

The 2017 DCC beer is a Bohemian-style Pilsner. It’s delicate and well-balanced, light yet complex. Saaz hops, a classic pilsner ingredient, impart a pleasant, earthy aroma while giving spicy flavor characteristics and a crisp, dry finish. Famously pleasing. A friend to many. But before you know it, it’s gone.

Past winners of our “Name the Comic Con Beer” contest are: The Fantastic Pour, The Caped Brewsader, Brews Wayne, Hulk’s Mash, and Snape-ricot. Now’s your chance for infamy! In the comments section of this post, submit your idea for a name by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday March 23rd.

Check back on Friday March 24th to vote for one of the 4 select entries decided on by Breck and DCC. The winning name will be illustrated by a local comic book artist and featured on this year’s DCC pint glass. The winner receives a custom prize package from Breckenridge Brewery that includes free beer for a year and a Denver Comic Con beer tap handle!