Imagination rules here at Denver Comic Con, so it’s time to celebrate all the fantastic achievements by the kids, teachers, community supporters and volunteers who came together to create, learn, and work as a team this summer. Here are some of the highlights of the educational programming instituted at Denver Comic Con this year by Pop Culture Classroom—and stay tuned for a special sneak peak at our plans for the future.
First of all, we the dynamic nonprofit organization at the heart of Denver Comic Con. On Friday, June 13th during our first ever Opening Ceremonies, our new Executive Director Christine Tubbs presented Pop Culture Classroom, the new name for the nonprofit. Pop Culture Classroom” reflects the expansion of our educational programming into many other mediums. The original Comic Book Classroom curriculum will still be available for teachers, and will be leveraged as a philosophical model for new curriculum.
“It has worked so well in comic books, in what we are calling ‘Storytelling Through Comics,’ we are now expanding it to other areas of popular culture,” Tubbs told The Denver Post. “So, music, film, gaming are a few of the areas we’ll use to expand it.”
Pop Culture Classroom isn’t just expanding its curriculum. It also quadrupled the size of, and added many new innovative features to, the Comic Book Classroom Kids’ Corral, a safe, structured environment where children, teens, parents and educators can participate in comic culture without having to fight the crowds in the aisles of exhibitors.
“Pop Culture Classroom” reflects the expansion of our educational programming into many other mediums. The original Comic Book Classroom curriculum will still be available for teachers, and will be leveraged as a philosophical model for new curriculum.
For example, one of the most exciting new areas in the Kids’ Corral was the 8-Bit Lounge, a studio on the convention floor designed to allow students between 12 and 19 years old to connect with professional creators. Writers, artists, and make-up artists (just to name a few) from shows like SyFy’s Face Off not only demonstrated their work and answered questions, but they also engaged one-on-one and in small group to create projects like stop-motion animation shorts and professional makeup jobs.
A key mission of the Denver Comic Con is to empower kids to stand up for what’s right, and that idea was at the center of our Super Anti-Bullying Team-Up with Adventure Time’s Jeremy Shada. Jeremy and his pal Max Charles (who played young Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) joined special guest Grayson Bruce to talk about bullying and how to not only deal with it, but to eliminate it. Grayson is the 9-year-old from North Carolina who took on this school’s backwards punish-the-victim bullying policy and won, so it was our honor to host this brave young man.
Other special programs in the Kids’ Corral included My Little Pony author Katie Cook sharing her experience with web comics; creator Emily Martin (Princeless) drawing Batman comics for the first time ever; and professional comic artist Yanick Paquette recording video lessons intended to support the Storytelling Through Comics curriculum.
Meanwhile, in our Arts and Crafts Labs, Denver Comic Con volunteers worked alongside local community organizations like the Denver Public Library and the Colorado Rockies to help children craft. The projects in the Arts and Crafts Labs were specifically designed to help children use their imaginations and give them free reign over design and construction. Random Acts took their project a step further by dedicating their area in the labs to the Tennyson Center for Children, one of the Rocky Mountain region’s leading treatment centers and K-12 schools for emotionally and crisis-affected children and youth, particularly those suffering from abuse and neglect. RAOK helped children in the Arts and Crafts Labs create cards for the students at Tennyson Center.
Celebrity guests at the Denver Comic Con often drop in to the Comic Book Classroom Kids’ Corral to read aloud to the children. This year, Adam West (Batman) read the bestselling If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond. Gigi Edgley from Farscape and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge read the whimsical Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox and Lydia Monks. Finally, actor and voice artist Kevin Conroy snuck away from his jam-packed Batman 75th Anniversary panel to perform Moustache Baby by Bridget Heos and Joy Ang.
Ever mindful of our ongoing mission to expand our base of involved teachers in the community, we gave out nearly 200 Educator’s Passes to teachers in local and regional schools to allow them a free day at Denver Comic Con. As a special incentive for educators to engage with our teaching materials, teachers who attended 3 hours of educational programming received a free copy of the full Comic Book Classroom Curriculum.
“Our goal has always been one to inspire teachers,” said Bruce Macintosh, Director of Programming for DCC. “We don’t just want to expose them to new teaching tools and curricula, but we also want to give them the freedom to explore the other awesome panels that range from diversity topics to film-making. Our organization operates on the basic premise that comics and other popular media can effectively teach children the fundamentals of reading, as well as being an essential learning tool for changes in social culture.”
In this spirit, Illegal Pete’s sponsored the new “Experience the CoMix” program to allow 100 local middle and high school students to come to Denver Comic Con for free as part of a cultural and educational field trip.
Literature was also alive and well at the Rocky Mountain Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels (RoMoCoCo!) where authors and academics trained their critical eyes on complex issues around themes, identities, education and intellectual perspectives in comics and graphic novels.
The experience kids, parents and teachers discovered in the Comic Book Classroom Corral extended into the vast educational programming staged in Denver Comic Con’s dozens of panel rooms and Main Events halls. Over 300 hours of educational programming demonstrates Pop Culture Classroom’s continuing mission to provide educational content that shows the value of comics and other pop culture media in improving literacy and inspiring everyone to learn more about the world around them.
The Con kicked off on Saturday when DCC partnered with the Denver Citywide Marching Band to lead the children’s costume parade through the labyrinthine halls of the Colorado Convention Center, all the way to the Kids’ Corral, where they played a surprise concert for the entertainment of all.
Another example of how Pop Culture Classroom is changing attitudes about literacy and creativity came during this year’s Draw Off!, one of our most popular panels. Artists were encouraged to think outside the box and demonstrate that everyone has their own style. Instead of an old-school competition, both artists and kids drew the same object or character in a set amount of time, demonstrating that diversity of style is a virtue and not a drawback.
Over 300 hours of educational programming demonstrates Pop Culture Classroom’s continuing mission to provide educational content that shows the value of comics and other pop culture media in improving literacy and inspiring everyone to learn more about the world around them.
Meanwhile there were dozens of educational panels downstairs in the Convention Center, where tracks dedicated to education, diversity, and literature drew thousands of active participants. In the diversity track, attendees discussed ethic and racial identity in comics, spirituality, LGBT issues and working beyond stereotypes, among other topics. In the education track, guests discussed careers in pop culture, top graphic novels to use in classrooms, and the social relevancy of The Walking Dead.
Literature was also alive and well at the Rocky Mountain Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels (RoMoCoCo!) where authors and academics trained their critical eyes on complex issues around themes, identities, education and intellectual perspectives in comics and graphic novels. Over 40 hours of educational programming were dedicated to this conference alone, and featured academic experts Barbara Postema, Bart Beaty, Charles Hatfield, and William Kuskin and our own Convention Director, Dr. Christina Angel.
Even those who weren’t at Denver Comic Con couldn’t get away from superheroes that weekend. Pop Culture Classroom presented at TEDxMile High on Saturday, June 14th, where our team challenged attendees to draw a hero that could change the world according to ideas presented in other TED talks that weekend. All the drawings were collected and displayed at TEDxMile High. [View video here]
So where do we go from here? Up, up and away, of course.
Want to know more about Pop Culture Classroom and Denver Comic Con’s educational endeavors? Please email: info@PopCultureClassroom.org
TO BE CONTINUED…