Webcomic Camp Comes to a Close

And so, the final frame has been inked.


Yesterday, our four-day Webcomic Camp for middle school students came to an end and even though it is a lot of work to plan for the camp and sucks up half of a summer day, I was pretty sad to see our artists/writers walk out the door yesterday. They had accomplished a lot in four days.

One idea that my colleague Tom had was to have each student present to the rest of us some of their comics, even if the comics were still underway and uncompleted. They could use any platform they wanted — digital or not — and it was nice to see a whole mix of comics and graphic stories underway or completed. This idea of a presentation of some work really gave the kids focus during the last two days of camp, as did the use of some forms around character development and plot design. Tom also set up a table where he regularly checked in with kids (while I was doing tech work).

There was a whole range of talent, from just beginning to one kid who clearly has incredible talent as an artist and illustrator and was completely engaged when watching The Cartoonist documentary about Jeff Smith and his Bone series.

This eighth-grader has already created an entire world for a graphic novel, complete with characters with back stories, and although he did smaller pieces for camp, he “sees” a much larger story unfolding for a graphic novel in the future. This kid has talent, and luckily, he already knows Hilary Price (of Rhymes with Orange fame) and will work with her a bit.

Me? I was so wrapped up in helping kids and gathering their work for our camp website (which we used as our presentation platform) that I never got to even start a comic with them. Tom did, though, and I hope he keeps going with it. I did finally figure out how to use iPhoto this camp, however, and how to resize photos (How come I can’t do it directly in iPhoto?) that allowed me to work on our camp website right in class as they were completing their work. (The Mac is still my learning curve).

We had them leave camp with our style of exit slip: they had to draw us a final comic on paper, and when they handed that in, we gave them a camp t-shirt and another free graphic novel (from my pile). And since we have our Bitstrip site up for at least another month, they can continue to make comics on their own. I hope they do.

Peace (on the funny pages),

A Week of Claymation and Comics

Next week, I am co-teaching two summer camps for middle school students with very creative aims: help young people make movies and create comics. These offerings are a collaboration between the local Vocational High School and the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, which is seeking to expand our offerings to youths.

The first camp in the morning (which I will teach with my friend, Tina) is a claymation/stopmotion animation class. This will be the third year that we will be doing this camp and among other things, the kids will be:

  • Exploring animation through Pivot Stickfigure freeware
  • Using Stopmotion Animator freeware with webcams to create short adventure claymation movies
  • Learning how to use Moviemaker
  • Exploring the world of movies on a small scale

The Comic Camp is something new this year, and I was explaining to Tina and Tom (who will co-teach the comic portion with me), the impetus came from walking into a comic book store during last year’s 24 Hour Comic event and seeing the store packed with young people writing and creating. This was clearly composing done outside of the classroom and I figured there might be some interest for a Comic/Graphic Novel camp. There was. It filled up quickly.

Our intentions are to balance students’ learning about the genre of comics, reading through some graphic novels and creating their own comics. We’ll be introducing ToonDoo (my pilot closed site) and ComicLife (see this great Comiclife resource for educators), but allow for them to create on paper, too, if that fits their needs. Our focus will be on character development and how character can drive a story (graphic novel) or a series (comic strips). While they won’t have time to create a graphic novel, they will begin planning for one.

I am also excited because I have at least two local artists coming in to talk with the kids (one is Hilary Price of Rhymes with Orange syndicated comic strip). We’re not quite sure how this camp will unfold but it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

I created a blog for both camps, if you are interested in following some of the progress through the week: http://claycomics.wordpress.com/

Peace (with the kids),