Workshop lets elementary students be creative

Melinda Warren

PHOTO BY MELINDA WARREN // Kathleen Burke, program manager for the Shazaam program holding up one of the graphic novels from one of the grade seven classes from the June 2011 edition.

Humber is helping seventh grade students create graphic novels with an interactive in-class workshop, geared towards enhancing graphic design and creative writing skills.

The Shazaam workshop, happening at Second Street Junior Middle School in south Etobicoke, is aimed at helping students discover their creative, literary, art and communication skills.

“When it started out it was very rudimentary. It was only for the grade sevens. We had three brothers come in who taught comic book workshops and that’s all it was,” said Kathleen Burke, program manager for Shazaam.

The first issues of a graphic novel were published in 2008 by two seventh grade classes.

The program has changed since the beginning, as artists are now brought in to teach the kids fundamentals in drawing, Burke said.

“[The students] really become engaged within this context because they understand it.

It’s not about getting marks, it’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about them. It becomes more and more prolific as the classes progress,” Burke said.

Burke said the school was chosen for this program, as they are a school in need.

Lakeshore Arts, a non-profit arts organization in Mimico runs the Shazaam program Burke said.

Humber has played an important role for Shazaam by sponsoring the program and by having two students from the graphic design program intern there, said David Barkworth, graphic design professor at Humber.

The interns digitally scan the comics the kids draw and design the cover of the graphic novel to end up with the finished product, he said.

“The main thing is giving the kids the opportunity to do something and see it in print.

Seeing it reproduced, that’s the big thing for them,” Barkworth said,
Barkworth also acts as a mentor to the interns.

“It is a good example for them to see how even though they think they are doing something that’s arts-based, they are really doing something that’s literacy based,” said Cheryl

Howe, principal of Second Street Junior Middle School.

Shazaam helps the students because it helps further develop their social, conflict resolution and self-assessment skills, Howe said.

“This is real life learning for the kids, it’s not textbook learning,” Howe said.

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