Bulb Archived: North Grand SCALE 2016-2017: Jung & Fischer

Teacher: Kathryn Jung

Artist: Marc Fischer

School: North-Grand High School

Big Idea: Self-publishing & scale of self-publishing

Inquiry Question: How does scale play into the logistics of self-publishing?

Fall/Winter

Art Content: Students have been drawing, writing, creating digital images, and taking photographs.

Non-Art Content: Researching ideas, looking at publications made by other artists and writers, learning how to search for books in a library, learning how books are structured, talking about the economics of publishing, what things cost. Field trips use the CTA in order for students to better understand how to navigate their city, and how to use Ventra. We also try to introduce them to new kinds of food and other experiences that are foreign. Most of the students have a very limited grasp of the city as a whole. In addition to helping them see themselves as participants in a larger self-publishing culture, we want to expose them to things that might be inspiring in ways we can’t necessarily determine. For our next field trip we want to take the students to the Garfield Park Conservatory. This does not feed into any of their publications in progress, but it’s a nearby place that none of them have ever visited, and a strong experience of plants and nature that isn’t readily available in their immediate environment.

Describe how the project unfolded. (What were the class learning goals, what were your teaching or artistic explorations, what were your students’ explorations, student reactions, any changes in plans, what worked well and what didn’t work well, unexpected outcomes, how your future project planning was impacted, etc.)

This is our third year working together. In terms of the current project, we started on the idea of publications last year. Marc is a self-publisher himself and brought up the idea since he would be able to serve as a superb resource for the students. Once Marc suggested this idea, Katy agreed that this would be a great way to have students showcase their individual and collective talents. Our first year working together with Ms. Barrow involved surveys, but we decided we wanted to create something more shareable with the community. As such, Publications…by You! was formed. At first ,we were thinking maybe combining the two ideas would be an option: publishing surveys and data into a publication. However, as students showed up to the program and we began to chat about their interests, we decided to take a more individual approach. We want students to have opportunities to explore topics and ideas that they don’t get to formally in school. Students reacted positively to this idea since most of them have a vast variety of interests that are not school topics (e.g., Anime, journaling, poetry, drawing).

As our project has evolved, some unexpected challenges have been having the students be productive the entire duration of the program. This is a challenge when it comes to producing tangible products, but is also something we struggle with because we know the students need some time to relax and be comfortable. However, moving forward we have been talking about coming up with some more structured activities so that students can balance work with play with some more guidance from us.

Do you think that students made progress toward the learning goals that were set for this semester? Please estimate the percentage of students who made progress toward the learning goals. Please explain the basis of your assessment.

We created some new goals a couple weeks ago. We want students to be working towards more independence, pride, and confidence when it comes to sharing their tangible work and explaining their process and product. Students are still in progress towards these goals because there haven’t been many opportunities for students to practice. Ideally, students will not only be able to trade their publications at May’s Chicago ‘Zine Fest, but students will also be able to engage in productive conversations with other participants. Last year, students created their 3 publications and then sold them at North-Grand or traded them at Chicago ‘Zine Fest. Many of these trades and sales involved a simple, “Do you want to trade?” or “Do you want to buy this?” These interactions did not have students explain their process or product. We want students to be able to take pride in their work and be able to comfortably talk with others about it. At the first program sharing event here at North-Grand, some students shared with the Comic Book Club their ideas for their projects. However, we hope we can provide more opportunities for students to share. As we plan more structured activities moving forward, we want to have students practice these skills so that they are prepared for the next ‘Zine Fest.

Please upload photos and/or videos of student work or classroom artifacts that demonstrate student learning and/or provide evidence that learning goals were or were not achieved. Describe how the artifacts, images or videos illustrate students achieving, partially achieving, or not achieving the learning goals.

Field trip to Falafel Island and the Harold Washington Library Center:

Many of the students still lack fundamental experiences that could inform their creative work and shape their understanding of the city they live in.

On January 23rd we took the students to Falafel Island and Harold Washington Library. A couple weeks ago one of the students asked how we were getting there and I told her we would take a CTA bus and then a CTA train. She started jumping with excitement and said that she could now cross these things off her bucket list. Like all of our students, she lives on the West side of Chicago and many of these students have parents that are worried about violence and will not let them ride public transit, so they either stay in their neighborhood or get rides everywhere, on the seemingly rare occasions when they get to do things in other parts of the city. So today, a number of the 8 students on the field trip rode the CTA for the first time ever. For some both the bus AND the train were a first. It was fun asking them what direction we were going in, if we were headed in the direction of the airport, and stuff like that.

Then we had dinner at Falafel Island on 24 E. Adams Street. Falafel Island is run by a bunch of really awesome Palestinian guys. Fortunately the restaurant was empty at 4:30 PM because it took forever to order. None of the students had ever eaten Middle Eastern food, except maybe hummus or gyros. The great and patient guys at Falafel Island let them all sample their freshly made falafel and explained everything. Some of the students ordered falafel and some ate other vegetarian things they had never eaten before. Some loved almost everything and others did not. Everyone loved baklava. It’s pretty much impossible not to love baklava.

Then we went to Harold Washington Library. The library at the students’ school is decorative and not functional. It has books but they are not cataloged or organized and they cannot be checked out. We had the students look up some books or subjects using Harold Washington’s computers and then we went on a scavenger hunt to find them. They had to ask the librarians for help in some cases but the books were found. They also got to check out the Maker Space and they visited the teen YouMedia Center (except one student who opted out because her home-schooled ex-boyfriend was hanging out in YouMedia and she wanted to avoid him). Here are photos of the students with books that they looked up or found while browsing the shelves.

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SKETCHBOOKS

One of the things we’ve observed is that our after-school time can be a place of productivity, but the students also would do well to have the means to create more effectively on their own. We gave each of them sketchbooks. Sometimes they use them. Sometimes they don’t. We have just started scanning pages from their sketchbooks which will be used in the publications they make. Other students are working on writing documents which are typed rather than entered into a journal or sketchbook.

Drawings by Jackie:

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Page by Maria:

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Drawings by Toleko:

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How did your teacher/artist collaboration work this semester? Describe how you and your partner planned together. How did you compromise when there were conflicts or differences of approaches or ideas? Can you cite a specific example?

Our teacher/artist collaboration work this semester is somewhat an extension of last year’s work together. Marc always has great ideas for directions the students can take their current work and can connect their ideas to other projects he’s worked on himself or knows about. In terms of conflicts and/or differences, there hasn’t really been enough difference in opinion to warrant a compromise. However, moving forward, we have discussed approaching some of our activities differently and in a more structured way. This might present differences in opinions, but TBD.

Describe how you teach together in the classroom. Who does what? How do you understand each other’s roles? Can you cite a specific example?

As the master artist, Marc does most of the guiding in the classroom. He can point out resources such as other pieces of art, artists, places in the city, etc. to peak student curiosity. He also has the artist supplies and materials to help students with the actual assembly of the drafts and publications. Katy reads and looks at individual students’ work, but Marc can provide insight into how to take the next steps. We both have discussions with the students and ask them questions about their interests and lives. As the classroom teacher, Katy knows more about how to connect to the students individually and the culture of the school. Most of the work so far has been individual students working so there hasn’t been much, if any, formal direct instruction. Instead, the program works more like a workshop at this point. Once students have more material that is publication-ready, new roles and duties will be taken on as we will have to engage in more logistics concerning decisions for the publications, including more connection to everyday mathematics, proportions, scale, etc.

Winter/Spring

Art Content: Students have been working on finishing their individual publications, making final drafts of written and drawn works, as well as assembling the publications.

Non-Art Content: After assembling the books, students had to decide logistics about what to do with the publications. How much should we sell them for? How many copies should we trade at ‘Zine Fest? How do I trade with another artist at ‘Zine Fest? Learning how to navigate the publishing world after the publications were made was the focus of the second part of class. 

Describe how the project unfolded. (What were the class learning goals, what were your teaching or artistic explorations, what were your students’ explorations, student reactions, any changes in plans, what worked well and what didn’t work well, unexpected outcomes, how your future project planning was impacted, etc.)

Unlike last year, the projects this year were primarily individually authored and not as collaborative. As with last year, the students produced three finished booklets. Others in the group made a lot of sketches and worked on various pieces of writing but they did not commit enough time to turn this material into a finished publication.

We used Chicago Zine Fest as our sharing event. It takes place in early May and this gave the students a deadline to work toward for the completion of their booklets. Three students finished publications, each focused on their own work: Toleko, Abidalys, and Jackie. All three students were able to share their booklets at Zine Fest, and everyone worked together on the assembly of these booklets once the printing was complete.

One unexpected outcome was that the students became the subject of a radio piece by Linda Lutton on WBEZ. She attended Chicago Zine Fest, interviewed the students, and then returned to the school to interview the Principal as well as to speak more with the students, including Wendy who could not attend Zine Fest. At least 4 hours of interviews were recorded and from this material, Lutton produced a 5 minute radio piece and a substantive piece with photos for WBEZ’s website. In listening to the students talking to Linda Lutton, it was obvious that they learned more about publishing and the value of making a printed booklet than was sometimes evident in the classroom. Their answers to Linda’s many questions were very thoughtful and insightful. They had sophisticated ideas about how a publication is different from sharing your art or ideas on social media, and Juan remarked that assembling the publications made him feel connected to kind of assembly line labor that is part of his family’s heritage. While for some people, assembling a booklet is a repetitive chore, for the students it seemed like the place where they could all work together given that their publications were not as collaborative.

Being interviewed about your creative work and sharing your work with the public is a pretty normal part of being an artist. It was extraordinary that the students got to have this experience at such an early stage in their creative lives. Most interviews with reporters are far less in-depth (even if the end result is similarly short). It was clear that Linda Lutton found value and meaning in what the students were doing. We were able to listen to the piece online with Jackie, Toleko, and Juan, and they liked the way it turned out.

Another compelling development was that Juan, Maria, Abidalys, and Toleko went to hear Georgia Congressman John Lewis speak at University of Chicago for an event centered around a graphic novel about his work during the Civil Rights Movement. The students showed him their art at a special meeting before his talk, and Abidalys even gave him one of her zines. While this was an extra event that was separate from our program, the fact that one of the students had something to give him and that this felt appropriate and meaningful to her was particularly exciting. She also gave a copy to the artist that illustrated Lewis’ story. It was fantastic that CAPE was able to arrange this more intimate meeting with Lewis before his presentation at Rockefeller Chapel.

Do you think that students made progress toward the learning goals that were set for this semester? Please estimate the percentage of students who made progress toward the learning goals. Please explain the basis of your assessment.

Some of the students that were more involved earlier in the year, like Nathaniel, Jayda and Maria, stopped coming regularly due to involvement in a number of other programs. Wendy’s participation was similarly erratic and she came close to finishing a publication but ultimately couldn’t commit quite enough time. Other students like Juan became much more involved and interested near the end and will likely return next year to play a more active roll. Toleko, Jackie, and Abidalys attended consistently. Brian also attended regularly but mostly didn’t do any creative work. He did, however, get involved in the assembly of the booklets and attended Zine Fest. Sergio attended regularly but produced very little and did not go on any of the field trips. Overall, about 60% of the students that attended made progress toward the learning goals. This assessment is based on attendance, art they produced, and overall commitment to the ideas of the program.

Toleko has shown extraordinary development both creatively and personally. He is much less shy, a lot more conversational, and seems more confident in general. It has been stunning to watch his transformation over the course of the year. Toleko moved to Chicago at the beginning of the school year from his hometown of San Diego, so at first he struggling to find his place. He and Abidalys, more than any of the other students, feel like they are truly functioning in the world as artists. Art feels central in their lives. They are taking advantage of opportunities and seeing the rewards that come from active participation and consistent hard work.

All of the students have a better grasp of what publishing can be, and how it can function in the world. Most of the students that regularly attend our program were also able to join the field trip to C2E2 where they met and saw the work of many comic artists. C2E2 has a section like Zine Fest where the artists are present at their tables with their work. Between these two events, the students learned about how the artist must often be physically present in the work and able to engage with strangers, not just quietly making things in isolation. Abidalys expressed interest in the idea of one day being a participant with a table at C2E2.

It seems clear that this after school program satisfies a number of areas that are not always productive in terms of art-making. The students say they have almost no time to socialize with each other during the day (some have to work through their lunch period) and talking with each other, listening to music, snacking, and talking to us about their lives often seems more important than working on drawing, writing, and publications. We had hoped to take more field trips but as Zine Fest approached, the students had to do more work at the last minute to get ready.

Please upload photos and/or videos of student work or classroom artifacts that demonstrate student learning and/or provide evidence that learning goals were or were not achieved. Describe how the artifacts, images or videos illustrate students achieving, partially achieving, or not achieving the learning goals.

Assembling Abidalys’ booklet:

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Assembling Jackie’s booklet “Moondrop Tales”:

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Assembling Toleko’s booklet “A Death Ritual”:

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Chicago Zine Fest
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Juan and Toleko share Toleko’s booklet A Death Ritual with another artist at Chicago Zine Fest
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Abidalys trading with another artist and being interviewed by Linda Lutton at the same time
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Students descending the stairs to trade and browse
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Publications students with Congressman John Lewis

How did your teacher/artist collaboration work this semester? Describe how you and your partner planned together. How did you compromise when there were conflicts or differences of approaches or ideas? Can you cite a specific example?

Similar to the beginning of the year, our teacher/artist collaboration work was still fueled by student interests. We decided on what activities to do and what field trips to take based on student attendance and opinion. We would discuss these plans after our CAPE class with students. Oftentimes, we would plan with the students for the next task or adventure.

We did not necessarily have any conflicts in terms of our ideas, but we did have to navigate differing schedules and working with dynamic teenagers. It can be difficult to reach consensus with a group of teenagers, but we spend time making sure students have a chance to voice their opinion if they wish. For example, when deciding how much to sell the publications for, students had different ideas about how much the copies should cost. These conversations lead to learning about publication details and profit discussions. Students have different understanding about “real-life scale” and about business transactions. As such, these conversations as a group allow us to compromise and learn together.

Describe how you teach together in the classroom. Who does what? How do you understand each other’s roles? Can you cite a specific example?

During our CAPE classroom sessions, students mostly work on their individual projects. Marc and I are there for feedback and support. The class sessions themselves are mostly workshop time where we can discuss ideas and progress with the students. We discuss individual ideas, as well as collaborative goals that benefit the whole group. Sometimes, Marc will lead a small lesson about the publication or aesthetic logistics. Both Marc and Ms. Jung read over and give feedback to students about their work.