Our yearlong storytelling project, #rstories13, started in August with school-wide photo challenges. In September, three sections of 11th grade English wrote their own stories and now, in October, we have involved the Advanced Graphic Design class in developing a concept and a format for the printed viewbook, which will use selected stories and pictures from the project.
Along the way, students, teachers and parents have joined in the #rstories13 thread on social media, each contributing a view of life at Randolph.
Art teacher Pete Townsend and I collaborated with English teacher Jennifer Rossuck and her AP Language and Composition classes to connect some strands of their coursework with the viewbook project.
During the first quarter, students looked at the viewbook as a form of visual text. They evaluated Randolph’ s current viewbook along with award-winning viewbooks from other schools. They identified the kinds of arguments being made through the content and the juxtaposition of content, intent and effect; the myriad choices made in assembling such a document; the idea that any work – whether a photograph or an essay – involves intentional choice that affects message and interpretation and that confirms or challenges assumptions. They considered the argument that Randolph wants to make — to assert our four key attributes (relationships, freedom, school culture and high expectations) — and put them into their own words.
1) Our students are best positioned to tell the story for our new viewbook.
2) Rather than outsourcing the storytelling, students can be involved in the creative process so that reflects their own understanding of the attributes and strengths of our community, our work and capabilities. The skills students need to be most effective in doing this offer excellent opportunities to teach the Six Cs and to connect our curricula with a "real" project. The viewbook then becomes a form of learning portfolio.
The AP Language students also looked at how an unexpected pairing can be more effective than a more straightforward one. Students from Advanced Graphic Design joined an AP Language class for a lesson where they played with juxtaposing the taglines the English students wrote when mindmapping with images they had suggested and pictures from the photo challenges to understand how headlines, captions and images combine to suggest and then tell a story.
Should a caption simply explain a picture or should it add a layer of meaning? They considered the voices they encountered in the viewbooks – whose stories were these? Specific details, like George School’s “sticky buns and themed weekends,” the compelling “Slaughtermelon” caption for a Michigan University criminal law class and the use of anecdotal data stood out as effective narrative strategies.
At the end of the unit, AP Language students wrote copy in their own voices that was specific to their own experiences at Randolph and connected to a viewbook theme. These stories, and stories from the other divisions, will supply the main narrative of the book, but it will be up to the students in Mr. Townsend’s Advanced Graphic Design class to determine a form and style to best suit our viewbook.
Once the design takes shape there will be further opportunities for the two classes to collaborate. Other work in the months ahead will connect the younger students to the project. Parent and alumni perspectives will also be included. Join the conversation and stay tuned!