Pop Culture Classroom’s Year in Review 2017
2017 was an incredible year for everyone at Pop Culture Classroom, and we want to share some highlights of this wonderful work! For 2017, in total, we spent over 328 hours working with 982 students!
- We developed and ran pop-culture based workshops for diverse sites and students all throughout Colorado! These workshops are part of PCC’s educational mission to inspire, engage and ignite students’ love of learning using the tools of pop culture – including comics, board games, cosplay and so much more!
- We conducted over 100 hours of programming at 24 different libraries, schools and community centers across the Front Range! These innovative workshops gave us the chance to work with almost 500 students over the summer, ranged from 2nd graders through high school seniors.
- In the fall, we taught 159 students in 11 workshops at ten different sites!
Throughout the year, we were excited to partner with a number of sites, which provided us different opportunities to work with a variety of different students. Just to name a few:
- Greenwood Village – Art in the Park. As part of the “Greenwood Village Art in the Park” summer series, we offered two workshops – “Superhero Design” and “Cosplay 101” – for younger students, ages 6-10. These workshops were a great way to give early childhood and elementary learners the chance to engage with pop culture and learn the ins & outs of comics and costume-making!
- African Community Center – Refugee Youth Workshops. This summer, PCC participated as a partner and program provider for the African Community Center’s OnTRAC (Training Refugees Accessing College) youth program, which seeks to support refugees by offering college literacy lessons, while honoring their identities, experiences and strengths. We offered 2 summer workshops as part of this innovative program, with the goal of using “Storytelling Through Comics”, PCC’s comics creation program, as a way to help these refugee students improve their literacy skills and prepare for college applications. According to ACC’s OnTRAC coordinator Yazan Fattaleh, “Pop Culture Classroom’s comic workshop helped our students understand their own stories, and how they can articulate them in more creative ways to increase their confidence. The PCC team did a great job connecting scholarship essays and comics for our students, most of whom had never seen a comic book before.”
- YMCA of Metro Denver – Power Scholar Academies. For the 3rd year in a row, PCC partnered with the YMCA of Metro Denver to offer programs at two of their Denver-based “Power Scholar Academies”, K-6 programs meant to boost students’ math and reading confidence while preventing them from falling behind their peers over the summer. This year, PCC ran “Game On!”, its cutting-edge game design program, during YMCA programs at Wyatt Academy and Omar D. Blair Charter School, helping 2nd-5th grade students to develop vital critical thinking, literacy and problem solving skills in a collaborative environment. Over 6 weeks, students were tasked with creating a complete and playable board game – including everything from game materials to boards to instructions – giving them the chance to build self-confidence, creativity and connections to their peers in these fun, play-based workshops. According to PCC instructor Shawn Bowman, in the Power Scholars workshops, “We stressed the importance of writing as a process for game building and the role of designers in communicating rules and themes. These young scholars built a number of creative projects from a hilarious card game based on “Just Dance” to a multi-level board where angels and demons fight in the after-life. Their enthusiasm for experimentation with concepts and different game play mechanics illustrated the many creative and analytic parts of our brain we engage when we build games. It was inspiring.”
- Jefferson County Public Library – Comic Creation Workshops. Thanks to the generous support of the Jefferson County Public Library (JeffCo) this summer, PCC was fortunate enough to offer comic creation workshops at 10 different JeffCo library sites up and down the Front Range! During these 1-hour workshops, students were given a quick overview of the building blocks of a comic book, from character design through panel layout, followed by a drawing lesson. PCC was able to introduce and engage 150 students in comics at these 10 different libraries, both spurring their creativity and self-expression and giving them the basic tools and knowledge to develop more comics of their own at home! According to Shawn Bowman, who taught many of the JeffCo comic workshops, this was a “fantastic opportunity for us to spend time with young artists in the community, some in more remote locations where kids might not have the opportunity to interact with writers and artists as frequently. At some of the smaller workshops we were even able to cater the lesson around a specific skill or area where the kids wanted to work, like drawing lessons for monsters or techniques for mapping out a full comic storyline.”
- Youth One Book, One Denver (YOBOD) 2017. For the 3rd year, PCC partnered with Youth One Book, One Denver (YOBOD), a summer reading program designed for 9 to 12-year-olds. During the 6-week program, students were offered fun activities and events related to the book “Upside Down Magic” in order to enhance their reading experience and combat learning loss. PCC was proud to offer 4 unique workshops at sites throughout Metro Denver in support of YOBOD. Sites included the Sun Valley Youth Center, Johnson Boys & Girls Club, Colfax Elementary, and Heart & Hand Prep Academy. These workshops focused on everything from designing creatures to creating board games and comics based on “Upside Down Magic”, giving students the opportunity to deepen their reading experience and respond to the book with their own creative projects. Adam Kullberg, PCC’s Education Program Manager, says the “YOBOD workshops are a great opportunity PCC has every summer to engage at-risk students in reading and provide them pathways to success, whether it be in their schools or their communities or both, through pop culture.” A big thank you to the Denver Arts & Venues and Parks & Rec for making these workshops a reality and supporting early literacy development all across Colorado!
Finally, in 2017, we continued some of our ongoing programs during Denver Pop Culture Con 2017, where we celebrated diversity, fun and education through a variety of exciting and unique programming.
- We expanded the Pop Culture Classroom Kids’ Lab in 2017. That’s our all-ages area on the show floor, which is 100% dedicated to kids and teens, with more space and activities than ever before! Among the interactive activities this year were edible water bottles, pizza gardens and hand-made paper jewelry, helping engage kids with their community and the environment.
- Our “Experience the Comix” program brought in more kids than ever! Sponsored by Illegal Pete’s, this annual program provides middle and high school students from local schools and community organizations the opportunity to experience a day at Denver Pop Culture Con – and all for free! For DPCC’17, we were able to offer ETC passes to more students than ever before, with over 300 students This groundbreaking program provided these students time to interact with artists, authors, and other creators, attend panels, and learn first-hand what a career in pop culture might be like.
- We announced our new “Excellence in Graphic Literature” Awards! Announced at a special ceremony during DPCC’17, the “Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards” will launch in 2018 and aims to celebrate the best in fiction and non-fiction graphic novels, honoring the creators, publishers and educators using graphic literature to ignite a love of learning in classrooms worldwide.
- Our “Educator’s Day” Offered Exciting Opportunities for Teachers! Over the past four years, Educator’s Day has given over 1,000 teachers, librarians, administrators and other educators the opportunity to receive a free Friday pass to Denver Pop Culture Con. The goal of Educator’s Day is to help these educators incorporate the power of pop culture in a classroom as a way to engage and inspire students.
- We featured over 200 hours of educational panels and programs at Denver Pop Culture Con! Geared toward educators from all different backgrounds and grade levels, these panels ranged from using comic books in the classroom to LGBTQ issues to Drawing 101 workshops, and everything in between. By giving educators the opportunity to attend DPCC and select from the wide variety of educational panels offered, they learned about new and exciting ways to connect with students inside and outside of the classroom.
- Our 2017 Kids’ Comics Contest Winners Got to meet with comics pros! Our annual Kids’ Comic Contest is PCC’s way of encouraging young artists to continue in their work and be inspired to pursue a career doing what they love. In 2017, we selected 4 talented grand-prize winners from elementary through high school. As part of their prize for their outstanding art and creativity, the winners attended Denver Pop Culture Con on Sunday to have a special lunch with talented professional comic artists Franco and Ty Templeton.
- Our “Educator of the Year” award winners visited DPCC! Our first-ever Pop Culture Educator of the Year Award Winners attended Denver Pop Culture Con this year! Awarded for the exceptional work they have put into bringing pop culture into their classrooms and communities, these four educators were recognized before and during DPCC’17 for their ability to innovate, engage and inspire their students. We were pleased to recognize and honor their hard work!