To inspire young minds to explore new worlds, learn about different cultures, and understand complex relationships, teachers often turn to books.
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax warned against greed and destruction of the environment. Winnie the Pooh gives readers a masterclass on loyalty, optimism and friendship. Meg from A wrinkle in time learns to appreciate its uniqueness and creativity.
But what happens when education and art students write such books themselves? Books worthy of display in your local library. Not to mention career development skills for educators and artists, according to two professors at UNLV.
Tiffany Lin from the Art Department and Chad Scott from the Teaching and Learning Department tasked their respective classes to collaborate to create inspiring children’s literature focused on diversity, inclusion and equity.
Each semester Scott’s students explore the representation of social issues in children’s literature. With COVID-19 driving lessons online, however, he has been looking for a way to improve engagement in the classroom.
“I was like, ‘Why not ask them to create their own children’s books? Scott said. So, he contacted Lin to join forces.
The project began with education students breaking up into small groups to create characters and a storyline the length of a book. After the storylines were completed, each group partnered with art and design students to bring their characters and stories to life through visual illustration.
“There has been a lot of crossover between students interested in getting into storyboarding and art,” said Lin, “so we decided to foster that connection between the two.”
The project also received support from the Gayle A. Zeiter Literacy Development Center and the Nevada Institute on Teaching & Educator Preparation.
Show against say
As a former K-5 art teacher, Lin understands how difficult it is to explore complex topics like diversity, inclusion and equity given the time constraints in elementary classrooms. . Showing an abstract concept through a story can be much more effective than trying to explain it.
“Sometimes you don’t have enough time to dive into deep topics, so sometimes the most effective way is to use a story,” she explained. “You are able to draw students into fiction and then they project themselves into it. ”
The project was so successful that the Clark County Library turned the books into the “All Are Welcome” exhibit, with presentations of the art of the book and the process of creating the works.
“The education students were blown away to see their characters come to life. It was a remarkable experience, ”said Scott.
Art students have gained valuable experience that will help them work with future clients, Lin noted. They learned how to pitch their ideas, work with a client, and meet deadlines. “Most of the students at that time hadn’t had a customer experience, so it was a great learning experience for them. “