To shake up my curriculum this year with all of the Covid constraints and not having a makerspace to utilize, I’ve been leaning pretty heavily on using Illustrator for my 6th – 8th grade classes. I’ve always struggled with getting my students to get playful with the iterative process and using Google Slides as a digital workbook has been a real boon to the process.
To kick off my Illustration Unit with my 7th graders, we watched the Netflix Abstract episode featuring Christoph Niemann. Since my students are all native New Yorkers it was fun experience their reactions to the sections on his love of the city and how he’s used it as inspiration for his work. I rarely watch hour long pieces with students but as I stopped the episode throughout to ask questions, it was amazing to see how engaged they were on how he played with his illustrations and was constantly experimenting.
At the beginning of the episode, he shows a little book that uses a flat iron image as a creative exercise. I then turned that exercise into a Google Workbook where my students had to drop in each iteration for all the images I was asking them to make a variety of iterations with.
It’s been so much fun checking their workbooks after class to see how they’ve transformed the flat iron, really quite delightful. Seeing their Illustrator skills progress and their ability to be fluid with their creativity and not as fixed on being finished is also a real win. They’ve transformed the flat iron into things like a blender, panini press, shoe and sewing machine all on their own.
After they utilized the flat iron image, I also gave them a lightening bolt, a bullseye and plus sign to experiment with. The lightening bolt was definitely the hardest. The Google Illustration Workbook is below for you to take a look!
If you want to take a look at the workbook, you can take a look here.
During distance learning, I reached into my bag of tricks to come up with a new unit on Branding for my 7th and 8th graders. I used this unit to also introduce students to the gradient tool, text on a path as well as how to create a scatter brush. After giving them a presentation where we looked at the evolution of logos for iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, and Apple, students were tasked to create their logos for a business I assigned them. Because I’m such a deep believer in iteration, I asked each student to create three versions of their logo to help with their experimentation and to mimic the work graphic designers do.
I gave students businesses such as a fast casual Italian restaurant, coffee shop, travel story and garden store. It’s been fun to see how they’ve used the power of Illustrator to their advantage. I do think my students are getting sick me saying that sometimes our first idea helps to clear our brains out for the next idea which is generally stronger and more interesting. I also shared the font website, dafont.com with them to get them excited about fonts. I’ve definitely spent way too much searching for the perfect font and it was interesting to see which students also saw how important a font design can be while designing a logo.
This school year I’ve opened up my 7th and 8th grade classes with learning the basics of Illustrator to increase the skill level of my students. Last year we primarily used Tinkercad with the laser cutter because I didn’t have the time to focus on how to teach to students. Over the summer I made sure I strengthened by connection to Illustrator so it could be tool students could rely on.
I’m continually inspired by Erin E. Riley’s new book, The Art of Digital Fabrication, and decided students first Illustrator experiment will be designing their initials using as few shapes as possible to be cut out of vinyl on the Silhouette Cameo. I showed my students first how to manipulate shapes using shapes and the Direct Selection Tool. I also modeled how to add anchor points so they could truly sculpt shapes easily. The Pen Tool was also introduced to see how they can create different shapes depending on they movie their cursor. In the lesson, I used my own initials, as seen below to provide them a foundation.
Last year my students used the Silhouette Cameo a good amount, but they mainly used the trace tool to recreate royalty-free images they found on the internet. This year they are only allowed to use it on original designs since they all know Illustrator. It will be interesting to see if this new distinction will increase their creativity. Also now that the project is complete, the 7th and 8th graders all have their new initial stickers decorating the front of their MacBooks Airs, making for great PR! I decided to my design on my coffee mug because if it gets lost, I will be quite upset.
I’m teaching 5th grade Digital Art classes for the first time to take advantage of the beautiful Creation Lab which was built over the summer. Our students learn about birds in 5th grade science so it seemed like a perfect connection to that curriculum. I had my students first use makercase.com to build the base of their birdhouses. They then brought that file into Illustrator to add cut out and engraved elements. I learned engraving using our Glowforge was a bit cumbersome and will be changing this up requirement next trimester so I don’t spend 40 mins watching these projects be cut out.
My favorite part of this project was watching students use the drill for the first time to add their perches. They did a wonderful job of practicing on a piece of balsa wood beforehand.
With the Makercase finger joints I learned there is really only 1 way to put the boxes together – think of it as a puzzle. There were a few students who glued their birdhouses together the wrong way and I had to recut them on the laser cutter to make the projects functional.