Drawn together: high schoolers collaborate with fourth graders

Before the end of second quarter, graphic design teacher Kristen Strickler’s Graphic Design 2 students visited Clarmar Elementary to collaborate with fourth graders. They were to design illustrations and format books based on the fourth graders’ realistic fiction stories.
“Each student—there were like 45 fourth graders—wrote a short realistic fiction story. We went over there two weeks ago to meet the kids. My students were assigned four kids. They were working in groups of two,” Strickler said. “They met with the kids and read their stories and then asked the students what kind of characters they wanted, kind of their visions for them and that kind of thing.”

FRIENDS Foreign exchange student Mariam Abgaryan poses with one of the fourth graders she collaborated with. Photo by Kristen Strickler (Kristen Strickler)

The Graphic Design 2 students used industry-standard software like Adobe Illustrator to illustrate the books. Overall, the project took two weeks to finish.
“The whole point of the project is to be able to collaborate and give them a little real-world experience. They must understand that there are specific deadlines they have to meet,” Strickler said. “But the fact of the matter is, if they weren’t done by yesterday, then that was it. They weren’t getting published.”
Strickler started this collaborative project last school year. Not only does this project require the high school students to help the fourth graders with their story, it is a way for students to get out of their comfort zones.
“The reason we started this is actually because my son was in fourth grade at Clarmar, and I thought that it would be kind of a fun opportunity to do something where my kids could collaborate with elementary school kids,” Strickler said.
The main difference between last year and this year’s project was the timing.
“We had more time last year. So, that was the big thing. We had about three weeks and this year we only had about two weeks,” Strickler said. “A part of it is that it’s the holiday, shipping, and mail, in general, can be slower.”

READING TIME Clarmar Elementary fourth graders unwrapped and read their story books on Dec. 16. The Graphic Design 2 students wrapped the books the day before and walked together to deliver them to the partnered fourth graders. (Kristen Strickler)

Despite the timeline crunch, all the students were able to design and layout the books within the two-week span. “I am so incredibly proud. They all came together. Everybody worked hard; they proved that they could do something, and they proved themselves well,” Strickler said. “They’re going to be awesome.”