Pop Culture Classroom
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Pop Culture Classroom, based in Denver, Colorado, is a nonprofit organization that educates in the areas of literacy and arts through alternative approaches to learning and character development. The organization creates educational programs for underserved youths, schools and communities by using comic books, graphic novels and related media to inspire passion for reading, art, and learning.
Overview and history
Pop Culture Classroom was founded in 2010 as Comic Book Classroom, a Colorado charitable organization focused on enhancing and improving student’s learning experience through the use of comic book media. At the same time, the founders of Comic Book Classroom also created the Denver Comic Con event. The Original Founders of Comic Book Classroom and Denver Comic Con are Charlie LaGreca, Frank Romero, David Vinson and Kevin Vinson.
Between 2010 and 2012, the Original Founders were joined by accomplished educators Illya Kowalchuk and Christina Angel, and experienced event organizers Michael Newman and Bruce Macintosh, who became an integral part of organizational development as the foundations of both Comic Book Classroom and Denver Comic Con educational programs were developed simultaneously.
The Classroom program debuted the first version of its “Storytelling Through Comics” curriculum to local area schools, and with the help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers and generous donations, the Denver Comic Con event became a reality on Father’s Day weekend, June 15, 2012. It was an unexpected and overwhelming success. The 2013 and 2014 Denver Comic Con’s built on that success.
Proceeds from Denver Comic Con fund the staffing, supplies and infrastructure of The Classroom program that promotes literacy through the medium of sequential art and storytelling. “Storytelling Through Comics” is a graphic literature creation program that is offered free of charge to schools, teachers and community organizations. The program currently offers students an educational experience that includes instruction in reading & vocabulary, writing stories, and eventually the creation of the students’ own comics. Completed entries are then published in a class collection.
In 2014, the Comic Book Classroom Board of Directors voted to change the name to Pop Culture Classroom (PCC).
The need for literacy education in Colorado inspired the CBC program. High percentages of elementary and middle school-aged children in Colorado do not have or cannot afford after-school care. Additionally, several studies show that children who receive arts education often outperform children who do not in most educational areas.
Pop Culture Classroom’s “Storytelling Through Comics” curriculum is designed to educate 11- to 14-year-old students (grades 5-8) about literacy and the arts. The common core curriculum enhances students’ writing and reading abilities and artistic skills through an interactive educational experience focused around comic books and graphic novels. It can be offered as an after-school course, a stand-alone unit, or as a complement to an existing language arts curriculum in a classroom.
The six-week program is broken out into a series of distinct lesson modules:
• The Joy of Reading: Students learn the terms associated with the creation, design and reading of comics and gain an understanding of the enjoyment and personal fulfillment associated with the medium.
• Visual & Textual Storytelling: Students learn about storytelling arcs and define exposition, event, rising action, crisis, falling action and conclusion. Participants begin drafting their own short comic strip using the storytelling arc as a template.
• Dialogue: Students are introduced to dialogue as a narrative device and begin scripting their stories.
• Analyzing Conflict Resolution through Dialogue and Using an Outline: Students learn how dialogue reveals conflict and resolution in comics and learn the technique of reverse outlining to pace their stories.
• Basic Drawing for Comics: Students learn basic drawing techniques from a guest artist.
• Creating Comics and the “Author’s Chair” Celebration: Students finish their comic story using techniques taught in previous modules and celebrate their achievement.
Pop Culture Classroom’s programming includes:
- Trained volunteers facilitate the program in local schools as an after-school program, a stand-alone unit or as a complement to existing language arts classes or programs.
The focal point of the annual Denver Comic Con is the Comic Book Classroom Kids’ Corral, which is designed to spotlight the CBC program, its students, and graduates. The 5000-square foot activity center provides educational youth-based programming and activities for younger attendees and families. In addition, many Denver Comic Con guests have donated their time and talents to working with students in the CBC Kids’ Corral.
Programming is conducted by volunteers, many of whom are trained arts educator or comic industry professionals. In addition to actively teaching in classrooms and after-school programs, volunteers provide administrative support, curriculum/assessment development, comic and literature reviews, outreach, website development, fundraising and event planning.
Since the first Pop Culture Classroom program was conducted at Force Elementary School (Denver Public Schools) in the spring of 2010, Pop Culture Classroom has impacted over 400 students in the Denver metro region. The organization has conducted programs at over a dozen elementary and middle schools in the Denver area as well as community organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver and the WOW! Children's Museum of Lafayette, Colorado.
Supplementary support for CBC’s educational programming is provided by the Stan Lee Foundation and the national non-for-profit organization Generation Schools. In 2013, actor William Shatner appeared in the Pop Culture Classroom's "Corral" at Denver Comic Con to read Maurice Sendak's children's book Where The Wild Things Are in support of Pop Culture Classroom.
- "Pow! Comic Book Classroom project takes on illiteracy in metro schools". Denver Post. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
- "Our History". Pop Culture Classroom. Retrieved 2014-12-22.
- "Education Wrap-Up: Denver Comic Con 2014! (Part 1)". Pop Culture Classroom. Retrieved 2014-12-22.
- "Need For After-School". Afterschoolallstars.org. After-School All Stars. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
- "Champions of Change: The Impact on the Art of Learning" (PDF). The Arts Education Partnership. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
- "Denver Comic Con 2013: Hey Kids, Come See William Shatner Read 'Where The Wild Things Are'". MTV Geek. Retrieved 2013-11-16.