High school graphic design students help motivate middle schoolers

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The messages are simple but powerful.

“Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe, Be Ready to Learn.”

The four phrases, along with a cougar, anchor the yellow and black 7-foot long poster that will be mounted in the Canajoharie middle school. The poster was designed by Canajoharie senior Natalie Frank and is one of eight total created by students in Michelle Egelston’s high school Graphic Design class to help reinforce character education for younger Canajoharie students. Other designers included Taya Yacobucci, Brandon Wolfkeil, Madeline Elliot, Jessie Hogan, Danyell Monk, and Louie Hand.

“It is incredible to see students I had just a few years ago come back here and help show younger students what is possible,” said Canajoharie eighth grade English teacher Lori Schaffer as the posters were presented to her by designers. “These [posters] will help guide younger students and really are just one example of the caring character that so many of the students have here.”

“We recognize the importance of education beyond the traditional subjects by implementing social-emotional learning. We aim to work together to make every learner world ready,” Superintendent of Schools Deborah Grimshaw said. “There are challenges that everyone faces in life and we want all of our students to be ready to work together with peers in the real world to face those challenges respectfully and productively.”

This is the second year Egelston’s design class has taken on a “real life,” graphic design challenge as part of its curriculum. Last year the class created an 8-page activity coloring book with a fire safety theme that was presented to elementary students. The class has also worked on design concepts for a “Say No to distracted driving” campaign and created banners for the Canajoharie community.

For this year’s project, high schoolers met with Schaffer at the start of the year took notes about what the middle school was trying to accomplish. With that information, high schoolers then created their own motivational quotes and used the graphic design programs Adobe Photoshop and InDesign to build the posters from scratch. Aside from the big 7-footer, the other seven are roughly 4-feet wide by 3-and-a-half-feet tall and will be displayed throughout the middle school.

Technically, students learned how to save their work as transparent PNG files so the images could bring be used on different backgrounds. Curved text was created using the “text along a path” tool in InDesign and students learned about the difference between vector and raster images. A number of the designers plan to enter artistic fields after graduation this year including product design and film studies.

“I teach in both the middle school and high school, so it is very meaningful to me to see the growth of students over time. Not only in their artistic abilities, but also maturity and confidence,” Egelston said. “We are in such a visual information age. The creative problem-solving skills students developed through this project will transfer well in the professional world, especially with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, and math) being so important.”