What happens when you let go of the reins and trust your students to do what they do best? A result exceeding your expectations!
Trusting your students with more responsibility actually comes with many benefits. Not only will your students be more engaged, but they will also achieve higher academic results! It is easier said than done, but luckily there are many ways for you to practice this. Why not start with the yearbook project?
Yearbook coordinator Julie W. at Queensland Academies Creative Industries (QACI) put this concept to reality when creating their 2015 project. When we spoke to her she said that she “just had to learn to ‘let it go’ and enable these students to do what they do best”. The result? An absolutely beautiful book with high value content. Check it out!
2015 yearbook was the very first edition for QACI. Why did you decide to make a yearbook?
QACI is a relatively new education initiative; our tenth anniversary is imminent! QACI is a selective entry senior state high school for highly capable students and we present them an opportunity to incorporate their interest in the creative industries into the rigorous International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.
At the core of this program, and alongside their academic studies, students are involved in a range of activities incorporated in the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) program. Whilst the CAS program is not formally assessed, students engage in activities that meet four main criteria. The activities must be real-time purposeful activities with significant outcomes, they must give personal challenge – tasks must extend the student – and be achievable. Students must provide thoughtful consideration, such as planning, reviewing progress, reporting and then reflect on their outcomes and personal learning.
“A real-time purposeful activity giving personal challenges – but still achievable.”
With this in mind, a group of Year 11 and 12 students formed a CAS group known as the Media Team and pitched their idea to the student leadership team, teacher leadership team and the P&C to realise their dream to produce the first ever QACI YEARBOOK. Their case was a good one!
The entire design is pretty impressive. The information is very clear, well presented and you kept a consistent style from cover to cover. Could you tell us why it’s important in publishing design and how you managed to maintain the same style from the beginning to the end?
We have a culture of earned autonomy here at QACI. With integrity and trust, students are given respect and responsibility. This privilege is valued and students work hard to achieve and maintain it. I would love to say that we set up a style guide and had the students follow it meticulously to the letter, however with earned autonomy embedded in our culture; we felt that the decision around design elements was the responsibility best left to the students, particularly with their fresh innovative ways of thinking. The risk we faced if we were to set up a particular ‘corporate’ style would have been that the students would not own nor feel that this was their project, their yearbook or their story.
With this trust in mind, the Media Team sought feedback from peers and came up with the concept of water to guide the aesthetic of the publication. Other students provided feedback to the Media Team to use images to tell their story; images to re-create their own individual memories. Therefore, the use of text was kept to a minimum so that the style was clean, mature and aesthetically pleasing.
“The Fusion’s resources were extremely helpful in guiding the students through the process.”
As a creative school, everyone in your team is sensible to design. How was your experience working with Fusion?
We have such a rigorous academic and creative schedule at QACI. To have the Fusion application and process streamlined as it was, our goal was well within our sights and the support from Fusion was accessible. Fusion’s program allowed for ultimate buy-in and ownership by all team members and I believe the absolute best part about using Fusion was that individual students were able to play to their strengths and all feel involved at some level. Some were able to use the templates that suited them, others created layouts themselves.
The program created a cohesive collaborative approach for the assembly of the Yearbook. The fact that the Yearbook was managed as a centralised file where, appropriate users were able to access this at any time, meant work could be done when most convenient to them and without interrupting school studies. From a coordinator’s point of view, I felt it was great tool to view the students’ progress. And what about the backup! I am grateful that I wasn’t tasked with that responsibility.
“The program created a cohesive collaborative approach for the assembly of the Yearbook.”
In terms of teamwork, this application was definitely in favour of a group effort. We certainly use design programs such as Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, but to have an online solution, readily available and central to all users meant that we were able to focus on our core business – thinking and working creatively. We will certainly be using Fusion again this year for the sheer simplicity to get the job done!
What are the main design tips you’d like to share with other schools?
I would suggest schools research what is current and on trend. Personally, I think too much clutter can detract from the overall aesthetic and design. Come up with a theme if you don’t want to use a style guide and don’t be afraid to let your images tell the story. Naturally, listen to your students, “everybody has a little bit of something to offer.”
Let’s talk about the content. Looks like you prepared something very special for the teachers and faculty photo shoot. Could you tell us more about that?
Following 3 years of studying rigorous International Baccalaureate Diploma Program our Year 12 students present their culmination of creative works to our learning community; a Visual Art Exhibition, Film Screening; Music Composition; Individual Theatre Productions and a major Design Project. To showcase our students to the wider creative industry and tertiary partners, QACI alumni and current learning community we develop a visual hardcopy program of these final works. We like to celebrate our teaching staff and the dedication they have to their students so we also feature their stories in this program.
With this wealth of photographic collateral we were well placed to use these images in our Yearbook. The added bonus was that the students were unaware some of the photographs existed, for example those of the teaching staff, so to see their mentors represented in a fun and creative context resulted in another element of excitement and buzz around the ownership of the QACI Yearbook.
The photoshoot for the teachers’ images was quite a simple set-up really. Come as you are! Bring a prop! We used our theatre studio, some flood lights – which are pretty standard props at QACI and a professional photographer; some pretty nifty photographs are the end result!
How many people were involved in the project and how did you organise things to make it happen? Do you think working as a team is an asset for a yearbook project?
At QACI students have the option to study up to two Arts subjects from Film, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts and Design Technology. With this in mind, there are a multitude of spectacular showcase events that occur at QACI on a regular basis from Film premieres, Theatre productions, Visual Art exhibitions to Music ensemble showcases. When these events are celebrated across the three year levels there is always something exciting happening for our learning community to embrace.
In total, the established CAS Media Team comprised of 12 – 15 students. These students undertook the filming, photography and journalism of all major school showcase events, volunteering their time and creative expertise on a daily basis. These activities were then used to share our great stories via Facebook, our website and the regular newsletter.
It was within this team that a subcommittee of students assumed the project leader roles to collate the articles, images and the design for the yearbook through Fusion’s program. As a collaborative group (all 15 students) we met weekly to exchange ideas and handle delegated responsibilities. This also contributed to maintaining a sense of the goose, a story here at QACI that underpins the culture and values of our entire learning community.
The QACI Yearbook as a project was certainly an exciting adventure and we are fortunate as the students here are quite simply … Clever! Creative! Global! They are happy to impart their creativity and are always willing to provide assistance and help each other. The fact that they took ownership translated to the legacy that they wished to leave for the next generation of goslings!
What did you learn from this year’s project and what are the things you’ll do differently next year?
We have an extremely clever, creative bunch of students who always embrace the opportunities given to them and, personally, as I can be a little bit of a control freak, I just had to learn to “let it go” and enable these students to do what they do best!
Time is usually against us in some respects too, as we only have a 4 week window between coverage of the last event to the date of distribution to our Year 12s on Graduation Day. Achieving the final proof and allowing for any changes meant that timelines were pretty busy for us last year. We do feel quite fortunate though, as the support provided at Fusion was absolutely fabulous. Everything seemed to be quite an easy transition from proof to printing. Delivery occurred as predicted and the timelines given to us by Fusion were helpful in assisting us to maintain our own workflow.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us Julie! I hope this first edition was the beginning of a tradition for QACI students!
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