#WHYYOUMATTER FOR YOUR SCHOOL
Part of our vision with this campaign was to be able to easily share it with other schools so they could emulate the process. Here we will provide our experience but also all the materials we used, including our Photoshop Template, the lesson plan our English Department utilized and all the nitty gritty details that went into photographing every single student in our school. If you have questions after reading this, please feel free to contact us!
We started this campaign after seeing an inspirational speaker in Lansing, Michigan. His name was Mike Smith and his message was one of unity and positively. On the bus ride back to school, our students were inspired. They had visions of transformation and change. This is where the idea was born- through a cooperation of mentors and students. If you want to do this campaign at your school, the most important thing is student participation. This campaign was run by our students and their passion. They took the photographs, organized the files, edited the pictures and printed each one out. We would not have been able to do this without them.
The Staff's Role
The English Department was integral to this project. They incorporated a lesson plan that really dove into the theme of the project. Teachers had discussions and assigned projects that helped students to look inward to find the answer to the question "why do you matter?" The counseling department dove in, working to help students who were really struggling with the question. Honestly, just asking the students this simple question brought up all kinds of emotion and personal insights that were beyond our expectations. Staff and students around the school were discussing their statements with each other, really working to help everyone find their own answer. It took a village on this. Everyone in the school, both students and staff, began looking out for each other. It was beautiful.
During the day of the opening to the students, our principal allowed an "assembly schedule" which shortened all hours but lengthened just one. This will allowed teachers to walk their classes through the gallery and have time to discuss with students in their classroom afterward.
Scheduling the Photography
We worked with the English Department on their timeline. Once they were done with their lessons, and students had their statements, we scheduled that class to come down for photographs. They either came down during waves during the hour or all at once depending on the preference of the teacher. We had the kids wait outside the room to write their statements on the whiteboard and sent in one at a time to photograph. An entire class only took around 40 minutes.
We had a group of three students on printing at first. One person was manually printing each picture, one was navigating the filing system (to mark that the student was officially printed) and one was moving the files out of "edited" to "printed" in the Google Drive. Once we got going, I had one student who just took over printing. She went faster by herself once she figured out the system and got into a groove.
Printing was a bit of a mess for us because of navigating the setting on our printing with the Cardstock paper. You might have to run a few tests before you get the right settings for your computer/printer. Some tips include checking the paper size and type. There is usually an option for Cardstock in the drop down menu. If you use Google Drive, be sure to download the original file to be printed in its highest quality!
We decided to hang the show on the Sunday before Martin Luther King day. We had the committee get there early and the volunteers (we asked anyone from the community to come help if they wanted to) get there at 1:00pm. We asked everyone to bring a ladder or step stool with them. We had the photographs divided up based on section. Each section had a "leader" from the committee who was in charge of a group of walls and volunteers. The photographs from each section were mixed up so that there was an equal amount of staff and mixed students. We accounted for every poster and marked what section it was in on our master lists so that we could easily find it later.
There were many small decisions about the placement of the photographs that we decided a month before we actually hung. By the time we were hanging the pictures, the leaders knew exactly which line on the brick to follow or that the photographs would touch the lockers. We also decided to start in the middle of each wall so the photographs would be centered in their placement without awkward space on one side.
We counted out all of the photos for each team leaders section and had a folder ready for them. The folder had the photos, sticky tack that had been counted out and divided for that number of photos, and a map of the their section highlighted and color coded.
With each leader, volunteers were in charge of putting sticky tac on each poster on the floor before handing the prepped poster to a volunteer in charge of pushing the poster into the wall.
Our first step after the initial idea sparked was to do a tally of what we would need to be able to pull of a campaign of this scale. The goal was to have every student photographed, edited, printed and hung around the school. That meant we needed a photo "booth" set up, a camera, light boxes, computers, a nice color printer and card stock paper (initially we planned on laminating each picture to protect it, but the hassle that went into that was too much and the lamination process altered the quality of the photograph).
Our estimate of costs turned out be being about $1,500. If you have some of the supplies we mentioned, you may not need all $1,500. We have a local grant provider for our school district called the Chelsea Education Foundation (CEF). Most schools have something similar to this or other local grant providers. Ask your administrator for more information. Another alternative to getting a grant would be to do a fundraiser within your school. We actually needed to spend more money on ink than we originally thought, so we had to find alternative funds to help cover. If you print smaller, or with cheaper printers, you will be closer to staying within a budget of $1500 for 1000 kids. I would aim to add a few hunred to your proposal - you can always give back what you don't use! The costs for this are not that high considering the lasting impacts this had on students.
Taking the Picture
We set up shop in the Student Council room (more like a closet) where we had a black sheet hung up and the camera set up. We put duck tape on the ground to mark where each object was set up just in case someone moved something (see picture above).
As for taking the pictures, we had two students set up to take pictures for each hour. One student was greeting, marking off names, and writing the file numbers next to each name, while the other was actually taking the photographs.
We had about 8 white boards for students to write on, and they would come in one by one to have their picture taken. There is a student using the filing system to mark exactly which student had come in and then writing down the number on the camera (ex. 101-8945.9). The 101 tells us the file on the SD memory card, the 8945 tells us the digital file number, and the .9 means that it is on the freshman card (as opposed to .10, .11, .12). We would switch out the memory cards for every grade we photographed to make uploading easier.
Making sure that each and every student is represented is very important. We wouldn't want anyone to be left off of the wall when we hang. Luckily, the secretary for the counseling office made lists for each grade in alphabetical order. On those sheets we have columns for name, file number, uploaded, edited, printed and comments. Each column was initialed by the student working on that file as it was completed. This system worked pretty well, including the "comments" section where photographers would make a note if the student wrote something worth flagging (inappropriate, highly personal, retake). This section came in incredibly handy.
These sheets were critical for keeping track of who has had their picture taken. It was important that the sheets were completed with care- any typo could cause a student's picture to accidentally go missing (We found it helpful to have people initial the sheets when they made changes so that if a mistake was made, it could easily be found). ALWAYS USE PENCIL! At the end of day of shooting, the photos were uploaded. We made sure to keep original camera files on one computer desktop just in case we needed the original file. Then we copied them to another folder and changed the names of each photograph to the student name. We organized each file by grade, last name, first name (ex. 9SmithJohn.jpg) This was also important because files would go missing if they were not in order or if they were spelled wrong.
Next we uploaded them into Google Drive organized by a folder for each grade level. Within each grade level we had a folder for uploaded (names changed before we uploaded to drive), edited (those put into the psd template with # banner) and printed (where we moved them after they were printed to keep them safe).
We constantly moved files from one to the other while making sure to check off each column on the file template as we went along.
We had two students who we called our Brick Walls, because they constantly went through and checked and rechecked every step of the way. They almost always found a mistake somewhere....
Prep for Hanging
We took our time to prep before the hanging. This included multiple meetings about the placement of the photographs. As artists, we imagined a "gallery walk". We wanted people to time with each picture and not be overwhelmed with a stacked wall of images. We decided on a walk through that spanned our entire Commons (Lunch Room) and through two floors at the center of our building. The pictures were each touching each other in their final placement- a chain link, continuous with no student left alone.
Other prep included:
The posters were organized randomly on each wall, so no grade had a specific section. The gallery walk was roughly in alphabetical order based on the grade.
When organizing what posters would be where, we split up the number of posters on the wall by each grade. We wanted the right proportion of each grade to be on every wall for the amount of space we had, but each wall had a different amount of posters. For example, the first wall needed 20 seniors, 21 juniors, 23 sophomores, 21 freshmen, and 9 staff members.
The system was not perfect and we ended up with a lot of sophomores left over to go in one folder. We mixed up the posters that were already in folders to fit all the sophomores on different walls. This is why it is roughly alphabetical. This made it easy when kids had difficulties finding their posters because we could tell them exactly what wall they could find it on.
TM by the #WhyYouMatter Campaign