What better way to learn history than by creating cartoons about it? The kids at East Aiken School of the Arts in South Carolina are studying the Revolutionary War as part of their history studies. Their art teacher, Carrie Power, had a brilliant idea, to invite regional cartoonist Dave McDonald into her classroom as an artist in residence.
McDonald is a cartoonist, writer, composer, and educator in his own right, who likes to work with kids to teach them things through comic writing and cartooning. His own character, iHamster Sam, has various adventures throughout history, like meeting Eli Whitney and learning about the loom. He does freelance writing, and works with a theme park, but really likes working with kids. “I enjoy seeing the light bulbs coming on,” he told the Aiken Standard. They will put up a little wall, saying, ‘I can’t write.’ But soon they’re mapping out a story with conflict and main characters that apply to the (state educational) standards.”
The kids in the class get a big kick out of creating their own characters who then experience the historical periods their creators are studying. Sydney Hallman, a student in the class, has created Sprinkles, a pastry-based alien life form who has come from another planet to capture King George III. Alliya Hall, another fourth grader at the school, drew Coney the Creep from Candyworld, who is also a space creature trying to figure out why people dumped a whole bunch of tea into the Boston Harbor.
Getting kids to experience history is a time-honored way of getting them to connect to the content. Drawing cartoons is another way to help them find a personal interest in what can be, at times, dry and boring subject matter. The students at East Aiken School for the Arts have a rare opportunity to spend educational time with a cartoonist who can help them do just that.