"Honest Food Labels": A Media Literacy Lesson Plan

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Originally, this box of Strawberry Delight Frosted Mini Wheats claimed to improve kids' attentiveness by as much as 20%!

In reality, this healthy-seeming cereal contains a lot of sugar! Here it is with a more honest label...
Honest Frosted Mini Wheats.jpg

Attached is the lesson plan associated with these photos:

Here is an overview of the lesson plan:

Grade level: 5th grade

Time needed: 4 class periods

Focus: This lesson will encourage students to become more aware of how the food they eat is advertised and also help them develop Photoshop skills.

a. Students will identify structures used in media arts such as chronological and spatial (
b. Students will describe how media arts communicates meaning (
c. Students will justify personal interpretations and reactions to a variety of media artworks (

Motivational resources:
-Web article "Food Smarts: Understanding Food Labels" from http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/body/foodsmarts/article4.html

-Youtube video: "Canada Dry: Jack's Ginger Farm" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEnDnebeCw4)

-Youtube video: "Food Ad Tricks: Helping Kids Understand Food Ads on TV" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUjz_eiIX8k)

-Examples of misleading fast food advertising from http://www.listoid.com/list/117

Art materials:
-Flash drives

On a daily basis we are fooled by advertisements. Whether is how a model looks in magazine, actors look on television, food looks in a commercial or even how action movies are made; our eyes get tricked on a daily basis. It is up to the viewer to discover what is fact vs. fiction. Over the last thirty years, scientists have had a better understanding of the role of diet in chronic disease risks. In the United States, diet is now believed to the fourth of the top 10 causes of death. (Mathios) These facts are alarming, but true. It is a matter of health that students become aware of what they are viewing and make educated decisions on what's reality from truth on their own.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Federal Trade Commission considered restrictions for the advertisements of certain food containing false advertisement. (Wilm) Since then, there have also been several other laws made based on what can be said and how far food industries can push the truth. It is almost a guarantee that if you were to look into your food cupboards, there would be lies staring you in the face. In this assignment you will be detecting these on your own, you are welcome to look in magazines, your cupboards or on the Internet for inspiration. After the student has picked out a label they will be responsible for researching what the real ingredients are or the real facts.

...from the comfort of your own classroom!

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Here is yet another very helpful, very cool tool for teaching art history. I actually found out about it in History of World Art II here at UMD. The Vatican Museums website (http://www.museivaticani.va/) has a feature that brings you on a high-quality virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. The zoom-in tool is fantastic - you can closer to Michelangelo's famous painted ceiling than you could if you visited the chapel in real life. This virtual tour allows a class to view this magnificent piece of art history without taking a very expensive field trip.

Picture 2.png

Source: Vatican Museums. Web. 10 Nov 2011. http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html.

Animation in the Classroom!

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"How to Catch Wild Bread"

This is a silly "how-to" video using pixilation animation. Attached is the lesson plan that goes along with this animation...


Here is an overview of the lesson plan:

Stop-Motion Animation: "How-To" Videos
By Amanda Dahl

Grade level: 6th-8th grade

Time needed: 4-5 class periods

Focus: Students will learn how to make a stop-motion animation using the pixilation method. Additionally, they will learn proper camera use, how to load files into and animate using Photoshop, how to add sound to their animations with GarageBand, and how to add title and end credits using iMovie.

a. Students will demonstrate use of a variety of tools, materials, and techniques in media arts based on the characteristics of the hardware and software (
b. Students will revise creative work based on the feedback of others, self-reflection and artistic intent (
c. Students will develop an artistic intent, including how audience and occasion impact presentation choices (

Motivational resources:
-Sample video: "The Vanishing Lady"
-Sample video: "Her Morning Elegance"
-Sample video: "Western Spaghetti"
-Sample video: "Ten Thousand Pictures of You"
-Teacher's version of animation ("How to Catch Wild Bread")
-Quick test animation with volunteers

Art Materials:
-Storyboard sheets
-Digital cameras

Introduction: Stop-motion animation has been around as long as moving pictures have been around. Movies are, in reality, very fast-moving stop-motion animations! Georges Melies was one of the pioneers of special effects in film, and is, therefore, sometimes referred to as the First Cinemagician. He is credited with being the first to use stop trick in film, meaning he stopped the camera, changed something in the scene he was filming, and began filming again, making it seem as if the change he made happened by itself. One of the best examples of Melie's stop trick technique is a short film he made in 1896 called "The Vanishing Lady." Stop-motion animation evolved from stop trick. When the camera is constantly stopping and going while little changes are being made in between, objects appear to move on their own.

Thinking BIG!

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This week, I found a blog by the Digital Arts Technology Academy (DATA) called the Di Blog http://www.data-di.us/ (Di stands for Digital Imaging). DATA provides students with a variety of visual arts projects using digital technology (digital photography, Photoshop, web media, 2D/3D graphics, and animation). What I find most intriguing about DATA are the Di Challenges . Di Challenges use Challenge Based Learning (CBL), which encourages students to use everyday technology to solve real-world problems. These types of projects allow students to think globally and work together efficiently.

Here is a video from the DATA wiki showing examples of Di Challenges:


In my future classroom, even if we don't get the chance to participate in such widely collaborative projects, we could still think and learn about important global and social issues through digital art. For example, students could design posters or T-shirts or animate public service announcements (on bullying, drug-use, etc.) that could simply be shown around their school. Even small efforts lead to big impacts.

Smarthistory = A Smart Way to Teach Art History!


Being a huge art history buff, I know that I'm going to incorporate as much art history as I can into my future classroom.

I stumbled upon a great art education blog called Art Is Messy (http://www.artismessy.org/) It's by the wife of the guy who does The Carrot Revolution blog!

Anywho, Art Is Messy lead me to this awesome site: Smarthistory (http://smarthistory.org/). In a nutshell, Smarthistory is an online art history textbook. Pick a work of art from a list of time periods, styles, artists, or themes, and you can hear a conversation about the piece by real art historians. The conversations are causal and understandable, and short enough to not lose the attention of students.

Here is an example of a conversation about Vincent Van Gogh's Self Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin:

Showing students these conversations on Smarthistory would not only give them the chance to view historic works of art, but would teach them how to talk about a work of art like an art historian.

So You Want to Make a Pixilation Animation...

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How to Make a Pixilation Animation:

Pixilation animation is stop-motion animation with live actors as subjects. Objects may be incorporated as well.

Equipment needed:
-Digital camera
-Tripod (optional)
-Computer with Photoshop software
-A location to film or a capture station (such as a large sheet of colored paper to use as a background)

Making the animation:
The first step in making a pixilation animation, once you've got all your equipment, is to plan a storyline. Figure out what you want your actors to accomplish and what kind of props they should use, if any. After a rehearsal or two, it will be time to bring out the camera!

It's important that your camera's setting is manual rather than automatic. This is because automatic settings adjust to the light after each snap of a picture, and that may lead to a slightly distracting flickering effect in your animation. On manual, the lighting will remain the same throughout the entire shoot. Also, it's important that you shoot in a small file size, such as jpeg.

Shooting your pixilation animation is fairly simple, and the length of time it takes to film depends on the complexity of your idea. One picture is taken per movement of the actors and/or objects in your animation.

Simply move, take a picture, move, take a picture, move, take a picture, and so on...

By doing this, you can:
-Make people scoot across a surface without moving their legs!
-Make inanimate objects move!
-Make people magically appear and disappear!
-And more!

When you feel as if your shoot is complete, load the plethora of pictures you just took onto Photoshop and put the finishing touches on your animation!

Here is a professional example of a pixilation animation:

Here is our pixilation animation:

Quirky Anxiety in Disguise from Amanda Dahl on Vimeo.

"Her Morning Elegance." Song by Oren Lavie. Animation by Yuval and Merav Nathan. http://youtu.be/2_HXUhShhmY

Murphy, Mary. Beginner's Guide to Animation: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2008.

"Pixilation Animation." The Flying Animator. 6 Oct 2011. http://www.the-flying-animator.com/pixilation.html

Facebook + Coffee + Art = Appealing!

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My friend John Hoban has been teaching art in Duluth for over a decade and is passionate about the use of digital media in art education. He recently established a Facebook group called Duluth Sketch Bomb, which brings Duluth artists together to share their passion for art, swap ideas, improve their skills, and, overall, just have some fun. At least 4 times a year, the artists in this group will meet at a restaurant with their art supplies, pick a topic out of a hat, and represent it in any way they see fit. At the end of the session, the artists will admire each other's work. Topics and art works can also be posted to the Facebook page at any time.
Being part of this group is a lot of fun, and it makes being on Facebook more meaningful and enjoyable. I think that a Facebook group like Duluth Sketch Bomb would be a hit for middle and high school students, since more and more of them are catching the social networking bug every day. Instead of having the students meet at restaurants, the teacher could set up the classroom like a coffee shop once a month, giving the students a fun social atmosphere in which to make art. This experience might even encourage some of the students to create their own similar group outside of school and keep it up for years, even if they don't decide to pursue an art-related career.

The Google Art Project = Fun Stuff!

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While wandering through http://www.carrotrevolution.blogspot.com I stumbled upon something that was so interesting, I played around with it for almost an hour before writing this report about it. It's called the Google Art Project (http://www.googleartproject.com) and it takes you on virtual tours through a selection of art museums around the world! It's awesome. You can even click on a work of art, zoom in, and see it much more up-close than you would if you pressed your face against it - something you can't do in the actual museum! The clumps of paint in Van Gogh's The Starry Night are just as beautiful as the painting itself. I spied on and saw every detail of the tiny people in the background of The Harvesters by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It was so much fun to feel so close to so many different artworks from around the world and throughout the centuries. There is also a feature (if you have a Google account) in which you can create your own personal "gallery" with your favorite artworks from the site. What a great teaching tool this is - art teachers whose schools cannot afford trips to big-deal museums like the ones featured on the Google Art Project can allow their students to wade in the enormous ocean of the art world with just the click of a mouse!

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