My class is designing student holiday cards with a twist to give to family members and friends. The group started by designing a holiday scene on 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock. I got out my craft box, so students could create a mixed media scene if they wanted. Students used watercolor paints, colored pencils, markers, felt pieces, sequins, beads, yarn, and various other crafty supplies. The mixed materials give the backgrounds a 3-D effect in the final photo.
Next, students thought about a good picture pose for their background and brought a few accessories to school like scarfs and mittens. I supplied things like Styrofoam balls (snow balls), wrapped boxes (festive gifts), and cocoa mugs (hot beverage) to add winter elements to the photos. A solid color wall on the school playground works well to quickly take single pictures. Since we were outdoors and only one person was having his/her picture taken, I was allowed to have students remove their COVID masks for the photo.
I edited the pictures to remove the backgrounds and saved the photos as PNG files with transparent backgrounds. I used the magnetic lasso tool in Photoshop but after much cursing and aggressive mouse clicking, I changed to the Photoshop pen tool and refined the edge. I recommend finding a YouTube video like THIS ONE to figure out the best way to remove the background from your photos.
The next step was to take pictures of each student’s holiday scene and upload the background scenes along with the posed pictures to the school’s shared drive. Students used a small foldover card template in MSPublisher. They inserted the individual posed picture on top of each holiday scene to design individual cards. They added personal messages on the inside.
For an extra layer of good cheer, our music teacher helped us record the students singing a holiday song. We have been using GarageBand on an iPad for audio recordings. We designed new “group” background scenes and inserted multiple students into the pictures. You can use MSPublisher or PowerPoint to create a full page scene and then convert the finished pages into JPG image files. Both apps will easily save each page as a JPG file. The scenes were uploaded into iMovie and arranged into a video slide show. The recorded songs were added as background music. The short movie was uploaded to our school’s private YouTube channel. We were able to share the link to the holiday video through a QR code we pasted into the interior of each card.
The finished cards have brought joy to all of us this holiday season. The bright colors and cheery faces of the students have made us smile. During these last few weeks of 2020, it has been nice to have a project that incorporated technology skills and some spatial thinking while also providing a little bit of a brain break. Use this process for holiday cards or some other area of your curriculum. I can imagine kids drawing a scene from a social studies unit and having students pose as historical characters or re-creating book scenes. There are many possibilities!