July 10, 2010

Rabbit and Bear Paws in the classroom

Learning from cartoons:  Comic follows adventures of Ojibwa brothers

By Dave DaleNipissing University education students were laughing and having fun Monday as native author Chad Solomon demonstrated how cartoons can be used as a teaching tool.

Solomon, the grandson of traditional healer and justice activist Art Solomon, is the creator of the comic Rabbit and Bear Paws and Little Spirit Bear Productions, a multi-media company.
Solomon's self-publishing advice:The students, many of them working as educational assistants already and completing various teaching-related certificates or diplomas, asked questions about how Solomon got his cartoons published and the amount of work it takes to create them.

He said it takes about three years to research, write and draw a cartoon book and recommended self-publishing as an option to get started.

"Do the stories, write your book," Solomon said, suggesting print-on-demand and online publishing alternatives while waiting for big publishing houses to take an interest.

"Start small and with the right spirit, it can grow into something larger," he said, describing how he started telling stories through art as a child, showing the students a simple figure his grandmother taught him to draw.
Using comics in the classroom:His online production company provides a venue for students to learn life lessons and communication skills by developing their own cartoon strips.

Rabbit and Bear Paws puppets were circulated around the room, with Rabbit landing in the hands of Jarrod Shawanda, of Birch Island.

He's an educational assistant working toward a diploma and looks forward to a career in policing. Shawanda said using cartoons and art in the classroom helps students learn in a way that's more interesting than straight instruction, homework and tests.

"I've done this kind of stuff in the classroom and it's very engaging. It gets them to write and they're learning and they don't even know it."
Comment:  I've met Solomon a couple times and talked to him online. I consider him a colleague if not a friend.

Although I wouldn't have thought of using puppets, I agree with his advice. Self-publish your comics and pitch them as educational and cultural tools.

For more on the subject, see TVOntario Features The Voyageurs and 3rd Rabbit and Bear Paws Collection. For more on the subject in general, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

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