Cartoonist helps kids learn history by creating comics

  • Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2013 11:57 p.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, February 17, 2013 12:51 p.m.
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT
Cartoonist Dave McDonald, an artist in residence at East Aiken School of the Arts last week, confers with fourthw-grader Sydney Hallman about her funny comic strip about King George III and a space alien. McDonald uses humor and the students’ own creativity to learn about history.
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT Cartoonist Dave McDonald, an artist in residence at East Aiken School of the Arts last week, confers with fourthw-grader Sydney Hallman about her funny comic strip about King George III and a space alien. McDonald uses humor and the students’ own creativity to learn about history.

 
 
Sydney Hallman has created a pastry-style character called Sprinkles, who has come from another planet, to capture King George III.

Alliya Hall, another East Aiken School of the Arts fourth-grader, invented Coney the Creep from CandyWorld. He looks like a creep, all right, with lots of tentacles. He’s also a space creature who’s trying to figure why people dumped tea into Boston Harbor to complain about King George.

If the king is a common theme here, there are two reasons. The Revolutionary War is a state standard for fourth-graders.

“I didn’t know I could do this,” said Sydney. “It’s fun to create a character.”

That’s the second reason: Carrie Power, the art teacher, invited cartoonist Dave McDonald to spend four days at East Aiken as an artist in residence.

McDonald is a versatile cartoonist, writer, composer and much more, focusing much of his time on educational opportunities for children through comic writing. He is registered through North Carolina and South Carolina art commissions. Power also funded his appearance through the State Department of Education’s Distinguished Arts Program Grant.

McDonald described how he created iHamster Sam, who is interested in textile buildings in Gaston County, N.C. McDonald wrote a silly story about how he goes back in the past and meets Eli Whitney. iHamster notes that Whitney has fruit on the loom.

“That’s the way my humor works,” said McDonald, who has created a series of iHamster online videos about many other people and events in history that children can enjoy and learn from. His pal is now getting his own book.

“Dave does a great job of explaining his career in the arts,” said Power. “He’s teaching them to draw simple shapes so that every student is going to be successful.”

McDonald still does free-lance writing, including work with a theme park.

“But working with kids is still fun for me,” he said. “I enjoy seeing the light bulbs coming on. 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 standards.”

Even by the second day of the residency, some children were returning with finished stories.

“It’s great,” Power said. “It’s not something I would do with the kids. I love how he breaks it down for them. It speaks to them.”

Tromaine Toy has created Sharpedo Shark, who lives in an underwater cave with a cellphone and is afraid of the beach. The assignment for Tromaine is to find out how the Revolutionary War started.

And by the way, King George is a flounder “and the shark will eat him,” Tromaine said with a big grin. “I want to be a cartoonist, too.”

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