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You Grotto Go To Hemlock Gorge

School: Conservatory Lab Charter School

City/State: Brighton, MA

Grade(s): 6

Format(s): Comic book/graphic novel

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Science and Technology, Visual Arts

Project Overview

Sixth grade students at Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton, MA created this graphic novel, You Grotto Go to Hemlock Gorge & Other Small Cave Stories. This is the final product from a four-month geology expedition. During this expedition students focused on the history of Hemlock Gorge, which is located nearby the school.  They visited the Hemlock Gorge to do field work with local geologist, Les Tyrala.

Back in the classroom, students learned more about glaciers and how it transforms the land though a combination of hands-on activities and computer simulations. One activity involved dragging an ice cube studded with gravel across a smooth plastecene surface to replicate the action of a glacier moving across the land.  The students made sketches of the results and used them along with their field sketches, notes and photographs as resources for this graphic novel.

This novel is comprised of eleven short stories, each created by an individual student. Each story answers a research question that the student was curious to learn the answer to, including “How does bedrock form?” and “How does a glacier create a boulder?”  In preparation for this project, students researched the format of graphic novels.  The teachers created a library of graphic novels in the classroom and they used two books as mentor texts: The Arrival by Shaun Tan and American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

To create this book, students worked with two professional artists: Madhuvanti Anantharajan and Andrea Kantrowitz. The artists gave professional feedback and facilitated opportunities for drafting experimenting and peer editing.  Students learned techniques used in graphic illustration including hatching, cross-hatching, smudging and stippling.  The final stories are compiled into one book with the help of a professional graphic designer.

Similar books and projects made by students at Conservatory Lab are available on their website at:

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • The format of a graphic novel is appealing for young learners. The format of a graphic novel was selected after the class discussed the various ways that people learn. Following a poll of their classroom they discovered that 70% of the students learn best visually.
  • Combination of literacy, the arts and science.
  • Working with professionals connects school studies with real-life work.
  • Producing a professionally designed and printed book demonstrates high value placed on student work.

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • EL has not created long-term learning targets for WHST standards.
  • EL has not created long-term learning targets for WHST standards.
  • EL has not created long-term learning targets for WHST standards.
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