Historias de Superhéroes
A community project between Columbine Elementary School and CU Boulder
About the project
This project began as a creative workshop offered as an extracurricular activity at Columbine Elementary. The main goal of this workshop was to celebrate the unique and powerful legacy that Latino families at Columbine are building for their children. This is why 3rd grade Latino students were invited to reflect about the best qualities of their loved ones. Students were asked to think of these qualities as superpowers and to create illustrated stories about the fantastic adventures of these exceptional family members. I designed a booklet that features the students drawings and writing in Spanish. This booklet was professionally published and shared with the students and families.
This initiative started from one premise. Namely, that the narrative behind American Superheroes is one that recognizes the members of the Latino community as such. If we think about it, most superhero stories revolve around the internal struggles of their remarkable characters because no extraordinary person enjoys an easy life. Superheroes are brave and altruistic, but their heroic acts tend to pass unnoticed or even be misunderstood. For this reason they often perceive their powers as a burden rather than as a gift. I firmly believe that superheroes need us as much as we need them. This is why it should be everybody’s task to protect our superheroes and to acknowledge the good that they do. In our workshop we have taken this responsibility very seriously and what we share in the booklet is a tribute to our participant’s family members.
The Spanish Language
Spanish was our main ally in the process of creating different types of heroic narratives and it was also presented as a valuable skill to master.
The workshop was conducted solely in this language and all the materials produced are in Spanish as well. I decided not to translate the booklet to English because I wanted the participants to know that Spanish is not just a language confined to their private lives, but also a powerful tool to create and to transmit knowledge to a large audience.
Furthermore, I recruited undergraduate students of color and Spanish heritage speakers minoring in Spanish at CU Boulder and trained them to become volunteers for the workshop. Not only were they a source of inspiration for Columbine students, but had the chance to practice their communication skills in Spanish within a real setting and towards a meaningful and creative goal.
I would also like to share how my academic background in theater, literature, visual arts and education helped me lead this project and serve the community I was aiming for.
I used my formal education in visual arts and theater to design engaging storytelling and drawing exercises. The activities were always interactive and encouraged students to work collaboratively even when creating their own illustrated story.
I put together an instructor's guide with all of these exercises in order to train and support my volunteers from CU Boulder. This allowed me to document the entire process and design a methodology in case other instructors are interested in imparting this workshop somewhere else. The methodology is included in the booklet.