A picture is worth a thousand words, maybe even worth a final essay grade. Teachers are rapidly changing the way they teach in order to reach a new generation. One of these teachers is Central York High School social studies teacher Gregory Wimmer.
Wimmer often gives his students extensive projects that incorporate the York County community. He primarily assigns these projects to his AP U.S. History and Global Studies classes. “I want to try and give students a unique and authentic learning experience,” said Wimmer. “They’re outreaching in a way that reflects the problems that we talk about in our Global Studies class and reflect what’s going on in our community.”
In the past, students have crafted TED talk-related speeches, made films, created a community award and wrote their own songs. All projects have involved the community by partnering with local art galleries, theaters and musicians.
His most recent assignment known as PANc is a photography-based project. “Students have a camera in their pocket almost constantly,” said Wimmer. The name of the project, PANc, can be broken down to understand its meaning. Wimmer explained that “pan” is a prefix that is typically associated with “world.” The “c” stands for community. “Students do so much with pictures, whether it’s for social media or personal use that I thought it would be an easy fit,” he said.
This project had a three-stage process that the students followed throughout the semester to earn their grade. They had the freedom to select an issue of their choice from a specific region of the world. From this, they created a timeline from the past 50 years, making up stage one. Stage two was to build a photo essay around a thesis of their topic. The students also started to contact a local photographer. Finally, the third and final stage: they worked with the professional photographer from the community and took photos that embody the central theme of their project. Wimmer said: “I want the students to show its transition from an issue into something better.” He wanted the students to give attention to the issues around their theme, but also to show possible solutions. “Since we always focus on the negative,” he added.
The students brought in the name PANc, by returning the global issues back home applying how they are relevant here, through a combination of literal and symbolic photographs in York County.
The students and photographers will showcase their work at a photo gallery on May 16 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at CoWork155 Art Gallery. The photographers agreed to provide these pictures for free.
A large part of this project was the community outreach. Wimmer said: “A lot of people give York a bad rep.” His objective for his students was to present them with unique and different opportunities; that’s why he does a different project for each class.
Along with gaining the knowledge of a global issue, students get a first-hand experience with contacting vital sources for their project and get the chance to involve the community. “Hopefully they’ll build a network of people that they can rely on,” Wimmer said.
He also stressed the independence involved with this project. The students chose their own themes and which elements of the rubric they wanted to show in their project. Wimmer was not fully involved in the students’ projects, but he was there as a resource for them.
Jack Vlazny, a sophomore in Wimmer’s Global Studies class, said, “I think it’s a good experience for kind of doing a road-map styled project that you might have to do in the real world. I think that when I finish it, I’ll have a larger appreciation for the project.”
Wimmer said with a smile, “I’m selfishly interested in what the students come up with.”