Posters and Wienies!
Mickey's 4th Commandment of theme park design is use a wienie. I've written about wienies before but it is such an important (and fun!) commandment that we're due for another look. A wienie is a visual magnet that draws people into an experience. Matterhorn Mountain is visible from miles around and draws you to Disneyland from the 5 Freeway. Sleeping Beauty's castle dominates your view when you step out of entry plaza lobby and onto Main Street USA drawing you into the park.
While I'd love to build a mountain or castle in my classroom that seems unlikely. Thankfully, Disney uses many more wienies that are much easier to recreate. My personal favorite are the attraction posters. These posters, which line the entry way out of the entry plaza lobby, are modeled after the movie posters one would find in any theater lobby. These posters are catalogued in a beautiful coffee-table book entitled Poster Art of the Disney Parks, co-authored by Imagineering archivist Vanessa Hunt whom I got to meet recently (which was awesome!).
The book collects poster art from Disney parks all around the world. It was interesting to see how the styles tend to change from location to location. The posters at Disneyland largely all have a retro feel whereas the posters at Tokyo DisneySea all look very modern. I'm a sucker for the traditional so the retro ones are my favorites but the modern ones have some interesting takes as well. In every case the posters serve as wienies - visual introductions indicating which experiences you should go seek out.
What if we presented our classroom experiences as movie posters? Assuming we're doing them well our lessons have all the necessary aspects of a good movie already - action, adventure, mystery - so, why not? We may not be able to make mountains, but thanks to the internet we can definitely make posters. It may not be easy but it sure easier than building a castle! Here's a sample of the ones I've made for my entry wall so far.
Here's a link to some templates for my posters in PowerPoint. The ones I did in Photoshop are huge and I haven't figured out a great way to share them yet. Hopefully this will get you going though!
Below is the mock up I sent my principal when I made my request. He loved the idea. In fact, I had to talk him down from moving them to a central area of the campus. He wanted every visitor to see them. I selfishly wanted them on my classroom wall for my students! I got my way. Our district maintenance guys put them up (we ended up with 5 actually) and they did a great job. The frames cost about $80 each and have held up well so far over the course of the school year.
The final product came out so well that I made a whole bunch more posters and am already working on set 3. Students, even those who aren't mine, comment on all them all the time. Any time I put up a new one it's like a puzzle students try to crack to figure out what the activity will be like. Every adult who has visited my classroom has been amazed by them. My administration wants to put the frames up all over campus.
Now that's an effective wienie!