Students create banners for Route 66 Raceway project
By Tony Graf email@example.com February 13, 2013 10:38PM
Donald McClelland, creative services manager for Route 66 Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway, works on the 15th Anniversary Banner Project with students Jessica Cisneros and Jessica Floyd at Joliet Central High School. | Supplied photo
Updated: March 15, 2013 11:22AM
Sometimes quaint and historic. Sometimes sleek and modern. Often outrageous. And always fun.
This is Route 66 — Road Trip Central of the Planet — where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness take to the open highway.
Students from Joliet Township High School are leaving their legacy on this storied route. They are creating large banners for display outside the grandstands of Route 66 Raceway, as the Joliet track celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.
Race fans will see the 25-by-15-foot banners during a full spring and summer of events this year. And Route 66 travelers, on their way to St. Louis or Santa Monica Pier, will see the banners while passing the raceway, at Route 53 and Schweitzer Road in Joliet.
The banners are the work of students in two classes — Desktop Publishing and Photo Communications — at both Central and West campuses. A marketing class at Central will seek sponsorships for eight to 12 banners at a price of $2,000 per banner. The proceeds, minus the cost of the banners, will be donated to a charity, chosen by student vote.
“Our district goal is to provide real-world experiences for our students, and our career academies enable us to work with business partners to bring these experiences to life,” said Carol Collins, project director for the high school district.
This year, students in two academies are making and marketing the banners: the Business Management and Information Systems Academy, and the Arts and Communications Academy. The 15th Anniversary Banner Project follows last year’s successful BenchMark Project, in which students raised $20,000 for charities by creating benches for display at Chicagoland Speedway.
International Speedway Corp. owns both Chicagoland Speedway and Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, and has been a partner with the high school on both efforts.
The banners convey the themes of Route 66 history, and Joliet’s place in it; of freedom, with prominent Stars and Stripes; and of fun, with wild cars and crowds.
“My banner basically consists of a grainy background. It’s mostly black and white,” said Elizabeth Chavez, a Photo Communications student at Central. “When I was designing it, I was thinking: I wanted to not do what everyone else was doing.”
“Just keeping it simple colors — I wanted to add texture to it,” she said.
“My design was neon light, neon-color-filtered,” said Julio Rios, a Central student in Photo Communications.
Many students used Photoshop skills to combine images in a compelling way. Chavez and Rios are finalists in the project. They excelled in Photoshop and in doing something different with the colors of the design.
“I’ve had a lesson on filters — which is the neon color or the grainy filter that you see there,” said Dale West, teacher of the photo class. “And they’re translating what they’ve learned, and putting it into their project. They’re not just throwing in a collage of pictures, but really putting their creativity into it.”
Road to success
In his class, West started out by assigning the students to research the history of Route 66. The raceway provided information, but West wanted the students to build on that.
“I wanted them to do their own research, and go out, and just see what Route 66 meant to them personally as well — and to see how they can personalize and add that into their design on the banners,” West said.
Then the students did some brainstorming. They worked with pencil and paper on the early stages of their ideas.
Then the students translated those ideas onto a computer, using Photoshop skills that West already had taught them. West then reviewed and critiqued their work. He also made some changes to the documents.
In the next stage, the students faced some challenges — and learned lessons that West found very important.
“We had some issues with file sizes,” he said. “The speedway gave us a very large document. It’s a huge document, it takes a while to work with, it takes a long time to save.”
The files are larger than what students are used to handling. However, the files must be large because the banners will be large, West said. Students can learn from this.
“And then we got into concepts of DPI — dots per inch — talking about adjusting the resolution, but still keeping the same size,” he said.
“So we’re showing them real-life situations, how you run into problems, and how you can work through them, and get through it, and come up with the final product that you see today,” West said.
The skills and critical thinking that students gain from projects such as this are consistent with the goals of the Common Core Standards, which were adopted recently by the state of Illinois. The standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their education careers so that they will graduate from high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit bearing college courses and in workforce training programs.
Route 66, the historic highway connecting Chicago and Los Angeles, was established in 1926 and underwent many realignments and improvements through the years. The highway was officially decommissioned in 1985.
Today, more than 85 percent of the highway’s original alignments are still drivable, according to the National Park Service. The 2,400-mile-plus journey evokes images of simpler times, mom-and-pop businesses, and historical symbols of a mobile nation on the road, the agency said on its website, www.nps.gov.
For the vast majority of the 20th century, the automobile, not the Internet, was the cruising vehicle of choice — the sleek, modern vehicle that led to the future. As historic as Route 66 was, it also was a cruisin’ highway that represented American innovation, eminently cool and modern.
In Joliet, Route 66 Raceway is a major auto attraction 15 years in the running. This year, the raceway will host drag racing, demolition derby action, off-road racing, jet cars and the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals, among other events.
And now, Route 66 enthusiasts will see the work of Joliet Township students, who are learning the themes of American history and innovation, of freedom and fun.
What other country ever began its existence with these words? “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
At Route 66, it’s a high-speed pursuit.