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Scrapbooking &
Other Photo Fun

"Life is not about significant details, illuminated in a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are."

Susan Sontag

Photographs are powerful and evocative for both young and old. They carry a lot of meaning and emotion for adults, and even young children respond to them. Starting at about age two, children will show a spontaneous interest in photos you have framed or sitting around the house. And their interest doesn't wane: they're as happy to look at photos for the seventh time as they were the first time.

Photographs capture and remind us of moments in our lives -- very often the moments that matter most. They are a way to tell the story of your life. But they need to be organized and properly preserved to tell your story effectively and timelessly. That's why scrapbooking has become an increasingly popular pastime in recent years. It's an enjoyable activity that young and old -- children, parents, and grandparents -- can all participate in. It's also an educational activity.

Scrapbooks record, celebrate, and connect us to the events, people, and traditions of our past and present -- and help carry those memories into the future. You can record your family's story across generations and create a lasting legacy.

Much of the information in this section is provided by Memory Makers scrapbooking magazine (www.memorymakersmagazine.com or 1-800-366-6465). Written by avid scrapbookers from all walks of life, the magazine offers information to families and is also an idea source for teachers.

Fun, creative, hands-on learning through scrapbooks is an innovative classroom approach. Scrapbooking can be used to bring any subject to life for students -- whether it's preserving family history, celebrating friendship, recording achievement, or exploring a new curriculum topic. Looking at events using a variety of mediums -- documents, letters, books, photographs -- allows students to see them from different perspectives and explore them in a richer, more thought-provoking way. Also, research shows that people take in information differently; so the child who isn't easily able to comprehend information through the written word may be able to more readily take it in through photos.

Each activity kit in the Something to Remember Me By Legacy Project will introduce different creative ideas, innovative techniques, and scrapbooking projects. New kits will build on previous kits to give you a base of scrapbooking information and ideas for young and old. And watch for the 2002 Valentine's Contest, open to children and adults. It will involve creating your own scrapbook page to win a Lane Cedar Chest filled with everything you need to make scrapbook memories, from Memory Makers magazine.

To get young and old in a photo mood, here are some storybook suggestions: Something to Remember Me By by Susan Bosak (just examining the book cover usually gets plenty of discussion going!); Journey to Ellis Island by Carol Bierman; Granddaddy's Street Songs by Monalisa Degross; and When I Was Young by James Dunbar.

Activities: Scrapbooking History; Photos Old & New; Sort-a-Thon; Your First Page; Generations Scrapbook; Alphabet Album; Toddler Album; Grad Album; You & Me Album; Photo Card Games; Photo Shoot.


Scrapbooking History

Suggested Activity Timing: Before a Grandparents Day event.

Curriculum Connections: Social Studies/History.

What You Need: Copies of the "Brief History of Scrapbooking" sheet.

Doing It:

When you're working on a scrapbook, do you know that you have something in common with Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain? Throughout his life, Thomas Jefferson kept leather-bound volumes filled with news clippings, drawings, diary entries, dried leaves, and other memorabilia (his albums are now kept at his former home in Charlottesville, VA). Mark Twain was such an avid scrapbooker that he reserved Sundays for his hobby. He held patents for his invention of self-pasting scrapbooks that could be dampened with water.

Scrapbooks have long been used as a way to record personal histories and as a form of artistic expression (some scrapbooks were collections of brilliantly colored scraps of paper items like advertising cards or greeting cards, arranged by subject or type of material). They have been called "common-place books" and "friendship albums." The word "scrapbook" comes from the brightly colored paper called "scrap" that originally filled albums. Scrapbooks from days gone by look a little different than the scrapbooks of today. For example, they didn't have a lot of family photographs because cameras weren't widely available until 1888. People cut articles from newspapers and saved labels, greeting cards, and illustrations for their scrapbooks.

Discuss the history of scrapbooking (the information on the "Brief History of Scrapbooking" sheet appeared in the May/June 2001 issue of Memory Makers magazine). If you want to see actual copies of early scrapbooks, many library archives have collections of them.


Photos Old & New

Suggested Activity Timing: Before a Grandparents Day event, or any time.

Curriculum Connections: Social Studies/History; Family Fun "Homework."

What You Need: Old family photos; Internet. Optional -- camera.

Doing It:

Children may be used to seeing modern, color photographs and digital images. Look at some old photos to give children a sense of history. Compare the clothing styles, poses, and facial expressions (do you notice that people rarely smiled?) with what you see in modern photos.

In addition to exploring old family photos, explore other historical photographs at www.ancientfaces.com. It's an online photo website dedicated to connecting families with their legacies. Make sure you check out the "Special Collections" page, which is made up of extraordinary photos chosen by the staff at AncientFaces and arranged by topic. Fascinating!

If you like, once you look through some old family photos, you can try to recreate the shots of the past in the present day. Go to the same locations and take a present-day shot with people at the age they are today. Stand in the same poses, but wearing clothing of today. Try the same facial expressions. How are things different? How do they stay the same? How are photographs important for understanding the past and connecting it to the present?



Suggested Activity Timing: After a Grandparents Day event.

Curriculum Connections: Family Fun "Homework."

What You Need: Family photos; photo-safe labeling pencil (e.g. Stablio art pencil) and/or notebook with pen; plastic zipper bags or plastic page protectors; photo-safe binders, boxes, or plastic containers for storing negatives. Optional -- tape recorder.

Doing It:

Scrapbooks are a rewarding, creative way to preserve your memories. But before you begin scrapbooking in a big way, you need to organize your photographs. Organizing your photos (and don't forget your videotapes -- but that's another activity!) puts your family treasures at your fingertips and allows you to focus on telling your story.

At first, the thought of creating a family scrapbook may seem overwhelming. You probably have unlabelled photos scattered in boxes and drawers throughout the house. There are probably relatives on both sides of the family that you don't even know. And you may have boxes of old clippings, cards, and letters somewhere in your attic or basement. Don't despair. Everyone starts this way. Start small, with the most recent events, and take it from there. At the very least, you can start preserving the memories you make from now on. Everything else will fall into place as you get more practice scrapbooking.

Scrapbooking can become an activity that brings all the generations in your family closer together. You can start with a big family "Sort-a-Thon." Young and old can participate in photo sorting and share memories. One of the key benefits of a family photo sorting session is the natural discussion and stories it prompts. A photo sparks one person's memories, then another person adds their recollections, and so on (you may even want to have a tape recorder running).

Be careful as you handle the photographs. Old photos are particularly precious -- make sure your hands are clean, and touch only the corners (oil or dirt from your fingers can ruin photos). You shouldn't have food or drinks near the photos.

You can organize photos by year, by month, or in order of holidays and special events. Organizing by events (e.g. family picnics, vacations, holidays, etc.) lends itself to themes for building scrapbook pages. Give some thought to the kinds of scrapbooks you may want to create over the long term. You can keep your photos in chronological order and make, for example, one album for each of your children, plus one family album. You can also create some special albums, like a grandchild album, a grandparent's album, an album dedicated to nieces and nephews, a holiday album, or a birthday album.

As you organize photos, try to record some notes about them. You can label photos on the back, but NEVER write with a ballpoint pen. Instead, use a Stablio art pencil, which you can pick up in an art or scrapbooking store. These pencils leave less of an impression than regular pencils. When you write, make sure you don't press too hard and don't write in areas where people's faces are. A better idea is to use a notebook to jot down names, dates, locations, and recollections.

Once you have piles of related photos, memorabilia, notes, and embellishments, you may want to temporarily store each pile in plastic zipper bags or plastic page protectors. This way you can see everything at a glance and start thinking about page design.

Never store piles of photos on top of each other. This is especially important if you've written anything on the back (the writing can come off and ruin your photos). Also, keep your photos where you keep people in your home -- away from the temperature extremes of an attic or the dampness of a basement.

Don't forget to safely store your negatives. Label the negatives with the date (or at least the year) so that you can find them easily if you need them. You can store them in a photo-safe binder, box, or plastic container specially designed to hold negatives. Negatives should be stored in a separate location from photos so that if one is damaged you still have the other.

Allow weeks to months for organizing all your family photos and writing down names, dates, and memories. After your first Sort-a-Thon, you may want to make it a regular family date, perhaps every couple of weeks or every month. Slowly but surely, it will all get done -- and you'll have fun along the way!


Your First Page

Suggested Activity Timing: After a Grandparents Day event.

Curriculum Connections: Art; Language Arts; Family Fun "Homework."

What You Need: Family photos; basic scrapbooking supplies -- acid-free paper, straight-edge scissors, photo-safe adhesive, an acid-free pen, and a photo-safe album. Additional fun items (but not essential) include stickers, rubber stamps, and die-cut shapes.

Doing It:

Scrapbooking is a fun and rewarding way to tell the story of your family and your life. If you've never done a scrapbook page before, this activity will get you started. It's something that young and old can work on together.

It's important to use proper scrapbooking supplies. For example, the acid in many pens and photo albums can yellow and deteriorate photos and papers. And photographs aren't just pieces of paper. They are made up of chemicals, usually coated with gelatin and silver. They can be harmed by light, air, or dust. For that reason, they need to be protected. Old photos are particularly precious. Handle them with care (be sure your hands are clean, and touch only the corners -- oil or dirt from your fingers can ruin photos). Never fix a photo with tape -- it cracks and leaves a residue. Remember: your photographs are priceless treasures. Taking care of them will mean a great deal to your great-great-great-great-grandchildren!

Here are the ten basic steps for doing a scrapbook page:

1. Choose a theme for your page -- maybe a recent birthday or holiday. It's easier to start with recent photos and memories and work backward. Get some momentum going before you tackle the tough stuff from the distant past.

2. Sort through all the relevant photos you have available. You don't have to scrapbook every photo you take. Choose only the best ones. Keep in mind that only a few photos will fit on a single page -- you can use just a single, evocative photo; do an arrangement with two or three photos; or use several very small photos on a page.

3. Choose one photo as your focal point. It should have strong visual interest. Then think about how you might want to arrange the other photos you've chosen around it to tell a story.

4. Cut and shape your photos. Basic shapes like rectangles, ovals, circles, and squares are most appealing. There are templates and tracers available to create these shapes. It's not necessary to crop if you'd rather not, but it can give you design flexibility. You can cut out irrelevant or distracting items in the background (but leave some background in for perspective, and keep in mind that seemingly irrelevant things now -- like your car -- may have sentimental appeal in the future). IMPORTANT: Never crop a heritage photo or one for which you do not have a negative. In general, don't do anything you can't undo.

5. Choose two or three colors of acid-free paper. Try different color combinations that will complement and enhance the colors in your photos. Different colors will also set different moods. Then mat or frame your photos, giving extra prominence to your focal point.

6. Finalize your page layout (leave room for a title and journaling -- more on that in a minute). Make sure your layout is balanced. In general, a flow that follows the letter "Z" attracts the eye.

7. Use a photo-safe adhesive to secure the photos into place, as well as any paper for mats or frames.

8. Add a title to your page that captures the theme. Pretend you're writing a headline for a newspaper. You want something that "grabs 'em!"

9. Add journaling. This is THE most important step for a good scrapbook page. A page isn't complete without a few notes describing what's happening or your thoughts and feelings. Again, pretend you're a newspaper reporter; try to cover off the "who, what, where, when, how" and even "why."

10. That's great for a first page! If you want to get fancy, you can add stickers, rubber stamps, and die-cut shapes. BUT use these accents sparingly. The main focus should be on the story your photos and you are telling.


Generations Scrapbook

Suggested Activity Timing: Choose one or two of the sheets to use during a Grandparents Day event OR use all the sheets to make a booklet that can be started during a Grandparents Day event (then grandparents and grandchildren take the booklet home to complete it).

Curriculum Connections: Language Arts; Social Studies; Math; Family Fun "Homework."

What You Need: Copies of the 7 sheets that make up the "Generations Scrapbook"; color photocopies of family photos; scissors; glue; ink pad; pen/pencil; stapler. Optional -- pencil crayons or markers to color in the page borders.

Doing It:

This mini-scrapbook gives children a sense of their family history and allows them to compare generations. You can use individual sheets on their own or combine all the sheets into a Generations Scrapbook booklet.

If children wish, they can color in the border around each page.

The cover has a space for a photograph of the child and of the grandparent/grandfriend with whom they're completing the scrapbook. Make color photocopies of a current photo of each person. Cut the photocopies to fit in the space provided. Fill in the name of the child with the name of the grandparent/grandfriend, and the date.

The second page, "Here We Are!" is a comparison page of baby photos of the child and grandparent/grandfriend (you can substitute current photos if you're using this as a stand-alone sheet). Make color photocopies of the photos; then cut and paste them into place. Include each person's name, their birth date and place, and their signature. There's also a spot for each person to put their fingerprint.

The third page, "My Family Tree" is a basic family tree that grandparent and grandchild can fill in together. Put in the name (first line) and birth date (second line) of each person. After completing the family tree, use the birth dates to calculate the number of years between when the ancestor was born and when the child was born. For example, if the grandchild was born in 1990 and their mother was born in 1965, then there's 25 years difference. If the grandparent was born in 1930, then there's 60 years difference. If the great-grandparent was born in 1900, then there's 90 years difference.

The fourth page, "What Was It Like When You Were Young?" is a basic interview about the grandparent/grandfriend's childhood. The answers can be sentences or just a few words/phrases. The important thing is to spark conversation and storytelling.

The fifth page, "Tell Me About Yourself..." is another basic interview, this time about the grandparent/grandfriend as an adult. Again, the answers can be short. The conversation questions trigger is most important.

The sixth page, "Our Favorite Things" is a direct comparison page that allows young and old to see the ways they are different and the ways they are the same.

The last page, "What I've Learned" is a page the child can think about and complete with the help of the older person. It's designed to help a child understand their connection to the past and the things they will carry into the future.

For more detailed interview questions, see the "Grandparent Interview" and "Grandchild Interview" activities in the Communication & Storytelling section of this kit. For more information on family trees, see the "Family Tree" activity in the Connect the Generations section.


Alphabet Album

Suggested Activity Timing: Before a Grandparents Day event (this album can be given as a gift on the day of the event as a memento).

Curriculum Connections: Art; Language Arts; Family Fun "Homework."

What You Need: Color photocopies of family photos; heavier, 8.5 x 11 inch paper; scissors; tape; glue; pencil crayons or markers.

Doing It:

Create a mini photo album of memories using grandma's or grandpa's given name, or just "grandma" or "grandpa."

Parents and children can sort through and choose some favorite photos of a grandparent (including some of grandparent and grandchild). Color photocopy the photographs. Cut each photo, cropping as desired.

For a 5.5 x 8.5 inch finished album, use several sheets of heavier paper, folded in half. Fold enough sheets so that one letter of the person's name has its own half-sheet. For example, for the name "Elizabeth," you would need 5 sheets total to make 9 half-sheets, plus one extra you can use as a cover. Open up all the sheets and tape them edge-to-edge to create a fan-folded booklet. If the person's name has an even number of letters, you can cut one half-sheet extra and tape it to the front as a cover.

In the center of the bottom of each half-sheet, put one letter of the person's name. Make the letters different colors and use flowers, hearts, or other designs to make each letter distinct.

Glue one photo onto each half-sheet that ties into a brief memory you can write out beginning with that letter of the alphabet. For example, a half-sheet with the letter "A" could be "Always smiling" with a photo of grandma and grandchild laughing together.

When you've finished each letter page, write out the person's name on the cover and decorate it in any way you wish.


Toddler Album

Suggested Activity Timing: Any time.

Curriculum Connections: Family Fun "Homework."

What You Need: Photos of all family members; People Who Love Me photo album for toddlers from the Chinaberry Catalog (www.chinaberry.com or 1-800-776-2242).

Doing It:

As I mentioned at the start of this section, children as young as two years show interest in photos. Help them develop an early sense of connection to their entire family through their very own photo album. This is a great gift for a grandparent to make and give a grandchild.

Says Ann Ruethling, founder of Chinaberry:

A few years ago, a couple of toddlers I knew had a book similar to our People Who Love Me photo album. They carried these books around in their chubby little fingers almost everywhere they went. They slept with them, played with them, and sometimes even ate with them. Often, when I would visit their home, I would find them plopped on the living room floor gazing at the photographs of all the people who loved them. Their albums were filled with grandmas and grandpas, cousins, friends and siblings, and of course, their mama and papa. They loved to just look at these pictures over and over again.

Chinaberry has had a special toddler album custom made to their specifications. The album is small, barely bigger than a 4 x 6 inch photograph -- the perfect size for small fingers to hold and manipulate. It's sturdy but soft, with an outside of deep blue velvet. It's designed to hold 20 photos -- big enough to hold plenty of relatives, but not too big so it's difficult to fill. What better way to build self-esteem and a sense of connection in a grandchild than a book filled with the smiling faces of all the people who love them?


Grad Album

Suggested Activity Timing: At the end of the school year, for a child's graduation (from any grade).

Curriculum Connections: Family Fun "Homework."

What You Need: See sample page from Memory Makers magazine.

Doing It:

This is a perfect gift for a grandparent (or an older adult mentor) to make and give a grandchild who is graduating -- from high school, university, or any grade.

The album in the sample page from Memory Makers magazine combines scrapbooking tips with good advice for life. You can combine family photographs with some of your own advice for living, favorite quotations, and special family memories. It's a personal way to create a keepsake and communicate some of your values, thoughts, and feelings.

You can even make this a special grandparent/grandchild tradition, and compile a special graduation album for your grandchild at the end of each school year. Each album could contain photos collected over the preceding year, with your special thoughts on your grandchild's achievements over that year.


You & Me Album

Suggested Activity Timing: Any time; especially appropriate for a grandparent's milestone birthday.

Curriculum Connections: Family Fun "Homework".

What You Need: See sample page from Memory Makers magazine.

Doing It:

This is a meaningful gift for an adult grandchild to give a grandparent, especially for a milestone birthday like 65, 75, 80, 90, or even 100 years old!

How often do you really tell people -- or better yet, show them -- the specific ways in which they've made a difference in your life? In the sample page from Memory Makers magazine, the granddaughter sorted through photos of her grandmother and then chose photos of herself that resembled her grandmother's to illustrate what a role model the grandmother had been.

The album is made complete by writing down special memories and thoughts. This is the kind of keepsake that's guaranteed to bring great enjoyment and pride, just as the grandmother who received the album "kept [it] next to her bed and showed it to her visitors."


Photo Card Games

Suggested Activity Timing: Any time.

Curriculum Connections: Family Fun "Homework."

What You Need: Discarded family photographs, duplicates, and/or color photocopies of photos of family members; scissors; small index cards or an inexpensive deck of playing cards; glue.

Doing It:

These photo game ideas were suggested by Becky Cerar of Rochester, MN. She lives a four-hour drive away from both her husband's and her own family. The games help her children feel familiar with extended family they may not see as often as they'd like.

When you get your photos back from being developed, often some aren't worth saving. Use these photos, or duplicates, or color photocopies of good photos, for various games. Make a "photo card" collection by cutting out the faces of family members and gluing them onto small index cards or the face side of an inexpensive deck of playing cards.

Here are some games to try:

  • For the Memory Game, make sure you have two photos of each family member. Place all the cards face down, spread out on a table in front of you. Pick up one card. If you can remember where the other photo of the person is, you keep both photos and continue to play. When you're stumped, you put the photo face down on the table (in the same spot you found it), and it's the next person's turn. See who can make the most matches.

  • Pick a photo at random and tell a creative, 1-minute story about it (the clock is ticking!).

  • Categorize photos into different branches of the family, each in its own pile.

  • Lay out all the photos and, as you call out a relative's name, see who can find the person's photo the fastest.

Use your imagination to come up with other games -- and report back to us about what's the most fun!

Photo Shoot

Suggested Activity Timing: Any time.

Curriculum Connections: Family Fun "Homework."

What You Need: Camera; film; favorite "friend" (i.e. stuffed animal, doll) with outfits; props. Optional -- scrapbooking supplies.

Doing It:

Every child has a favorite "friend" -- a stuffed animal or a doll. Yet when it comes to formal photos, they're often left out. A perfect grandparent/grandchild activity is doing a "photo shoot" of the stuffed animal or doll. It helps children develop their creative photo skills. It also results in photos that will evoke fond memories of the "friend," and of the shared experience with the grandparent.

A child can play "fashion photographer." Prepare the stuffed animal or doll. It can wear different outfits. Try different poses, backdrops, and props. Some photos can be close-ups of the animal/doll and others can include the child and grandparent. Experiment with taking photos from different distances and angles, and locating the subject in different areas of the shot (i.e. don't always center the subject).

Once you get the photos developed, you can create a special photo album dedicated to the child's special friend.

From Grandparents Day Activity Kit by Susan V. Bosak ©2001, www.somethingtoremembermeby.org

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