How 2 Metro East teachers use infographics to explain American history
When PJ and Jamie Creek started making posters and infographics, they didn’t have any grand plan. Both natives of Belleville, Illinois, they were high school sweethearts who got married and then each left other jobs to teach junior high school social studies. It didn’t take long to begin putting PJ’s art skills to work for their students.
“We started making stuff for our own classrooms,” explains Jamie Creek. “And we thought, ‘People might buy this.’”
They were right. The pair’s “Periodic Table of the Presidents,” which displays key facts about America’s commanders in chief à la the chemical elements, was a runaway hit, with tens of thousands of copies sold.
Other graphics followed, and last December, the O’Fallon, Illinois, couple released their debut book, “We the People and the President: An Infographic Look at the American Presidency.” It manages to be both easily accessible and deeply informative, with infographics and charts that illuminate the presidency and the history of the United States.
“We wanted a book where you could open it up at any point and look and learn something,” said PJ Creek. “So you could either read it as a narrative from start to finish … but also you could turn it open to Page 26 and hopefully learn a tidbit of information. And maybe that draws you in to learn more.”
The Creeks try out both their posters and graphics in the book with their students. Of their junior high school students, Jamie Creek acknowledged, “They will tell you within five seconds what they love and what they don't love — and we can really use that to our advantage.”
They also have an in-home focus group, with an eighth grader, sixth grader and fourth grader in their household. “Our own kids are our best test market,” said PJ Creek. “Everything we do, we run by them first.”
For the Creeks, the content business has been so good, they now find themselves at what PJ Creek calls a “career crossroads” — and are contemplating making the jump to becoming full-time authors and designers of classroom materials. They are working on developing their second book, which they’re not ready to announce just yet, but which will be focused in part on civic engagement.
They’re proud of the way they make big concepts and complicated history digestible.
Said Jamie Creek, “I think a lot of times when you go and start talking about government, the Constitution, kids in general get a little nervous, but this is a super approachable way to learn it.”
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