The Make-A-Book Project and author-in-residence program school photographs. Pictured here are all four of the aerial-view school photos. Kids standing in the shape of a bicycle, worm, butterfly and cupcake.
A aerial view of my message. It could read "We ♥ worms" or "We heart worms" or "We love worms."
Here is the final retouched picture for Ruby the Red Worm's Dirty Job. My camera wasn't big enough, so I need to splice to pictures together. I think it adds to the effect. Thanks to the Waukesha STEM Academy.

We ❤ Worms

School playground photo of “We ❤ worms” the modern idiom for “We love worms.” I’m very surprised this picture turned out so great! Another one of my personal favorites. And a giant framed photo will soon be hanging in the school office until the end of times.

It was very difficult to illustrate the chalk drawing and make it straight while accounting for perspective. It took me about 3 hours, and I was flying around the playground backwards in the cold weather so much I think it gave me bronchitis.

Below you can see a picture of the chalk outline from the point of view of the playground. “We *heart* worms” appears incomprehensible. And the next aerial view shows Mrs. Krzysik surveying the chalk drawing and preparing to organize the students by grade and the color of their T-shirts. Due to the nature of kids, we had a limited amount of time to form the picture and capture a lot of smiling faces. Of course, when you want clouds, you get sun. And, I miscalculated the morning shadows since the sun was still in the southern hemisphere rather than due east, which created too much contrast and long shadows. We solved some of these problems by having the kids sit down. In the previous photo, they were all standing.

A picture of the school playground with giant chalk outline that is barely visible.
It took me about 3 hours to make the chalk outline on the playground. I’m worried that it is almost invisible. How will the students line up correctly?
A teacher alone on the playground gets ready to line up the students. The words are invisible from the roof.
This aerial view shows Mrs Krzysik surveying the chalk drawing “We ❤ worms” and preparing to organize the students by grade and the color of their T-shirts. My job is to help fill in the gaps, but the words are barely visible.
A satellite view of my message. It could read "We ♥ worms" or "We heart worms" or "We love worms."
Here I am preparing for the school photograph. I used a satellite photo of the actual school playground from Google Maps to estimate the size and placement. Then I overlay a grid and picture of the worm and words. “We ♥ worms.” When I get to the school, the first thing I do is pace out the grid.

Above is my diagram of the school playground with the school at the bottom of the photograph from Google Earth. And below is my location scout made from the roof of the school. Notice that it took about 5 seconds for kids to scream: “Scott Stoll is on the roof.” I think they’re a lot like prairie dogs.

I’ve been observing the weather, waiting for the snow to melt, hoping for a cloudy day to avoid the high contrast and shadows, and also hoping to schedule a time when the playground will be in the shadow. Among my challenges, will be:

  • Drawing a giant picture in chalk
  • Calculating the correct perspective and space for the students to comfortably fill the lines
  • Organizing the students into groups of red and blue shirts. Fortunately, the teachers are great at this.
  • Accounting for all the unforeseen variables
  • And accomplishing this all before everyone goes stir crazy and breaks formation.

I seem to learn all these things the hard way. If life was easy, it wouldn’t be new.

Making of the school photograph "We love worms."
This is a quick picture that I did during my location scout. It’s made from the roof of the school. Notice the snow. It took about 5 seconds for kids to scream, “Scott Stoll is on the roof,” and then jump around waving. I think they’re a lot like prairie dogs.

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