Thursday, December 01, 2016

Back to School

"Classroom" Photo by William Creswell, used with attribution, CC BY 2.0

(Cross posted from The Scriptors, a group writing blog)

While I have been a lifelong passionate reader, I didn't much like English classes (or as they are called now, Language Arts) when I was in school. Sure, I would rather have been reading science fiction or fantasy novels than Dickens or Hawthorne or Faulkner, but that wasn't the main reason I disliked class. No, it was the absolute assurance of my teachers that they knew what the author intended in every passage, every single word.

This was in the 1970s and educational philosophies were still very much in the top down/autocratic style.

Anyway, I used to fantasize about becoming a famous author and showing up in a class just as a teacher was set to make some pronouncement about author intent and meaning just so I could stand and tell them they were utterly and helplessly wrong. As I got older, I realized that there had been merit in understanding the context of the writer's world and worldview in digging through layers of meaning in the written word, but I still hold to a philosophy that meaning is made in the intersection of artist and audience and that intent may not be nearly as important as how meaning shifts and evolves with our experience.

I can look back at work I'd written years ago and see layers of meanings and themes I had never consciously intended. Indeed, humans are meaning makers par excellence - consider how we create logic even in the midst of the illogic of our dreams.

Now, all of that is a preamble to the point of this blogpost: There's a curriculum being developed around my Halcyone Space books. Young-Lisa is enjoying her moment of revenge-fantasy from all the boring moments in Jr High and High School having to read Dickens over and over and over again. (Sorry for all you Dickens fans, but for whatever reason, I ended up studying Great Expectations three years in a row. If I never look at the man's work again, it will be too soon.)

A few months ago, I got a message from a woman who is a writer, educator, and fan of my work. She wanted to know if I had any objections to her developing a curriculum for homeschooled High School students based on DERELICT, the first book of my Halcyone Space series. She was concerned that there wasn't enough out there for homeschool educators that was based around diversity and using texts that would appeal to teens.

She shared the draft curriculum she had put together and I was blown away. Each lesson connected to a chapter and contained vocabulary, outside readings, and engaging multi-media activities to enhance learning. Gone were the dry lectures of my own High School career, along with set meanings and spoonfed themes. This was a totally different kind of learning, one that brought the students' own passions and interests into the forefront. One that honored the constructivist mindset that I bring to my work.

Did I have any objections? I was *thrilled*. And I'm not ashamed to say I teared up some. I mean, how cool is it that High School kids will be able to study Language Arts, STEM, creativity, and diversity within the context of a space opera novel! And mine! From the press release:

DERELICT itself features a group of teen friends who unexpectedly blast off into space aboard an old spaceship they were repairing. The story follows the team as they discover their individual and group strengths against an array of challenges. Woven into the mix are LGBT, STEM, Humanities and personal development content. 
[Belinda Y.] Hughes summarized each chapter and pulled out the vocabulary words. She then scoured the web and found engaging educational activities that were relevant to the chapter themes and appropriate to high school-level learners, including content from and Minecraft. “My goal was to bring this book to life in a fun, meaningful, interactive way, as well as lead students to think, and support them in their personal growth at a pivotal point in their young lives,” offers Hughes.

So, yeah, I've just been 'schooled' and in the best way possible.

You can read more about Belinda Y. Hughes and the development of her diversity curricula here, along with finding links to where the curriculum based on DERELICT is available. Her plan is to continue though the series.

I would be grateful if you would you please pass this on to any interested educators and homeschoolers you might know. Thank you.

(Just as an FYI, I have no commercial stake in the sale of Hughes's curriculum. That is her intellectual property.) 



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