An Update from the English Classroom
Two weeks ago, we began The Martian with a QFT. I showed the students a picture of the Habitat, a 33 square foot dome built on a volcano in Hawaii, and a statement:
Immediately the questions started to flow: Why would anyone volunteer to do this? How much money did they make? Can they leave? Did they make it the whole year? Why did NASA want to do this? All told, the Changemakers asked over 150 questions! We then prioritized our top 33 questions (3 from each group). What shocked me most was that the questions these freshmen asked were the same questions that the Lynn Levy, science reporter and host of The Habitat, was seeking to answer in her year-long reporting adventure tracking the daily lives of the six “would be” astronauts living in simulated Mars.
The next day, we began episode one. I asked students to complete one-pagers while we listened, to help work past the “it’s awkward to just sit and listen” phase. For me, I can only listen to a podcast when I am doing some other task, like driving, cleaning or walking the dog. I wanted to simulate that purposeful multi-tasking, while also giving them the opportunity to create something that would help with information recall, especially as we dive further into this series. So I handed out pieces of paper and art supplies and told them to draw, scribble, doodle, quote, question and ponder as they listened. They were a bit resistant at first, but after a few minutes I savored the quiet that had come over the room. At one point, our Changemaker Director, Ms. McHugh, had come into the room and was taking pictures, no one had even noticed her walk into the room. They were so engrossed in their listening and drawing. What struck me most, was how different the end results were. Some focused on 1 image, others created comic book-like drawings, others wrote down quotes they heard, while still others filled their pages with questions.
After the episode, we discussed what would make a person sign up for this, we looked at how “the astronauts” dealt with a disagreement while ground truthing, and made connections between these six would-be astronauts and us, the Changemakers, who are also trying to all work together.
Going forward, students will continue to listen to The Habitat on their own. Each Monday, I assign the next episode; on Tuesdays, I host a Habitat listening party after school, and their one pagers are due on Thursday, when we discuss the episode and make connections to The Martian. This week, episode 3 is an especially poignant one: the group must deal with the 20 minute communication delay, as they try to find out information the 2015 Paris terror attacks and process this tragedy, while being completely separated from society.
I’m absolutely loving having these discussions and watching as the students find the answers to the questions they asked on the first day. I love watching them figure out all the things they take for granted, the things that seem so much more challenging on Mars--like going to the bathroom or taking a shower. I love how they are grappling with challenges Mark faces being alone on Mars and the challenges the six face being “trapped” together in the Hab.
We’d love for you to join us in our listening. I keep telling the kids to put it in the car on their way hockey practice or while doing the dishes so you can listen. This podcast makes for some great conversations with your children.