Sunday, April 24, 2016

Little Planets

Planets designed by my sophomore English class, a la The Little Prince.
Some of their planets were given "legs" and spiny projections.

Since our school district went to a modified-year-round school year a few years ago, we've enjoyed having a two-week break at the end of every quarter. A two-week Fall Break; a two-week Christmas Break; and a two-week Spring Break. We quite like it!

However, this year the calendar committee reduced the number of potential snow days in our district calendar (the only time that's been done in my 26 years with the district) and, sure enough, we had just enough snow this winter to exceed the extra days in the calendar. So our new superintendent made the decision to cancel the first week of Spring Break. As you can imagine, it was a wildly unpopular decision.

Some planets were given Saturn-ish rings.

Many students' families, as well as staff members, had already planned vacations for that week, right down to airline tickets, hotel reservations, and car rentals. There was a cry of outrage from the community. The superintendent responded by allowing those who notified the school of their plans to miss that week of school without penalty.

Which led to an outcry from the teachers who remained (like me). How could we hold these missing students responsible for the work they missed while their classmates trudged on during their absences? With so many students out, that would create a logistical nightmare of makeup work.

So the official word came down: no new concepts were to be taught. Review work only.

Some planets took on their own distinct personalities! 
(In my world, that's called personification...)

Interesting. I gave it some thought and decided to make the week fun for those students who were stuck at school while their friends were off cavorting on beaches and in theme parks. I collected all the crafty items I could scare up from my own collection, from Walmart, and from a variety of dollar stores, and I hauled them to school with me. Then my freshman and sophomore English classes spent the first two days of that week doing a craft assignment related to the novels we'd been reading in class.

A few planets were more basic but given popsicle sticks to hold them up. 

My sophomores had just begun reading The Little Prince, by French pilot and author Antoine de Saint-Exupery, in which a little boy lives on a tiny planet with three small volcanoes that come up only to his knees (one is extinct, so he uses it as a footstool, while he warms his food on the other two). Every morning he rakes out his volcanoes and clears his planet of baobab tree seedlings (or they would take over the tiny planet). And he tends to his beloved rose. She is very difficult, but throughout the course of his explorations he learns to appreciate and cherish her.

And these planets were so unique that I needed two pics to show both sides!

The assignment for the class was to create their own tiny planets using the styrofoam balls I'd provided and then be prepared to describe their planet and its features. What was it that made their planets unique and special to whomever lived there?

Of the 28 students in this class, only 17 attended school that week. But in the end, the kids who joined us did a great job on their planets, and so I thought I'd share their results. Enjoy!

Side two.

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