As an update on my maker project, I am beginning to consider what I could create. Novel Engineering, the concept I discovered in Maker Journal Entry #1, seems like a promising opportunity that I want to explore. The question now is, what do I create?
I wanted to make this process as authentic to classroom application as possible, and was thinking about what books I teach that would lend themselves nicely to this type of project. I considered Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, The Odyssey, and several others, but based on where in the year this project is likely to happen during the year, I am going to use one of the texts I will be teaching in the fall for my Honors 9th grade English – Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
The first thing I have to do is determine what problem arises in the novel that needs to be solved. There are many problems that arise in the novel, but most of them are philosophical and cannot be fixed with anything I have the skills to make. I cannot make anything that will allow Scout to understand the race issues of her era – or at least I haven’t thought of anything yet.
When I researched Novel Engineering, the example I spent most time with was James and the Giant Peach. The Novel Engineering team described some of the issues James has as things like: needing to get over a wall (build a trampoline); stop the sharks from eating the peach (build something that will repel sharks or keep the peach safe); cloud people throw ice at the peach (make an ice deflection system), etc. What I noticed, is that all these are physical issues – not philosophical ones.
But then I had an idea. One of the the most lingering issues Scout faces throughout the novel is the question of what it means to “be a lady.” I know, this is a philosophical question and I said I couldn’t make anything to fix those, but for this one I think I might have an idea. What if Scout hired me as a consultant to teach her what it means to be a lady? People hire etiquette coaches all the time – think pageant moms – why couldn’t Scout do the same?
The thing that I like most about this idea is that it requires the consultant to do a little extra. If I’m going to teach Scout what it means to “be a lady” then I need to know what it meant to be a lady in her era – that requires research. The other challenge with this job is I need to find a way to create something tangible for Scout to have – unfortunately I can’t just follow her around in the story all the time, I need to drop something in and get myself out.
Then I thought – a book. It’s the perfect solution. Scout’s teacher gets mad at her throughout the novel because she already knows how to read – a book would make sense for her character. I could create a book that Scout carries with her that explains all the social conventions of being ladylike in her time period. To be truly authentic, the book would have to be created at Scout’s reading level, or it is useless to her.
There are several challenges I may face with this project – can I find the research, can I put together a book at Scout’s reading level, and would this actually benefit her throughout the story? I do not yet have the answers to these questions, but as I continue on my maker journey I am excited about the potential of this project.
Stay tuned for more.