Posted on April 6, 2017 by Scot Allen
By Billie Napoleon
On Monday, March 6, the fifth graders opened their classroom door to the MPX9 humanities classes for the second time. The first time 9th graders visited, their elementary friends listened to the scripts they had written and gave valuable feedback on how to improve their original stories. This time, upper class-men were armed with new and improved stories, handmade puppets and backdrops, and a puppet theater that they designed and built out of PVC pipe.
This project began in February, when, after reading Animal Farm, by George Orwell, an allegory of the Russian Revolution, 9th graders were challenged to write their own allegories -- stories that have both a literal and underlying meaning, typically a moral or political one. Stories about the election, WWII, cyber-bullying, animal trafficking, and addiction, sprang from students' imaginations, disguised as innocuous yarns. Once students had written their scripts for their intended audience, they visited the 5th grade to receive feedback. 9th graders really wanted to know if their message was getting across and their young counterparts were quick to offer ideas, constructive criticism, and validation.
The next two weeks were spent revising, creating puppets and backdrops, and practicing their scripts. Students even learned how to use a sewing machine, which really adds to their skill set and prepares them for future textile projects. Annika Alcon, 9th grader, echoes many of her classmates when she says, "From this project I got to experience writing a play from scratch and I never really got to do that before. Also, I learned how to use a sewing machine and create an allegory." Other students, like Brennan Kimura, learned more about their chosen historical context as they wrote their stories: "I learned about the relationship between Japan and US prior to the Attack Of Pearl Harbor."
Students were overwhelmingly happy with the results, expressing how proud they were of their final presentation. "I was happy about the overall message and how people were able to understand it. I was also happy that we were able to get feedback and apply it to the story" (Kody Manabe, 9th grader).
Projects that push students to ask questions, apply understanding of concepts, demonstrate creativity, and present to an authentic audience can motivate students and keep them engaged.