Many students believe that their pets have emotions: Their cat is wiley and their dog happy, even as scientists tell us we are projecting our ideas onto them. Still, they are alive. It makes sense that we think they have deep, inner lives.
Have any of your students named inanimate objects? Perhaps their parents have named their car? Do they talk to their computer? Curse at it? Ten percent of Stanford undergraduates admit to patting their iPhone.
Setting is an undervalued focus in Social Sciences. It’s on the Literary Terms list, and geography gets its due, but how often are students asked to evaluate the character of a place? If you have been lucky enough to walk an old battlefield, you know it speaks. Few middle schoolers have the chance. Does their classroom speak to them in the voices of former students? How many have sat in the very seat in which they now sit?
Take a look at this clip from “Dead Poets Society” for the concept of history. Of legacy.
Your school is a treasure trove of history and ghosts. The walls have character. Smell the carpet.
Because the room knows
it can never go outside
I bring it things I think it will like:
peels of bark form the stylist arbutus,
the bones of tiny animals, their deaths
impossible as any to comprehend,
bits of broken bee hive and
pocketfuls of beach glass whose
hues have suffered beautifully
from many tides.
Because the room and I
have only lately become acquainted
we shyly waltz together
like red and blue ink inside
the clear water of silence
or stalk the slightest sound
like two wolves around a faltering doe.
Because the room still remembers
its previous guest leaving
so suddenly without warning or farewell,
it insists I change the locks, bar the windows,
give no one a second chance.
Because the room is lonely
I whisper a few words each morning
steady and soft like incantation
of prayer, hoping the perfect phrase
will unlock the door the room keeps
deep within itself like a secret heart-
this door I’ll walk through one day
and never return.