We're about the wrap up the Poe portion of our Nevermore: Mystery and the Imagination expedition. The second investigation will focus on various cultures' stories of the underworld and/or afterlife. We're expecting some controversy because the kids (and some parents) have difficulty distinguishing between sociology and evangelization: We're simply studying other belief systems, not trying to change anyone's!
Our focus question for the investigation was "Why do people tell stories to explain mysteries?" But we revisited this question because of the word "stories" and the potential implication that all stories are fiction. We didn't want to get into a situation where we examined a Bible story and parents or students objected to the word "story" as an implication that it was merely something made up by people to explain a mystery.
So after some thoughtful late-night email exchanges and a fruitful meeting yesterday, we settled upon: How do people try to explain the mysteries of life? Now we're liberated to explore myths, legends, stories, and beliefs from everywhere and every time and the kids will come to their own conclusions. The plan is to have them investigate and research a specific culture's beliefs in groups. Then each student will write a short poem about visiting that culture's Underworld: who will they meet? How did they get there? What is the setting like?, etc.
We start next week with a discussion of religious tolerance and law in the US. Then we talk about the investigation and its big questions, then we confront some short texts about different beliefs around the world, and then the kids write a journal reflection about what they believe. Then, on the 2nd day, the kids run the show with a Socratic Seminar about their ideas and beliefs. Any time they disrespect someone or belittle their beliefs they lose a point--if they ask questions, respond to questions, or share ideas, they get points. Could be fun, could be a catastrophe! Either way I'm excited, because this is the kind of meaty shit I love to teach. Screw all that Main Idea and Supporting Details crap.
Let there be Light!