The (K)indred Experiment has been a long time coming. It formed both slowly, over time, and in a short, explosive burst. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s accurate. I’ve always been a writer and a giver of books. I take enormous pleasure in introducing others to a story that I love, or that I think they’ll love. Even more than that, I love discussing books, and the ideas which inhabit them.
A literacy project has been an idea in the back of my brain for years. However, I was never quite sure how to go about it. I had long wanted to be a part of RIF, but Reading is Fundamental appears to be a much smaller, and unfortunately underfunded, organization than it was when I was an elementary school student. There was no longer a chapter in the area that I was hoping to serve with my program, and there weren’t enough resources to start new chapters. Searches for other organizations with which to partner ended the same way.
It never occurred to me that I could launch, not a chapter of an existing program, but an entirely new program myself, until a friend and fellow grad student launched The Octavia Project last summer. The success of The Octavia Project made me realize that it was possible to do what I wanted to do without the support of a national organization, on a smaller scale, but still reach the population that I was hoping to reach; namely, rural, low-income districts where the arts are frequently the first things cut in the face of a budget crisis. It was both inspiration and catalyst for me. The only way to start a literacy program is to dive in and start a literacy program.
The (K)indred Experiment has four main goals.
- A generation of life-long readers. I don’t need to tell you all the studies that support the theory that children who read from an early age are more successful later in life. It is my opinion that children need to be exposed to exciting books about things that interest them in order to encourage continued reading. Science fiction isn’t a genre that is widely taught in schools. I’ve always been an avid reader, and I never really encountered it until after college. Students who are less prone to seeking out new reading material may never find it at all, and may miss out on something that they’d love.
- Creative problem solving. Science fiction is a tool with which to imagine any possible future. It encourages both attention to existing science, and the ability to dream big, to take ideas one step, or three steps, further. In an always evolving world, where new innovations and job markets are being created every day, a student who is flexible, and a creative problem solver, will have the opportunity to create any future that they’d like. At its core, The (K)indred Experiment is a creative writing workshop. Students will be guided through building a world of their own from scratch, and populating it with characters, landscapes, conflicts and themes of their choosing, with examples from existing stories.
- Developing an artistic community. The (K)indred Experiment isn’t solely a creative writing project, and hopes to connect students with artists in their community of various disciplines to create a multimedia project which will be showcased in a public event at the end of the school year. The arts are so frequently the first victims of budget cuts, but partnering with local artists in the students community will give them opportunities to pursue a new found interest beyond the program.
- Diversity in literature. Although The (K)indred Experiment is named for Philip K. Dick (a dead white dude) the Experiment, like the world it exists in, is always evolving. Initially the scope of the project was small– to merely bring science fiction into schools where children otherwise might not experience it. As the project grew, it became important to also expose students to the diversity that is found, though not always taught, in literature. As someone with a BA in English Literature, I have read a lot of dead white dudes. The (K)indred Experiment recognizes that there are so many other voices and experiences out there, and seeks to give them the figurative microphone.
The (K)indred Experiment will pilot its first run as an extra-curricular middle school club at Delhi Central School, in the coming 2016-2017 school year. It is my great hope that as the project grows, it will find its way into more school districts, and will replace some of the standardized testing which now fills students’ academic years to reach as many students as possible
Please see the About page for contact information to bring The (K)indred Experiment to you.