The pilot year of The (K)indred Experiment came to a close with snacks, applause, and the students sharing the worlds they built with an audience.
It was fantastic to see a room full of people who had come to hear their kids read the stories they’d worked on all year. From the beginning, it was important to me that the students have the opportunity to read their writing aloud. They complained, when they realized what I was asking them to do, but they did it anyway, and I’m super proud of them. It’s hard to read in front of an audience. It’s even harder to read your own work. Writing is so personal, and reading something you’ve written is like carving off a little piece of your soul and handing it to someone else, hoping they’ll be nice to it.
It takes courage and summoning that courage is an important skill to practice. The students did a great job.
Also, I’d like to give a big shout out and thank you to all of the parents, both for attending the reading at the end of the program, and for allowing your children to participate in a program that was indeed an experiment.
I’ve run writing workshops before, but not on the scale of The (K)indred Experiment, and never with a bunch of twelve year olds who have been sugared up and then asked to focus on a Friday afternoon. But they did it.
And maybe they didn’t quite finish their stories, or resolve their conflicts with a device other than “the whole planet blows up and everyone dies” but because they produced something at all I’m counting the experiment a success.
I’m looking forward to fine tuning it next year, with a new group of writers.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I want to find more hands on lesson plans, and better writing exercises, so that they can expend some of their end of the week energy while they’re learning about story structure, instead of trying to pay attention while I lecture. I also think it would be beneficial to shorten the length of the program, and wrap it up following the Holiday break in January.
It was a struggle for all of us to remember where we were, and what still needed to be finished after a long break from February to April, when I couldn’t get there due to conflicts with my day job. It might be more effective to give them a shorter deadline, so that things have to be wrapped up after the New Year.
Finally, I have a big pile of reading to do over the summer. Once of the things that was always a goal of The (K)indred Experiment, but was neglected as a result of time constraints, was to introduce the students to the range and diversity of science fiction, through example stories. It will also help them write their own, if they can see the thing we’re talking about in particular class period demonstrated in an existing story.
I would like to send a special thank you to Mrs. Avila, for being enthusiastic about this project, and agreeing to help me with it. I truly couldn’t have begun to attempt this without you.
I’d also like thank everyone who contributed lesson plan suggestions, toilet paper rolls, shoe boxes, egg cartons, and everything else I stored in the trunk of my car for a year that we used in our alien world building. And last but not least, special thanks to The Octavia Project for the inspiration, and to everyone I explained my idea to who said “that sounds cool; you should do it.”
Overall, I am incredibly pleased with the success of the pilot year. I had so much more fun than I ever expected to, and I had a great group of kids who, I hope, enjoyed the program and learned something. We mapped out whole new worlds, and now there are stories out there about radio-active cookies and dino-bots, and dream world hippos that didn’t exist before.
As with any scientific experiment, once it is successful, it must be tested again and again to make sure that it wasn’t just a coincidence or a random outlier.
Here’s to a new adventure next year.