Year Four: Experiment Abridged

Year Four of The (K)indred Experiment is off and running, and per usual, there are changes. That’s why it’s an experiment; it’s different every year.

This year almost didn’t happen at all, since my usual school had zero kids interested in a writing club. I guess I can’t force them to participate in extra-curricular activities for my own entertainment. But I was very disappointed, until my mom mentioned that her kids would probably love to write stories.

Hooray!

This year, The (K)indred Experiment is actually part of the school day, in a middle school special ed classroom, so I get a range of kids from 6th grade to 8th grade. There’s about the same number of them as previous years (8, as long as everybody comes to school) and additional adult hands in the room, which has been very helpful, especially if the class was going to be any bigger.

Teacher aides, I appreciate you. You should be paid more.

When I have done this as an after school–and therefore optional–experiment, I’ve had a much larger ratio of boys to girls who show up. 6 boys and 2 girls (on average) makes for a very high energy group that, typically, like to blow things up as the solution to all of their plot problems. They’ve also, in my experience, been a little quicker to brainstorm wild, far-out ideas, like cookie robots or lava monsters. The girls, I think because they’re a little more mature at that age, tend to root their worlds in real things.

This year my dynamic is very different–mostly girls with a couple of boys. We’ve only just started world building, and next week they’ll get to make maps, which usually helps everybody come up with ideas, so I’m curious to see if there will be more character-rooted conflict across the board this year (sibling drama, boyfriends, etc) and fewer explosions.

My last major difference this year is even LESS time, if that were possible (spoilers, it IS possible.) As an extra-curricular club we had 4 or 5 meetings for an hour and a half, depending on how my schedule fit with their schedule. There are a surprising amount of Fridays in the fall that kids are not in school around here. And since Fridays are the easiest day for me to take off…

Having our meetings during the school day means we’re confined to 40 minute class periods and that is NO TIME AT ALL.

I usually end up throwing a ton of information at the students in the first class–we have to talk about what science fiction is, what stories are, the key words that I’m going to be using so we all know what we’re talking about–and I especially felt like I just word vomited all over them this year. It was a speed-through.

I did, however, get to read them a story that they may or may not have actually digested. Again, speed-through. I definitely wanted everyone to have the same baseline example so when we talked about setting, or antagonists, or conflict, I could reference something that they were all familiar with instead of severely dating myself like I did last year. Still hung up on the kids-don’t-know-Batman thing. Come on. He’s BATMAN.

The faster than light version of The (K)indred Experiment continues next Friday with macaroni mapmaking (still my favorite!). Then we’ll create characters, conflicts and outlines, and they’ll have some class time to start writing.

I’m hoping they’ll have some class time when I’m not there to write, too, because this year is going SO FAST. Two more meetings and it will be Thanksgiving. Then December.

Then we’ll have a wrap party and they’ll share their stories.

It’s not a perfect system, at all, but it still should be fun. Jump to warp speed.

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