Summer SAVY 2019: Session 2, Day 5 – Stories and the Structure of the Universe (Rising 5th/6th)
It was bittersweet to see this week end, as we’ve had such a great time learning together! We started the day with A Wrinkle In Time and a discussion of how we see structure influencing setting and plot. Our protagonist and her companions are exploring the planet Camazotz, in which something is decidedly “off.” The society of Camazotz is so hyper-structured that every “aberration,” including any imperfection or expression of individuality, is suppressed. Students hypothesized about origins of the structural flaws in this fictional society and about the nature of the antagonist: Is the mysterious IT responsible? Or the frightening evil shadow that is threatening the universe? Interpretations students offered included the idea that the forces of good and evil were somehow out of balance on Camazotz, resulting in malfunctions, and that the fear people on Camazotz feel is feeding the evil force that imprisons them. Once again, some of us would have been happy to just read all day and finish the book! While we had other important things to save time for and had to set the novel aside, it was wonderful to see everyone so invested in A Wrinkle In Time. (The copies students received this week are theirs to keep!)
With A Wrinkle In Time fresh on our minds, we tried to put ourselves in the mindsets of Americans in the early years of space exploration. A collective “aha” moment seemed to occur as students connected the space race, the arms race, the communism of the Soviet Union and the fears it stoked in the US, and the totalitarian atmosphere of Camazotz in Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel. In light of the perilous malfunctioning of an experiment in space(time) travel that made Meg’s father disappear in A Wrinkle In Time, students considered whether the risks of space exploration were worth the benefits. It was not surprising that this group of SAVY students, as intensely interested in space research as they are, readily agreed that some risks and even sacrifices are worth the collective progress of science and human understanding. However, students also agreed that risks should be carefully mitigated and space travel equipment very carefully tested as explorers prepare for missions.
We played an interesting game of “Fact or Fiction” about the moon landing mission (Apollo 11) and related missions, and students enjoyed clarifying and building upon their knowledge of these missions. Students analyzed the famous speech President Kennedy gave at Rice Stadium, and in our discussion surrounding that speech it was interesting to consider ways in which progress and “triumphs” in space exploration represented distinctly American achievements or achievements of humanity as a whole.
When the time came for students to finish their projects (which we hope you have enjoyed viewing and discussing with your SAVY student!), students worked diligently to meet their goals and present what they had learned. The creativity and critical thinking that students have shown in this cross-disciplinary course has been truly inspiring!
Before our time together came to an end, we took a few moments to reflect on highlights of the week. SAVY students shared that they especially loved the gravity simulator, space-time curvature modeling, reading A Wrinkle In Time, learning a lot, and making new friends. Having fun learning a lot about subjects we love and making new friends is what SAVY is all about! Thanks for sharing your week with us at SAVY!