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Focusing on the Student

The ideas described in this section are intended to engage the student personally with various subjects raised in Buddy.

Loving a Pet

Many students have pets.  This is an opportunity to engage their thinking and creativity on the subject of their pets.

But what if a student does not have a pet?  Naturally, this could create difficulties but the student could be encouraged to imagine a pet.  Of course, some students will take this idea too far.  One year, one of my son’s teachers allowed students to take turns bringing their pets for brief class visits.  Not having a pet, my son proposed bringing his brand new baby brother.  The teacher was horrified but I thought it was funny.  We settled on a class visit for the baby but as a baby brother, not as a pet.

Writing Projects

Write a newspaper account of an event in the pet’s life.  Students should be sure to answer the five “w’s” of an interesting news account:  Who, What, When, Where, and (W)how.

Write a fictional story from the pet’s point of view.  What does the world look like to a guppy?  What is important to a newt?

Write a description of the pet that could (theoretically) be posted to a pet rescue site if the pet were lost.  Students must observe the pet closely and write very clearly in order to be successful.  It is not enough to describe a dog as “cute” or a cat as “lazy.”

Art Projects

Draw or paint the pet, trying to be as realistic as possible.  Then create an abstract art work that illustrates the pet’s personality or how the student feels about the pet.  Is there a way to combine both approaches?

Create a pastiche of magazine pictures or photographs of the pet.

Create a three-dimensional model of the pet.

Use clay to create a model of a three-legged dog that can stand!

Other Projects

Prepare a short speech for the class about the pet.

Research the pet’s species.  Students should use online resources PLUS resources from the library.

Create a time line of the pet’s membership in the family.  This project also could be an exercise in point of view.  What if the pet were creating the timeline?

Facing Disaster

The potential for disaster exists all the time everywhere but we cannot live happily if we keep that knowledge uppermost in our minds.  This potential, however, can provide the background for more abstract questions as well as for factual investigations into the real world around us.

What would you take if you had one hour and limited space?

This is a difficult and potentially evocative question, so evocative that one of my sons found it in the list of possible essays to write for a college application.  He found it to be a snap because he had actually had to make these decisions in real life.

This question can be addressed in public through class discussion, speeches, and dramatizations  or in private through an essay, a work of fiction (create a character and imagine the character making the decision), or a work of poetry.  Some students will have already had to make these kinds of decisions.  For them, the discussion or project may be more of an exercise in reporting or wishful rethinking.  One teacher had each student choose one item and then as a class they played a form of “I went to the beach and I packed ____.”

This question can also be addressed through the visual arts.  One teacher, for example, had students create a pastiche from magazine cut outs.  The pastiche could be an individual or a class-wide production.

Where would you go?

Students are not usually the ones making these decisions.  If they’ve thought at all about the issue, they have probably thought in terms of a Zombie Apocalypse!  But they can think of what would be the important considerations.  It sounds strange but we made our decision in Katrina first on where we could get a fast internet connection that would allow us to continue work.  When the evacuation became long term, schools became the critical issue.  For other families, care for aging family members or medical concerns may predominate.  Sometimes distance is critical because a family member needs to be close enough to return to take care of a business or because a family member cannot physically or psychologically tolerate confinement in a car for long periods.

Beyond these personal issues there are questions about the area in which students live.  In a geography class, students can examine the details of their home area.  How far does one have to travel to get to safety?  What are the means of getting there?  Students in New York City will have a set of questions and options completely different from those of students in a small town in Arkansas.

What are the potential natural disasters of your area and how is your community prepared to meet them?

This could be a terrifying investigation or a reassuring one.  It would involve research in the physical characteristics of the area as well as in local community resources.  The latter investigation, especially, could involve class room visits by local organizations, field trips, or out-of-class interviews.

The Best City in the World

On page 37, Li’l T’s teacher says that the students are lucky to live in New Orleans because it is the best city in the world.  Before the storm, Li’l T often imagines going somewhere else but at the end of the book, he is happy to be home.  For many of us, home—wherever it is—is the best city in the world.  Students can research their own homes using the model of the website to organize topics and consider how to focus their research and provide support for their findings.  This research could result in a webpage, book, or travel brochure that convinces others that the students’ home is, indeed, the best place in the world.

Understanding the News

As adults, we understand that the news must be taken “with a grain of salt.”  It may be in the news but it is not always true.  Especially with the pressure to produce instant reportage, news organizations cannot always provide accurate information.   The Newseum in Washington, DC, has an excellent display on this subject.  The reportage in Hurricane Katrina is an example of the problem.  Students might be interested to research some issues that were not reported with full accuracy.  An good example is the events of the Superdome.  In the immediate aftermath of the storm, horror stories were reported that were not accurate.  Why did this happen?  What evidence did the reporters have?  How was the information corrected?  Which story is the one most remembered?   What difference does it make?