Sunday, March 6, 2011

Teaching with Science Fiction: Social Studies and Dickson's Space Winners

3 Post Sections:
Initial problem; book review; teaching with science fiction.

In her book review Rozalyn Mansfield has said that Space Winners "...would be a great book to use in school classes."

She went on to suggest how it could be used in social studies classes.

Rozalyn Mansfield's Teaching Suggestions
for Space Winners by Gordon R. Dickson

Space Winners can be used to relate to many aspects of history and civilization: the interaction of the Europeans with the native cultures in America beginning with Columbus, for example.

It would be wonderful to have a complete study guide for the book with questions and answers, related projects, etc.

Also, the "Lilo and Stitch" tie-in could be used with Space Winners to hook kids.

Others agree with the usefulness of science fiction in teaching social studies. Jan Finder, author and organizer of SF cons, has said,

"SF is an excellent resource for discussing subjects that are not easily
discussed in the here and now.

"The social sciences & humanities often overlook it as a valuable resource."

Related articles on using science fiction as metaphors for teaching social concepts has been written by Valerie both here and in my personal blog. Others have written similar ideas in the RFF Reflections series "Teaching with Science Fiction." In addition to the richness of concept examples in science fiction, the books should motivate students to read and learn.

Suggestions for Writers and Publishers

Rozalyn made suggestions specifically for Space Winners.
  • Develop and publish a study guide with questions and projects for the novel.
  • Reprint the book for students that includes the "Lilo and Stitch" stories for motivation and comparison.
  • Use a book cover with the young characters and Peep a their pet.
  • Describe the book in ways that would intrigue fans of "Lilo and stitch."

Teachers have made note of what they would like to see in classroom texts. Both Rozalyn and I have made such suggestions.

Says Rozalyn,
"I know a lot of people in RFF are doing a lot of good things with study guides and bibliographies. I've even seen there are beginning to be more published study guides on SF books, such as one I saw in an educational supply store on Lois Lowry's The Giver. So teachers are getting more and more receptive to study guides on SF.

"Also, the "Lilo and Stitch" tie-in could be used in a new YA edition of Space Winners to hook kids--do a new cover featuring the kids in the book with Peep as their "pet" and also have a cover statement that would describe Peep in a way that would intrigue "Lilo and Stitch" fans. Once they read and like Space Winners, there's a good chance they'd go on to read a lot more Gordon Dickson books, and other SF as well."

AboutSF lists study guides for many SF novels and stories.

I once wrote on Lee and Miller's Live Journal forum that I would like publishers to remove questionable sections from specific books and then publish the revised editions as YA. This would take care of the overt sex, extreme violence and unacceptable profanity that prevents teachers from recommending some of the more exciting stories of the SF genre.

My thoughts were to create an anthology of excerpts, novelettes, and short stories that could be published along with a study guide. Lo and behold, Julie Czerneda has been doing this for years with several co-editors and lesson writers.

RFF, Inc., and AboutSF are collaborating on a day-long workshop at WorldCon's Roadshow this August. Lessons and book lists will be presented for an audience that will include fans, parents, teachers and librarians. Yep, once again the team has met the Call for Papers requirements.

As Rozalyn Mansfield says, "It would be great to work out ways to get kids reading
this book." And, I must add, many other books of the genre, too.


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