The Me that is, and the Me that might.

It is the third day of my residency in Chanhassen, which means, as per tradition, that we have – through trial, through tribulation, through desert and plain, through  fields of lava and and impassable mountain ranges and outer space, through robot armies and radioactive spider attacks and hordes of maniacal villains,  arrived at SUPERHERO WEDNESDAY. It is clearly the best day of the week.

My reasoning for instituting SUPERHERO WEDNESDAY was simple – I work these kids really hard. I have a theory about teaching story writing to kids, and it involves writing a lot. And I say a lot using my ever-so-serious I mean business voice, and the kids take it to heart. They write a lot. And they learn about narrative arcs and character development and the integration of personality, choice, and the options of the physical environment into the creation of plot, and they write like crazy.

But, by Wednesday, they need a break.

By Wednesday, they need to do something fun.

And by Wednesday they need to engage in one of the purest forms of storytelling for the upper-elementary-school kid: The Superhero Narrative.

These are kids who, for the first time, feel utterly in control of their bodies. They know what they can do, they know what they think.  They are starting to be global thinkers – connecting their own experiences to the wider world. Puberty hasn’t hit yet, but they know it’s coming. They know they’re headed toward a massive transformation – that the body they have will become something….else. They know that everything about themselves will change – they will have eruptions, additions, bizarre pustules attacking their faces. Their very voices will change (imagine! your voice!).

I think it’s no wonder that kids this age are drawn to the narrative of transformation, where that transformation is something powerful, noble, and can possibly save the world. (Because, really, what kid doesn’t want to save the world. I know these kids. They all want to save the world.)

Today we will write transformation narratives. Today we will also draw, dream, and sketch out panel-based storytelling. Today we will be superheroes. And it will be awesome.

 

What’s on your schedule today?

 

Today, at Outer Space Camp…. (Or, How my Middle Child Revealed Herself To Be Made of 100% WIN)

A mere week after I returned from Launch Pad, my eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son have headed out to a week of outer-spacey goodness of their own. For this week at the rec center at Lake Hiawatha Park they are learning about outer space, playing dodgeball, doing art projects about outer space, hurling water balloons and eating cheese puffs (which, incidentally, look as though they’re from outer space).

Today, they came home with their very own planets of their very own design. Deedee’s planet is carefully painted green with a large red circle in its lower hemisphere and a small blue circle in its upper hemisphere. It has two moons – attached with skewer sticks – hovering just over the equator.

“This is the planet Boone,” Deedee explained carefully. “It’s seventy million light years away. It has a humanoid population. They are green, though their lips are purple. They have a language that sounds good to them, but to us it just sounds like jibberish. They love poetry and art. They use hot lava to cook and eat and bathe. This right here,” she points at the large red circle, “is their most famous lake of lava. Everyone goes there to visit. Only rich ones can live there though. They spend all day in their lake of lava until they are tired and then they go to bed. This here,” she points at the small blue circle,” is their volcano. It is always erupting. They write poems about their volcano and they believe that the universe was born in their volcano.”

I listened, mouth open, heart pounding in my throat. I love you, I thought. I love you, I love you, I love you.

“It’s wonderful,” I choked. Love in my eyes. Love in my hands. Love in my pounding heart.

Then, Leo chimed in.

“This is my planet,” he said, proudly pointing to his planet covered in scribbles with pipe cleaners erupting in crazy curves from point to point.

“It’s lovely,” I said.

“It’s called the Planet Fart. It’s called that because people go there. And then they fart.”

Yes, my darling,I thought. I love you too.