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Friday, September 14, 2007

The Star Wars classroom at Monroeton Elementary School

It all started a little over a month ago, and the very strange tale of how we wound up with a life-sized statue of Yoda in our home. Bear in mind that Brian Hodges wanted it to go in his new office at Mercer University and since he's teaching cello, he was going to replace Yoda's lightsaber blade with a cello bow. But he didn't have enough room and so Yoda came back to North Carolina from Atlanta (after already coming up from Florida) and ended up in our "foster care".

The thing is that even at life-size, Yoda takes up considerable space. Lisa and I didn't really know what to do with him. But then an idea came to us. Or to be more accurate, the notion came to mind to "adapt" Brian's original idea...

Let's put Yoda in Lisa's music classroom at school! That way Yoda would have space, would be used to promote music and would get to be enjoyed by lots of people, especially young children.

And that's what we did. Well, that's where it started anyway. Because Lisa said that other teachers usually have a "motif" going on in their room about something they enjoy (like some teachers have their rooms decked out with their favorite NASCAR racers). So we thought that we'd put some of that collection of mine to good use and give her classroom a Star Wars theme.

We put the finishing touches on it this week. And it's already proving to be a huge hit with the kids! And with the faculty and staff too (and word has it that it might have even been oggled by a few school board members).

So here ya go: Mrs. Lisa Knight's "Star Wars"-themed music classroom at Monroeton Elementary School in Reidsville, North Carolina...

Even before entering the classroom, you'll find a hint of the magic and myth and music within.

Immediately to the side of the door as you enter the room, there's this board with Yoda's instruction that "Learn music, we will!"

It's a pretty spacious classroom, as this next picture indicates. Monroeton Elementary also serves as one of the election precincts and whenever elections are held, Lisa's classroom is where they set up the voting booths! So I have to wonder if we had put all of this stuff in her room last year, would it have helped or hurt my chances at getting elected to school board, considering that TV commercial that I'd ran?

The commanding centerpiece of the room (after the teacher, hopefully), Yoda!

There hasn't been a day that's gone by so far this year that Lisa hasn't told me about how delighted the kids are with him. Yoda has become a very welcoming and friendly presence for the children. And I've heard a number of especially great stories about how it seems some kids - who might otherwise feel shy or withdrawn or somehow intimidated by being in school for the first time in their lives - really "open up" with Yoda around. This is something that the kids, heck everyone can relate to in a positive way. Which I think is the very purpose of mythology to begin with. It's awesome to be able to actually apply that in such a direct (and fun) fashion!

Here's another pic of Yoda, showing more of his size and the "Music: The Force That Binds Us All Together" sign.

In case anyone's wondering, I removed the blade from Yoda's lightsaber for sake of safety. We'd thought of putting a conducting baton in the saber hilt and make Yoda look like he was leading an orchestra, but that might not be completely safe, either. In the end, we decided he looks good and inspirational just as he is even without it.

On the far wall from the door, there is a series of portraits depicting "Great Musicians of the Star Wars Saga". The first is of The Max Rebo Band from Return of the Jedi:

Followed by Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes from A New Hope:

And finally, Augie's Great Municipal Band from The Phantom Menace:

Here's Artoo Detoo! Actually it's an Artoo-Detoo cooler:

'Course you can't have Artoo without Threepio being around somewhere to complain about things (even if he's just an action figure case):

After Yoda, the biggest "celebrity" in the room is this almost-life-sized cardboard stand-up of Chewbacca. Considering that Chewie is (a) a Wookiee (b) fiercely loyal (c) enormously strong (d) eager to rip arms out of the sockets of people that he doesn't like and (e) in possession of the only gun on public school premises, I think it's pretty safe to assume that this is the safest classroom in Rockingham County!

Here's one of the bookshelves, filled with music books. On top of the shelf there are Star Wars picture books that during the occasional free period the students are welcome to look through and enjoy. The students are not welcome to put on the Darth Vader mask: have you any idea how uncomfortable that thing is? No wonder Vader is so cranky all the time! But they still think it's a pretty neat thing to behold.

Knowing that the younger children would really dig these, we've got two of the Star Wars Mr. Potato Heads on display (seen here guarding a metronome).

And now, something that I wish we didn't have to show you, but even here there was a bit of fun to be had. It's a reality of life that part of a healthy childhood is coming to understand the concept of self-discipline. And it's very necessary for a teacher to promote and maintain that discipline in his or her classroom. Hence the system that Lisa has chosen to use in her classroom: a discipline board. Except that this is no mere "discipline board"...

You've heard of a Dark Lord of the Sith? Well that's nothing compared to the abject terror brought on by The Dark BOARD of the Sith!

I know: this is probably the only elementary classroom in America that instead of pictures of George Washington and Abe Lincoln on the walls, there's pictures of Darth Sidious and Darth Vader. Just like it's a sure bet that this is the only music classroom anywhere that has Figrin D'an and Max Rebo rather than Mozart and Beethoven. Maybe we'll get lucky and score a special guest visit from John Williams at Monroeton :-)

And as you are leaving class, there is this traditional tiding of good fortune as you go on your way...
So ends the "virtual tour" of the music classroom at Monroeton Elementary. I gotta say, it's a terrific feeling knowing that more than it being just fun eye-candy, but that the kids seem to really be moved to engage themselves in learning by all of this Star Wars imagery around them.

And in case you are wondering: No, Lisa does not refer to her students as "younglings"! Not yet anyway :-)


Anonymous said...

Amazing! Where was this guy when I was interested in taking music back in elementary school.

We had two offerings. Bad classical, and really bad jazz. Both taught by strictly unhappy old women.

Darth Larry said...

wow. that makes me so happy! i knew you'd think of something great for yoda to do. i love all of the signs and associations with music. man, when i was that age, and they had had Star Wars all over the classroom---i never would've left!

great job!

qemuel said...

Kudos to you and the missus on the fantastic classroom! I wish I had something to donate to the cause...


Anonymous said...

This is fantastic! I know the students must be thrilled to come to class each day. As a teacher myself, I understand how important it is to connect to and engage your students. My second graders love the Star Wars motif I have in my classroom, and I'm happy to know I'm not the only Star Wars teacher out there. :)

Jenna St.Hilaire said...

What a great idea! The classroom looks fantastic. I loved the posters and the giant Chewbacca cut-out ... and, of course, Yoda himself :-D

AfterShock said...

You guys did an amazing job on it. And it seems the kids would agree! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow! The room looks terrific. What a great place to share your collection. For the record, I actually have referred to my college students as "younglings" on occasion -- mainly because their reactions are entertaining!

A Little bit of Everything... said...

I love this! Our new state test is called the STAAR test and I want to do this next year.

Anonymous said...

My classroom is star was too....c3po is my procedure driod for vader my consequences. I thought I was the only one with a classroom in a galaxy far far away! Love it. I call my students padawans. Lol

Anonymous said...

Because of the Staar state test our fourth grade theme is.... You guessed it. "May the Fourth Be With You". I'm having tshirts made for the teachers and everything.