Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

February 8th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Last time I decided to read what all my students were reading I ended up going through the Twilight saga. While I feel they weren’t entirely bad (don’t judge me!), they weren’t quite the substantive read I would hope my students would choose (although reading something is better than nothing I suppose). I noticed recently that there were quite a number reading Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (as well as the sequels) so figured I would see why there was all the interest. The synopsis seemed engaging enough and Cori even recommended it, so why not delve back into another series that my students are obsessed with.

I was very pleasantly surprised by both the plot and the characters. The story was quite intense (that’s what happens when kids are battling to the death…) and dealt with a number of difficult issues: strength, loneliness, independence, friendship, oppression, violence, murder, sacrifice, and politics (among others). The first person narrative gives insight into the mind of a 16 year old girl, Katniss Everdeen, who is trying to survive (in a number of ways) in a death match. Her thought process is well written (contrary to the almost inane inner workings of Bella) and insightful.

As Cori mentions, it would be nice to see more discussion or development of the issues of children killing other children and the torment that must go along with that. They are being forced into these violent situations and that must change them at the core. I imagine that the sequels will have to deal with this in some way; they couldn’t stay the same after their ordeal.

The scene that impacted me the most (spoiler ahead) was not the death of Katniss’ new found ally, Rue, but shortly thereafter. It was only so meaningful to me because of how the relationship between Katniss and Rue was developed. I quote it here (yes, it made me cry, but out of context, it probably won’t be as meaningful to you…):

I’ve no idea where to go. The brief sense of home I had that one night with Rue has vanished. My feet wander this way and that until sunset. I’m not afraid, not even watchful. Which makes me an easy target. Except I’d kill anyone I met on sight. My hatred of the Capitol has not lessened my hatred of my competitors in the least. Especially the Careers. They, at least, can be made to pay for Rue’s death. [...]

I’m about to haul my packs into a tree to make camp when a silver parachute floats down and lands in front of me. A gift from a sponsor. But why now? I’ve been in fairly good shape with supplies. Maybe Haymitch’s noticed my despondency and is trying to cheer me up a bit. Or could it be something to help my ear?

I open the parachute and find a small loaf of bread. It’s not the fine white Capital stuff. It’s made of dark ration grain and shaped in a crescent. Sprinkled with seeds. I flashback to Peeta’s lesson on the various district breads in the Training Center. This bread came from District 11. I cautiously lift the still warm loaf. What must it have cost the people of DIstrict 11 who can’t even feed themselves? How many would’ve had to do without to scrape up a coin to put in the collection for this one loaf? It had been meant for Rue, surely. But instead of pulling the gift when she died, they’d authorized Haymitch to give it to me. As a thank-you? Or because, like me, they don’t like to let debts go unpaid? For whatever reason, this is a first. A district gift to a tribute who’s not your own.

I lift my face and step into the last falling rays of sunlight. “My thanks to the people of District Eleven,” I say. I want them to know I know where it came from. That the full value of their gift has been recognized.

I know that was lengthly, but I feel speaks volumes.

The book is a fairly easy read, it is, after all, “Young Adult,” but is also quite enjoyable with a variety of relatively deep themes. It’s worth checking out. Now, on to book two: Catching Fire!

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Stephen Krashen and Comprehensible Input

February 4th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

We must give people messages they understand. We acquire knowledge when we understand what people tell us not how it is said. Watch this video clip (from the 80s??):

In the clip Krashen clearly demonstrates that in order for someone to understand what they hear – the comprehensible input – the message needs to be clear. And by clear I don’t mean enunciated well, I mean relatable and meaningful to the learner.

Language acquisition, really, knowledge acquisition in general, is difficult. Clearly the model has been that of Krashen’s first lesson in the clip. We (educators) spout knowledge. We assume that knowledge is just assimilated by the students doing the learning. But unless we shift to a lesson two mentality, the chances that all the students are acquiring the knowledge we intend is very small.

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The Powers of Ten

February 3rd, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

I remember seeing Powers of Ten in science class when I was a kid. I thought it was pretty awesome then and I still do now!

The film has been uploaded to Youtube for all to view now! The film was produced back in 1968 and what we know about the world of the very large and the very small has grown by leaps and bounds, but this film’s take on perspective was done so well that it still inspires a sense of wonder. The universe is a pretty huge and awesome place! Take a look:

Pretty great, eh?

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Space Saturday XXXV

January 29th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

In this somewhat somber Space Saturday I commemorate the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger and the 7 crew members aboard. 25 years ago yesterday at 73 seconds into the flight, aerodynamic forces broke up the craft (not an explosion as is commonly thought) due to a failed O-ring in the right side solid rocket booster.

STS-51L - Space Shuttle Challenger at Liftoff - Click for larger version

STS-51L - Space Shuttle Challenger at Liftoff - Click for larger version

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

Destruction of the Challenger

Destruction of the Challenger

In January of ’86 I was six but I do remember the devastation that this catastrophic failure brought. It is sad that this disaster was preventable. It is sad that it happened again with Columbia. I think the worst part of the tragedy is that it is very likely the 7 crew members were alive for the almost 3 minutes after the shuttle broke up on the trajectory back toward impact with the ocean. I cannot imagine their terror during that time (although hopefully they were unconscious). It was a sad day indeed. Never forget the men and women who have given their lives for science.


For other astronomy pictures, check out my Space Saturday Archive.

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Resolutions for the year

January 23rd, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

It is almost the end of January (wow, how did that happen??) so I figured I should actually get my New Year’s Resolutions down on paper. Well, e-paper anyway. This year I resolve to watch less tv and read more. Simple enough, yeah? I think so. This has already been made easier with my new Kindle. Now it’s just a matter of following through and making good decisions. Cheers to the New Year and your resolutions!

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My Space Shuttle Tile

January 16th, 2011 Matt Jones No comments

I’m a space nerd. It might have something to do with astronomy being one of my majors back at UW, it may have to do with all the Star Trek and Star Wars I have watched, or it might just be part of the inherent wonder that is space. Regardless, I am a space nerd. Anything NASA I love. I love From the Earth to the MoonWhen We Left the EarthIn the Shadow of the Moon, and any other video I can get my hands on. I can watch launch videos like this over and over. I remember when the Challenger exploded after liftoff and the Columbia breaking up as it reentered the atmosphere; devastating me. While I look forward to the future of manned spaceflight, it is somewhat sad to see the Shuttle Transportation System come to an end later this year.

As part of the decommissioning of the shuttles, NASA is allowing educators to have a piece of the program. Space Shuttle Tiles for Teachers:

NASA is now offering space shuttle tiles to educational institutions. Would you like to have a piece of history for your classroom or lecture space? Sign up now because a limited number of tiles are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

I went through the (fairly involved) procurement process and just received my very own (well I suppose technically my school’s) tile!!

Each Space Shuttle carried over 24,000 separate Thermal Protection System tiles, and each one was a different size and shape. This is an authentic tile and is presented to honor 30 years of Space Shuttle flights and the great achievements made by the men and women of NASA in science, aeronautics, and space exploration.

Here is a bunch of info about the Space Shuttle Thermal Protection System tile. My piece does say “Training Only” on it which I suppose could mean it hasn’t actually been to space, but really, I don’t care. It has been on the shuttle, is part of the incredible program and a piece of history. For more info and links, check out the Space Shuttle Tiles for Teachers website.

This may not seem like a big deal; it is a fairly tiny (around 20cm square and 1cm thick) piece of lightweight (but amazing) ceramic. But I am very proud to have just a little bit of NASA and Space Shuttle history!

Images of my tile (click for larger version) (Oh, and I should note: the tile is wrapped in plastic, that is why there is a glare):

Shuttle TileShuttle TileShuttle TileShuttle TileShuttle TileShuttle Tile

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