We started doing character profiles. For every half an hour that they work on the week’s challenge — this one being creating characters — during homework time, they get a piece of currency that lets them into a prize closet.
So far nearly all the kids who started have gone far beyond homework time and currency, and have started forming stories with other kids, and it’s all tying into one great big universe, and that’s what we hoped would happen. Bwahahaha. Subversive education.
I poked my head downstairs to ask an older student, who’d been all for the activity until we actually started it and decided it was “too much work,” what kind of character I should make. She said snidely, “One that explains you.” She thought she was insulting me. But I am becoming fairly immune to her insults in particular.
Instead I went upstairs and designed a character that “explain[ed] me.” She’s an alien from a planet where good words create a good atmosphere — literally, things like sunshine and fresh air and flowers — and negative words make nasty little clouds that block out the sun. She comes to earth and assumes the name Rainbow Jones. She is, of course, a superhero: some kind of ridiculous combination of Sailor Moon, Wonder Woman, Rainbow Brite, and Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl.
Apparently she caught on. Now three different students — and the other staff member, thanks boss! — have fashioned characters who are villains, including, to date, an evil cheerleader and her two sidekick prankster siblings. The collaboration came completely organically, after other attempts at producing a collaborative work failed. Everyone just wants to beat all the sunshine out of Rainbow Jones, though with affection.
Now they’re talking about how cool it would be to play it out like a LARP, though they don’t realize it’s a LARP that they’re talking about. So I’ve made the costume as dress-up-able as possible. On top of that, I’m putting together a little comic for them to add on to, whether that be in the form of writing, drawing, or inking (I am so excited, they’re learning about art pen widths, pencil sharpness, and building figures out of shapes) that we hope to sell at the few cons I’m hitting this season, specifically to raise money for the program.
It’s ridiculous. And I promise you all that the Adventures of Rainbow Jones will at some point be posted, whether here or on an offshoot blog, depending on how much we churn out.