90 – Sense and Sensibility and Teenagers

Sense and Sensibility is the one best suited for teenagers out of all of Jane Austen’s works, and after more than 200 years it still has a lot to say to older teens looking for good advice on how to finish growing up. While of course many things have changed when it comes to the economic independence, dating preferences, and age of marriage for young people, Sense and Sensibility can still give good advice by contrasting the overly romantic approach of Marianne Dashwood to the more pragmatic approach of her older sister Elinor.

Activity: How do You Spot a Bad Partner?

While reading Sense and Sensibility with teenagers, engage in discussions about how Colonel Brandon, Edward Ferrars, and John Willoughby all reveal themselves to be good or bad romantic partners. After reading the novel, have students either write an essay, give a presentation, or engage in a discussion about how young people should balance romantic and pragmatic concerns when looking for someone to date or even marry.

70 – Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

It’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite controversial novel about the utter awkwardness of puberty. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume is a book that is rarely read as a part of school curriculum but has been quietly circulated in school libraries for more than 50 years. It’s getting a big screen release in just a few weeks, so let’s all rip open painful memories of our pre-teen years as we revisit the tale of Margaret Simon and her adolescent angst.

Activity: Journal Like Margaret

One of the things that makes Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret so relatable is the extremely direct way she talks about the things that are on her mind. Encourage students to write out the things that they are currently worrying about, being as honest as possible. However, it is very important that this assignment remain optional. Students should be allowed to destroy what they write, keep it private, or share it with whomever they wish depending entirely on personal preferences. The point of the exercise is to encourage students to engage directly with their feelings and concerns, not to feel that those thoughts must be composed with some external audience in mind.

Activity: Let’s Talk Angst

If appropriate for the students and setting, have a discussion about why it’s so hard to talk about anything involving sex, puberty, and bodies. You can completely avoid direct discussion of these topics, keeping the focus on the anxiety, shame, and awkwardness everyone feels around them. It can help pre-teens feel a lot better about themselves if they know how common these uncomfortable feelings are, and students can be encouraged to be more sympathetic toward one another as they all move through a difficult time of life.

1 – Hatchet

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a survival story, but it’s also a tale about a boy just starting to become more grown-up. In this episode, learn about how Brian Robeson has all of his physical and psychological certainties taken away from him, but he emerges stronger than ever after learning to survive on his own. Consider the health impacts of Brian’s diet during his forty-seven days alone in the Canadian wilderness and how he rapidly matures in the way he views his parents’ divorce.

Activity: How would you survive?

Have each student write a story about being in a survival situation all alone. The narrative must include:

    • Arriving at a remote location
    • A description of the location, including plants, animals, and climate
    • What resources or tools are immediately available
    • What resources or tools can be found or made
    • Methods of getting food, shelter, and protection from nature
    • What dangers would be encountered
    • What efforts would be made to escape or be rescued
    • A guess at the chances of survival in the short and long term

The narrative can be a short response or a longer work of art or creative writing. Students should share their work and discuss whether their story is plausible or fanciful.

Activity: What vitamins do you need to survive?

This activity is designed to help students understand why the human body needs vitamins. Students will fill out a chart that lists vitamins, their function, and the food sources which provide these vitamins. Parents and teachers can decide how much detail to go into based on student understanding and ability. It may be better for younger students to only research a few vitamins, whereas older students can go into greater depth. Students should do as much research on their own as possible.

Begin the activity by defining of a vitamin:

A vitamin is a nutrient that a living thing needs in order to function properly. Vitamins can almost never be made by the organism itself, so they must be obtained through its diet.

Next, provide students with a copy of this chart and instruct them to fill it out after performing research about which parts of the human body are affected by vitamins and which foods are rich in these vitamins. Answers will vary, as vitamins have many different functions in the body and they are found in many different food sources. After this activity students should be able to explain various sources of vitamins, how those vitamins support proper functioning of the body, and why it is important to eat a varied diet to obtain proper nutrition.

Advanced students can also write a research essay answering the following prompt:

In Hatchet, Brian spends fifty-four days eating only choke cherries, raspberries, hazelnuts, fish, grouse, and rabbit. What vitamins would he have been able to obtain from this diet? Which would have been missing? What would be the long-term effects of a diet with these vitamin deficiencies?