Updated – March 26, 2012
I added a more recent post concerning the Hunger Games series with links to lessons plans and more maps.
I haven’t read it.
Both my teenage daughter and wife are deep into the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy and, right now, series heroine Katniss rules the roost in our house.
Inspired by the “blurring” between reality television and Iraq war coverage as well as the Greek Theseus myth, author Suzanne Collins wrote the first book of the trilogy in 2008. So why should do we care? You probably need to know a bit of the plot first.
If you don’t know the plot but are still planning to go through the series, close your eyes for just a second.
Basic plot – a post-apocalyptic North America is now called Panem and is ruled by a powerful government called the “Capital.” States and provinces have been replaced by a dozen official “districts.” Each district is forced to send a boy and girl to compete in an annual, and deadly, competition called the Hunger Games. Much distress ensues along with romance, oppression, heroism, courage and eventually a rebellion. Good conquers evil. Sort of. The end.
Okay, you can open.
And the so what?
The series seem like a great way to incorporate a variety of social studies concepts into your instruction. Rule of law, the establishment of governments, individual freedoms, Locke, Constitution, really all sorts of things. (It’s interesting to note that Kansas State University ordered 3,800 copies of the first book and passed them out to every freshman this fall.)
But I’m more intrigued with the idea of using the Hunger Games series to focus on geography themes. We often don’t ask kids to think deeply enough about the link between geographic space and personal identity, about how regions impact who we are and how we think. I think we could use the descriptions of people and place within the books to facilitate a clearer understanding of these themes.
You could start with having kids create maps of the 12 different regions based on descriptions in the series. (If you read the book, you know that there is really 13. Sorry . . . close your eyes. There are actually 14, if you count the Capital.)
Lead student conversations about why Katniss and other characters act as they do. How might where they live impact how they live?
You might also download this generic “Defining Regions” lesson plan and adapt it to fit the context of Panem.
I’ve heard from some that this sort of thing is too much like “entertaining” students. That we shouldn’t have to use pop culture to teach social studies. I disagree. I will use pretty much whatever it takes to engage kids in content. And if the relationship between Katniss, Peeta and Gale hooks students into a better understanding of civic and geographic concepts, we ought to be all over it.