Happy Hunger Games! Three Content Connections for Social Studies
Good teachers take advantage of hot books/movies to make connections with their students all the time. One of the white-hot movies out right now (based on a best-selling series) is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. While some might wonder how to incorporate a fantasy book set in a post-apocalyptic North America, I’ve got three ideas you can build off of, depending on your subject matter.
In our Government Alive! Power, Politics, and You program, students are engaged in a lesson where the Essential Question is, “Why should you care about power, politics, and government?” In an Experiential Exercise, the teacher conducts a very clever activity where students struggle to get power and see how power can sometimes change people, how alliances are made…and broken. If I taught this course, the Hunger Games would be a perfect companion to it. The book is rich with themes of politics and power as young people (called tributes) fight to the death. These young people sometimes form alliances in an effort to achieve ultimate power, the power to live longest. In a much larger sense, another power being struggled over is a totalitarian government trying to exert its control over regions, known as districts. These districts are faced with the dilemma of suffering on but surviving or fighting for freedom and risking annihilation. Students could be challenged to read this book and to write on the comparisons to geopolitics today.
In our Econ Alive! The Power to Choose program, students examine economic systems where the Essential Question is, “Who or what decides what you get? In an Experiential Exercise, students engage in a simulation that parallels the production and consumption of goods in market and command economies. The author, Suzanne Collins, certainly didn’t intend to write an economics textbook, but in a sense she did a very capable job. Students could explore how the supply chain of the twelve districts serves the capitol in a similar fashion as second and third world economies do today for first world powers. They can wrestle with trying to identify features of both command and market economies not only for Panem (the name of the country in this book) but also how District 13 is arranged in the third book in the trilogy, The Mockingjay.
In our Geography Alive! Regions and People program, students study settlement patterns and ways of life in Canada where the Essential Question is, “How does where you live influence how you live? In a Social Studies Skill Builder, students explore how location influences ways of life by looking at population, climate, language, buildings, and economic activity in the five regions of Canada. I was struck by how obvious the geographic themes are in the book. From flora & fauna, to climate and vegetation zones…it’s inevitable that students will come away with some really good answers to that Essential Question once they see Katniss (the main character) struggling to survive the Hunger Games by using her wits and knowledge of plants, animals, topography, and more. I’ve also been pleased to see so many maps of what Panem must look like. These maps, like the one shown, were not made by the author but by people who read the book and studied North American geography. In a geeky way….THAT IS AWESOME!!
Sitting down and thinking, creative teachers of history, sociology, and psychology could mine tons of rich material to enrich their classes from this series as well. The bottom line is that when teenagers are flocking to movie theaters and buying books off the shelves (or from digital stores), then as teachers we need to find a way to leverage their intense interest with connections to our content. Please share your ideas for incorporating The Hunger Games in your instruction. May the odds be ever in your favor in doing so!