This past year, some of our Upper Division teachers got together in November to brainstorm how we could turn the month of January into something more inviting and exciting for the students than just the dreaded return to school after a two-week break. Our initial task was to come up with something around which to build a month of “out of the box” cross-curriculum learning and activities. Once we decided this should be a novel, much discussion followed on just which novel would lend itself best to what we had in mind, and ultimately, the classic tale of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was voted in by the participating faculty. Each teacher began searching for and creating ideas for lessons and projects to sell our students on this idea that became dubbed as “Flexuary” – from the need for flexibility. We ordered three different editions of the novel to meet the reading needs of all students, found three movies that were loosely based on the novel, showed an A & E documentary about the pop culture of Frankenstein, and viewed a philosophically parallel movie, The Bicentennial Man. Teachers were feverishly at work reading the novel and making connections with each of their subjects to the themes in the novel and students arrived in January having no idea what to expect.
All of our curriculum for this unit of study was taught in blocks of 90 to 120 minutes in areas all over the school and by a variety of teachers teaming together for different lessons/activities. Much of what we encouraged as a response to the novel was for the purpose of modeling for the students how to assimilate, analyze, apply, and evaluate academic material beyond the traditional school day routine and expectations. The flexuary unit culminated in four days of student work on projects to demonstrate their understanding of a key concept of the novel and the results were varied and impressive!