Why Should I Go See It?

by Erin Deer

I am seven years old and I am standing in the shade of our playground out in the school yard, holding a fat, rainbow colored pen. You know, those chunky plastic pens that were really popular in the 90’s, the ones that had 6 different color ballpoint tips inside. I am standing in the shade and it is hot and I am bored, so I click through the colors really quickly, and practice tucking it in the waistband of my shorts like it’s my secret weapon, but I don’t dare leave my post.

Because I have a very important job, you see. Or so they tell me… the crew of boys running around the open field in front of me, while I wait. We are playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I am “April”. I’m actually not allowed to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so I have no idea who April is, but the boys fill me in. There are four turtles, and a rat, and everyone lives in a sewer, and fights warthogs. I’m not really sure, exactly. I don’t care. April is the only girl in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and she delivers important messages to the turtles, so they need a girl to play with them today, and I consider myself lucky.

Second grade is a weird time, suddenly full of strange paper things called “fortune tellers” and frequent cootie outbreaks, and it is suddenly harder for me, a tomboy, to find my place in the school yard at recess. I do not want to trade Lisa Frank stickers by the monkey bars with the girls, and I am not welcome on the jungle gym half dome where the boys play army base. There are two rare times I get to play with the boys, and that is when we are playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or when we are playing Ghostbusters (another movie I have never actually seen).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the best, because April has a name. Nobody cared to remember the name of the receptionist in Ghostbusters, so I just get called “Hey!”. It doesn’t matter. Both roles are the same. I wait under this playground structure, holding my prized possession — — the rainbow pen I snuck outside to make myself feel cooler — — til I get a “message” I can deliver. I pretend to scrawl the message on my hand, then I run across the playground to the intended turtle/ghostbuster, and frantically shout my message before the bad guys get there, when I usually am captured and spend the rest of recess under another yet playground structure, in “jail”.

Sometime during the school year we had all been invited to a birthday party at a roller rink. There’s not a lot of things I can say this about in my life, but I can remember the first time I heard the Ghostbusters theme song. Kids started screaming and clamoring to get in the rink as soon as they heard the opening bars. The exhilaration was palpable. The overhead lights went down and neon laser lights were shooting all around us as we rocketed faster and faster around the rink, hopped up on pixie sticks and pop rocks and pizza, my hair blowing out behind me and my face flushed as we all screamed “WHO YOU GONNA CALL?!” and the triumphant answer: “GHOSTBUSTERS!”.

continue reading Erin’s blog post here

Posted in Outside Source | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

TSO: Responding to Reviews

This weekend the Pop Goes the Classroom Team was out in force at Leprecon-the annual science fiction/fantasy convention. We got to see some of our favorite people. One panel KellyAnn sat in on was for creators on responding to reviews. The insights are valuable for educators as well. Check it out.

Responding to Reviews

by David Lee Summers

This past weekend, I was at LepreCon in Phoenix, Arizona. On Saturday, I was on a panel called “Responding to Reviews.” The authors and artists gave some great advice and I thought it was worth sharing some highlights. The panel is below. In the photo below you see Educator KellyAnn Bonnell, yours truly, writer and game designer Shanna Germain, Jennie Breeden, writer and artist of The Devil’s Panties, and game designer Ben Woerner.


Of course, as an author or artist, when you get a review, positive or negative, it can be problematic to respond with much more than a very polite, “thanks for sharing your opinion.” This is pretty common advice and the panel generally agreed with it.

The panel moved on to discuss what constitutes the most helpful reviews. The panelists cited reviews that give clear examples of what worked for them and didn’t work for them in a book. Also helpful is when the reviewer can cite why something worked or didn’t work. I noted an example of a reviewer mentioning an element of my novelChildren of the Old Stars that didn’t work for her. That inspired me to create an important plot point in Heirs of the New Earth that addressed the issue.

Continue reading David’s Blog post here.

Posted in Outside Source, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get to Know Your Universe with :01(First Second)

by KellyAnn Bonnell

Our friends at First Second publishing sent over a couple new books for us to look over and I have to say they are pretty cool. I’d like to introduce you to to Science Comics.


These books are beautifully illustrated and well organized for visual learning.

Maris Wicks brings the world of Coral Reefs to vivid life in Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean. The book has a strong introduction, is organized in chapters and provides an excellent bibliography and additional resources for the student passionate about the topic. The sequential art is simple and easy for those unfamiliar with graphic novels to navigate. This is an excellent nonfiction addition to any classroom or school library.

MK Reed and Joe Flood bring us Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers. The basic structure of this graphic novel is reflective of the Science Comics brand and includes a well written introduction, bibliography and additional resources. This graphic novel is more demonstrates a more evolved approach to sequential art that will appeal to older youth. This book has a great story telling approach that will appeal to young readers.

The books being published by First Second always seem to excite me and this series has several more to come. I’m looking forward to giving the kids in our after school programs access to the entire library.

Posted in Book Review, Comics, Educator Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shield Theory

One of our colleagues shared this post with us and we felt, with all the conversations we’ve been having lately about trauma informed practice, it was an excellent tool to add to your toolboxes. Thanks Jim for such a great perspective.

by Jim C. Hines

Shield Theory

My son and I both had rough days yesterday, and right before bedtime, my wife and I were talking to him about good days and bad days, limits, and why at a certain point we all start to feel overwhelmed and fall apart. I considered bringing up spoon theory, but thought it would be a bit too abstract for him. So instead, I started talking about about Captain America’s shield.

Captain America's Shield

Because in general, every day has good stuff and bad stuff. And just like Cap, we all have a shield we can use to deflect some of the bad stuff and keep it from getting to us. But sometimes there’s too much stuff to block it all, and Cap gets hurt. We all have bad days like that sometimes, where there’s just too much.

What makes life trickier is that your shield can change size. If you’re hungry or overtired, your shield might shrink down to the size of a saucer, which makes it harder to deflect anything. On the other hand, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, gotten some good exercise, and had fun with your friends, you could end up with a super-shield that’s as big as you are. (Or even a full suit of Iron Man armor. We went off on a tangent at this point, wondering why Tony doesn’t go to Wakanda and make an Iron Man suit out of vibranium.)

As a metaphor, Cap’s shield worked well. We talked about why something might not bother you one day, but the same thing might really get to you on another, depending on how big your shield is that day, and how much else you’ve been trying to deflect. It also seemed to be a good way of talking about self-care, and ways to strengthen your shield so it wouldn’t shrink or crack.

Don’t know if it will be helpful to anyone else, but it was a good conversation with my son, so I figured I’d put it out there.

Posted in Outside Source | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

NYT Magazine: The Minecraft Generation

Our friend Dave Bolman over at the University of Advancing Technology turned us on to this great piece in the New York Times Magazine. Thanks Dave!


How a clunky Swedish computer game is teaching
millions of children to master the digital world.

Jordan wanted to build an unpredictable trap.

An 11-year-old in dark horn-­rimmed glasses, Jordan is a devotee of Minecraft, the computer game in which you make things out of virtual blocks, from dizzying towers to entire cities. He recently read “The Maze Runner,” a sci-fi thriller in which teenagers live inside a booby-­trapped labyrinth, and was inspired to concoct his own version — something he then would challenge his friends to navigate.

Jordan built a variety of obstacles, including a deluge of water and walls that collapsed inward, Indiana Jones-style. But what he really wanted was a trap that behaved unpredictably. That would really throw his friends off guard. How to do it, though? He obsessed over the problem.

Then it hit him: the animals! Minecraft contains a menagerie of virtual creatures, some of which players can kill and eat (or tame, if they want pets). One, a red-and-white cowlike critter called a mooshroom, is known for moseying about aimlessly. Jordan realized he could harness the animal’s movement to produce randomness. He built a pen out of gray stones and installed “pressure plates” on the floor that triggered a trap inside the maze. He stuck the mooshroom inside, where it would totter on and off the plates in an irregular pattern.

Presto: Jordan had used the cow’s weird behavior to create, in effect, a random-­number generator inside Minecraft. It was an ingenious bit of problem-­solving, something most computer engineers I know would regard as a great hack — a way of coaxing a computer system to do something new and clever.

When I visited Jordan at his home in New Jersey, he sat in his family’s living room at dusk, lit by a glowing iMac screen, and mused on Minecraft’s appeal. “It’s like the earth, the world, and you’re the creator of it,” he said. On-screen, he steered us over to the entrance to the maze, and I peered in at the contraptions chugging away. “My art teacher always says, ‘No games are creative, except for the people who create them.’ But she said, ‘The only exception that I have for that is Minecraft.’ ” He floated over to the maze’s exit, where he had posted a sign for the survivors: The journey matters more than what you get in the end.

Finish the article here

Posted in Outside Source | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Minecraft Used to Teach Molecular Chemistry

This is a great piece that takes Minecraft beyond coding into other content areas. Check it out here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Pop Culture Case Study

Recently I stumbled on to a podcast that combines movies with psychological traits. This is the kind of information that can be really valuable when an educator is looking to ingrate popular culture into an existing theme. I hope you enjoy.

Pop Culture Case Study Listen Now

Posted in Educator Resources, New Media, Outside Source | Tagged | Leave a comment


Our youth contributor Lorna Bonnell brought this article from Geek and Sundry to our attention to share. Thanks Lorna!

Evidence and research is stacking up to prove that comic books make their readers smarter. Comics make you want to read, and they use complex language which improves verbal intelligence. Like steroids for the mind, comics can even take struggling readers and make them stronger!



Society at large has long frowned upon comics. During the 1950s, they were slandered as base entertainment for children and immature adults which would turn readers intohoodlums and degenerates or communists.

And while that has all changed and comics have risen to become the string section in the symphony of our culture, with a select few titles (Sandman, Watchmen, and Maus) even praised as high art, there still lurks the suspicion that comics are in some way an intellectually inferior endeavor. They’re so thin, so colorful, and just so enjoyable, the thinking goes that they can’t be good for you.

Put a copy of Watchmen on a table next to War & Peace, and one cannot but help be struck by the look of the two of them. The great Russian novel is so thick with authority that it could crush Alan Moore’s superhero opus with just its footnotes. War & Peace burgeons with abstruse references to early 19th century Russian Freemasonry and long digressions on the events of the year 1812. Only the most patient and persistent of readers complete it.Watchmen, with its capes, conspiracies, fantastic drawings, and modern setting seems to ask less of the reader. But Watchmen is such a compelling book that in 2008 alone, it likely sold over one million copies.

Continue Reading Here

Posted in Comics, Educator Resources | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Student Art Show

 Origin Stories: Future Artists  is a celebration of student art inspired by popular culture from graphic novels to movies, music to television. Art may be of any static media including but not limited to drawing/illustration; painting; sculpture; and mixed media. A statement of artistic inspiration must accompany all entries.

Any violation of these rules may, at Pop Goes the Classroom’s discretion, result in disqualification. All decisions of the judges regarding this program are final and binding in all respects.

  1. ELIGIBILITY. Students must participate through a local school or youth development organization. A student may develop an entry in or outside of school.
  2. ARTS CATEGORIES. Art may be any static media including but not limited to drawing/illustration; painting; sculpture; and mixed media.
  3. GRADE DIVISIONS. Student entries will be grouped into divisions based on age and grade (Primary: Up to age 7; Intermediate: Ages 8-10; Middle School: Ages 11-13; High School: Ages 14+; Differently-Abled Artists: All ages welcome).
  4. HOW TO ENTER. Entries must be submitted by a representative from their school or youth development organization referred to as a “sponsor” such as an art teacher or program manager. Home school students may be entered by their parent who will act as “sponsor”. Sponsors will email one photograph of an entry to for first round selection. Please include the name of the artist, current grade, school district and school attending. All entries must be received by March 2, 2016. Semi-finalists will be selected for display at ASU’s Dev Con, May 7-8, to be held on the campus of ASU West where finalists and winners will be selected. There is no fee to enter the art show and attendance at Dev Con is also free.
  5. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS. · Only new pieces of artwork inspired by pop culture will be considered this includes but is not limited to inspiration from television, film, graphic novels, contemporary music, and genre fiction. · Each entry must be the original work of one student only. An adult may not alter the creative integrity of a student’s work. Because the program is designed to encourage and recognize each student’s individual creativity, help from an adult or collaboration with other students is not allowed except in the Special Artist Division. Only one student may be recognized as the award recipient for each entry · Each Finalist entry must contain a title and all entries must include an artist statement. The artist statement communicates what inspired the work, how it relates to the theme, and the content of the work. The statement must include at least one sentence, but may not exceed 100 words. · Use of copyrighted material is permitted as inspiration and must be referenced in the artist statement for consideration.
  6. FINALIST SELECTION AND NOTIFICATION. Entries are reviewed by a committee of volunteer arts education professionals on behalf of Pop Goes the Classroom. Entries will be judged primarily on how well the student uses his/her artistic vision to portray pop culture themes with an emphasis placed on originality and creativity. Under no condition may sponsors, parents or students contact judges to dispute the status of any entry. All decisions will be made by the judges representing Pop Goes the Classroom and are final.

The first round of judging will take place through review of photographs of entries. Finalists will be selected for display at Dev Con, May 7-8. Artists will be notified via email through their adult sponsors; and given details for art drop off for the event. Winners will be announced on Saturday of Dev Con and art will be available for student pick up on Sunday.

  1. OWNERSHIP AND LICENSE. Ownership in any submission shall remain the property of the entrant, but entry into this program constitutes entrant’s irrevocable permission and consent that Pop Goes the Classroom may display, copy, reproduce, enhance, print, sublicense, publish, distribute and create derivative works for Dev Con, West Valley Arts Council, the Arizona Consortium for the Arts and Pop Goes the Classroom purposes. None of the afore mentioned entities are responsible for lost or damaged entries. Submission of entry into the art show constitutes acceptance of all rules and conditions.
  2. PARTICIPATING ENTITIES. This program is administered by Pop Goes the Classroom and the Arizona Consortium for the Arts in association with Dev Con.
Posted in Educator Resources | Tagged | Leave a comment