I love reading Science Fiction. Well, I love reading almost any type of Speculative Fiction, whether it be Science, Fantasy, Alternate History, Supernatural, maybe even a bit of Horror around Halloween.
But old-fashioned Science Fiction, from the Golden Age of Science Fiction, real Hard Science Fiction, is my favorite. I love to sit down with a book like this and lose myself in a time and space where astronauts wore shiny silver spacesuits, aliens were ugly monsters or beautiful damsels in distress, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.
So, when I started homeschooling my son, the first course of study in literature was, of course, Science Fiction. I was searching for support and found a group that loved Science Fiction and all manner of Speculative Fiction as much as I did. A group of teachers, librarians, and most amazingly, some fairly famous writers called Reading For the Future.
RFF was originally started by David Brin , Gregory Benford and Greg Bear back in 1995. They wrote an open letter to the Science Fiction community, hoping to find a way to reach out to the junior high schools of North America. Positing that the early teen years are “when a person’s sense of wonder either blooms or withers,” the “Killer Bees” suggested that Science Fiction clubs and fan groups should find out the needs of their local librarians and English teachers, sponsor reading clubs or writing contests, bring guest speakers into club meeting rooms and schools, and encourage local bookstores to find ways to put Science Fiction in the forefront.
That open letter led to the formation of RFF. Today RFF consists of many groups, including the RFF website , the Reading for the Future Reflections blog, and the RFF Facebook page. Each group reaches out to its own community, providing resources and curriculum material, encouraging the use of SF within the classroom, helping authors and fans alike to think about the next generation of readers and, most important of all, getting books into the hands of those standing on the precipice of their own future.
The RFF website in particular has amazing resources. One way to expand the fan base of good Science Fiction is to bring Science Fiction out of the realm of Language Arts and into other avenues of study. RFF has a list of good Subject Specific Resources, and is always looking for more. There are lesson plans and study guides to teaching with “The Father of Science Fiction” Jules Verne, “The Man who Invented Tomorrow” H.G. Wells , and, my personal favorite, Ray Bradbury.
There are also groups that work closely with RFF, sharing similar goals. AboutSF is a resource center for science fiction and education, and a joint project of the University of Kansas, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the Science Fiction Research Association. The Golden Duck Awards are given out each year for excellence in children’s Science Fiction literature. If you are looking for a good book for a certain age group, check out the list of current winners.
I have learned a great deal just by being part of Reading For the Future these past few years. I am glad to have found a group that not only loves Science Fiction as much as I do, but loves sharing it with the younger generation. We have lots of work yet to do. Join us.
If you are interested in teaching with Science Fiction, there are quite a few good books out there:
- Teach Science with Science Fiction Films by Terence Cavanaugh and Cathy Cavanaugh is for grades 5-12 and covers ten major science areas. It has hands-on, interactive lessons and uses a variety of popular films and television episodes such as Star Trek, The X-files, The Andromeda Strain, Twister, and even Finding Nemo!
- Teaching Science Fact with Science Fiction by Richard Raham covers 500 years of Science Fiction with ideas for using it in different ways for different grades.
- No Limits: Developing Scientific Literacy Using Science Fiction and its companion book Packing Fraction and Other Tales of Science and Imagination by Julie E. Czerneda are a wonderful set, showing both the educational and entertaining sides to Science Fiction. The stories in the Packing Fractions anthology all explore a scientific “what if?” to intrigue the reader.