A Disney-fied Lesson Plan: The Hero’s Journey

Last summer, I read a book called “Every Guest is a Hero” by Adam Berger. The book is about how Disney theme parks build their attractions, park layouts, and many other details around making the guest the hero of the story. As you wait in line for Expedition Everest, for example, you learn the history of the fearsome Yeti in the Himalayas around the Disney created fictional town of Serka Zong and the adventure that awaits as you make your way to board the train. I won’t spoil the ride if you haven’t ridden it, but you do survive and return to regale the locals of stories about your encounter with Yeti!

Photo Courtesy of Frank DiBona - www.flickr.com/photos/kiddocone/
Photo Courtesy of Frank DiBona – http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiddocone/

As I read this book, I began to wonder about ways that teachers could make their students the hero of their stories. Imagine how engaging a lesson could be if every student could work their way through it being the hero. Later this school year, I came across a blog post by Ramsey Musallam that details how he uses the Hero’s Journey to create lessons and an idea was sparked. This summer, one of my projects is to create some lessons the use and refine this concept.

Photo Courtesy of Jeremiah - www.flickr.com/photos/fuzzysaurus/
Photo Courtesy of Jeremiah – http://www.flickr.com/photos/fuzzysaurus/

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the Hero’s Journey, it is a literary construct that says that most mythology and storytelling can be developed in stages. Those stages make up the hero’s journey. The most popular framework for the hero’s journey was developed by Joseph Campbell.

The Campbellian model has 4 stages and different parts in each stage. The stages are Separation, Descent, Ordeal, and Return.

Here is how I am envisioning the model as a lesson unit.

Photo Courtesy of allison rose - www.flickr.com/photos/alliesunrose/
Photo Courtesy of allison rose – http://www.flickr.com/photos/alliesunrose/

Separation:

This is the stage that begins with a Call to Adventure. For those who use inquiry, this could be your intro activity that leads to your driving question. Once the students are engaged in the “adventure” and begin asking the right questions, they move on to begin struggling with the question.

This stage is followed by the Meeting with the Mentor stage. The students are encouraged to ask the teacher or find an expert on the topic to serve as a mentor and guide them on their journey. This could also be a video resource.

Descent:

As the students progress, the move along the Road of Trials as they make their way to the Supreme Ordeal. This is when they experiment with a skill or concept, try different solutions, collaborate with others to advance in their journey and ultimately come to the ordeal.

Photo Courtesy of Sam Antonio Photography - www.flickr.com/photos/samantonio/
Photo Courtesy of Sam Antonio Photography – http://www.flickr.com/photos/samantonio/

Ordeal:

The Supreme Ordeal is the final conclusion that is their culminating project. This is the major assessment. The demonstration of learning by solving whatever problem the content required. At the end of the ordeal, they get the Reward of completing the daunting task successfully and being the hero.

Return:

This is a favorite stage of mine and often forgotten in lesson planning. The hero always Returns to the Ordinary World and bring backs tales of adventure. This stage is also sometimes referred to as Return with the Elixir. This would be when the students make a public display of their ordeal and success. They should be proud of their work and return to class with a hero’s welcome!

Photo Courtesy of mjmrandomness - www.flickr.com/photos/melmac82/
Photo Courtesy of mjmrandomness – http://www.flickr.com/photos/melmac82/

As the summer progresses, I’m planning to develop specific lessons following this model. I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback. What lessons could you make your students the hero?

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