The Island of Ablai (pt 2)

Pt. 1 Planning

Pt. 2 Creating the Environment

I wanted this world to feel as authentic as possible.  Creating an imaginary world is a pretty abstract task, since the world only exists in your imagination.  Everybody would perceive this world differently, that is just human nature.  However, I want there to be much more redundancy than diversity in how we view Ablai (students gave different sounds and then rearranged them into new words, this is what won).  Therefor, this needs to be as VISIBLE as possible.

We brainstormed a list of natural landforms and wrote them on the board.  Then, we decided which one we didn't want.  The class was pretty unanimous in that this would not be desert, and it would not be a tropical island.  A temperate island like our own was what they wanted (like Japan but smaller).  Though one boy pushed very hard to have a chasm, the rest of the class agreed.

We broke off into groups and built this on the wall:

Ablai (AH-BLAH-EE)
Next, we needed to get a grasp of what the local environment was like.  What kind of animals?  Trees? Weather?  Natural Disasters (the kids were very adamant about knowing this beforehand, so close to the two-year anniversary of 3.11)?

We debated on the climate.  Some wanted it to be like a near equator town (but that was impossible because we had no jungles), and others wanted something similar to a warm southern place with no snow in the winters, while others wanted it to be like our own climate (harsh, cold winters, incredibly hot summers).  So, we did what any good group of world creators would do.

We voted.  A climate similar to Sendai was chosen.  We broke off into groups and each made a poster about a different part of the environment.

What about the city?

Well, know we needed to decide where the city will be built.  We broke into four different groups armed with a map, and choose the place.  The, we had to come up with reasons why this was the best spot to prepare for a class debate.  But....

... every group chose the same spot!  Worst debate ever.....

Well, now that we know, we made a list of the pros and cons of that spot.

- lots of resources nearby (water from river or ocean, trees, sand for glass)
- not near volcano
- wide open space
- close to trees so fresher oxygen
- people can use the beach for leisure
- near the forest so we can get food/animals
- near the ocean so we can get fish
- lots of room to grow if city expands
- the city is between forests, rivers, oceans, and beaches
- mountains could be used for leisure
- the lake could be used for leisure
- on a flat plain
- not many dangers on the south east corner
- volcano good for research
- Far from mining in mountains
- close to river for fresh water
- we could use salt from the ocean
- safe from avalanches
- potentially dangerous for Tsunami
- The rivers might overflow in spring
- Wild Animals use this area for their habitat and we will displace them
- the forest is so close so we might cut down all the trees
- brackish water near the ocean?
- we would disrupt the marine life near the city
- No cover from Typhoon/Hurricane (far from mountains)

Finally, to finish off, we all sat around and imagined what it would be like to live here, in this pristine state of nature.  We sat in a circle around the map and told stories about what we would do if we were the only human;

- explore
- make a map
- go find a wild horse and ride it
- climb the volcano
- hunt some animals
- tame a wild dog to be your pet
- make a flag with my name on it and put it on my house
- climb the highest mountain
- find an onsen
- sleep on the beach
- surfing
- find animals and play with them
- make a snowboard and go down the mountain
- I would swim in the rivers
- I would build a castle on the beach in summer

We then went onto the iPads and wrote a short story about the new world.  It had to be from the perspective of a person who was alone on the Island, and it had to be in first person.  No other humans have arrived yet.

I wonder what will change when they do arrive?

Reading their responses was amazing.  I was struck by two things about them;

a) their writing has improved a lot over the last year.  Their stories are better plotted and paced.  At the beginning of the year they used to move like a pinball, bouncing from one thing to the next.  My head would hurt.  Now, they can write an entire story about finding an apple tree.  Much easier to read.

b) a lot of the still struggle to get beyond the point of pure plot, and have difficulty explaining the setting of the story.  I purposefully set up this activity to make them explain their setting.  The main character if this story was the Island.  Tell me about the island through the person.  Describe what it looks like, what it feels like, what it sounds like, what it smells like.  Hard for some kids, but a worthy push.  Those that learn to do it will appreciate the books they read on a deeper level, and will be better writers as well.

What I am learning after only one day 

Democracy.  We have had to make so many decisions already, and voting has been their preferred style of solving problems is to vote.  It is, in a sense, very much a joint project.  One students said to another at one point, "you can't do that, you might destroy our island."

Even though it has only been half a day, I hope this sense of ownership continues.  We haven't even put people on this island yet.  I hope they fall in love with the natural state of it, so that when they have to start making hard economic decisions, they won't forget that feeling.  They will remain connected to the natural environment.

I do not intent to dicate the path they take with this world.  If they chose to destroy it in a cloud of economic progress, that is entirely their decision.  I will simply make them aware of what is happening around them.

The decisions will be all theirs.