Saturday, August 20, 2011


In the past couple of weeks, the word “hero” has been a huge part of the news media as 30 American soldiers were tragically killed in a recent Chinook crash in Afghanistan. The crash caused the highest number of American casualties in one day since the beginning of the conflict. As the names of the fallen were being released, friends and family remembered the soldiers as heroes. One 10-year-old boy posted a picture of his dad, a pilot of the downed helicopter, on CNN’s iReport and described him as a hero. This touching personal account of loss touched many people and caused an outpouring of comments on the site.

After reading Joann’s post on heroic journeys, I realized that these soldiers are truly heroes in every sense of the word. They embarked on the archetypal heroic journey, as described by Joseph Campbell. They left their normal lives to go and complete challenging tasks in an unfamiliar world. These 30 heroes were unable to finish the journey and return home to their normal lives, a loss that is mourned throughout the country. Heroism is not a new concept, and it is not limited to wartime. With the focus on heroism in the news right now, teachers can use these current events as in introduction to studying the plight of heroes in current and classic literature.

Whether your students find heroes in soldiers, sports icons, fictional film or literary characters, or even family members or friends, their relationship with these personal heroes can help them understand how a hero’s character is built. Stories of heroes and the classic heroic journey transcend cultural lines, and can be found in literature throughout the ages. There are some great resources available on The Gateway to 21st Century Skills to help your students integrate their study of heroes into many different subject areas. The resources use all different types of media to bring heroism alive for your students.

If current events won’t hook your students into the study of heroes, the heroism in some of their favorite movies might. The Star Wars movies are good examples of a hero’s journey, and many of your students have probably seen the films.  This lesson from the PBS American Masters uses Star Wars to explore the characteristics of a hero and study the concepts of good versus evil.  I like how this resource includes a project and allows students to be creative through artwork.

I also liked one high school unit from Read, Write, Think because the complete unit that explores many different aspects of a hero’s character and suggests some good websites to enhance students’ investigations.  The unit titled “Heroes are Made of This: Studying the Characters of Heroes” uses individual and group activities to appeal to different types of learners. You can use the entire unit or pick and choose from the activities to meet your needs.  One useful supplemental website they suggested is called My Hero Project.  This is a place where students can discover modern day heroism as people creatively present their heroes to the world using the Internet.

Joann has selected some other very valuable resources that will be posted daily on our Facebook and Twitter pages.  Please watch for these posts so you can find resources that will help you include the study of the hero’s journey into your classroom. 

~Peggy's Corner - 8/12/2011

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