Based on C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the Narnia musical retells– with over a dozen songs– the story of the four Pevensie children, who, while exploring the country house to which they have been evacuated during the Blitz (WWII), tumble through a wardrobe into an unknown, magical country. Narnia has been suffering under the rule of the White Witch, while its talking-beast inhabitants await the appearance of four human children, foretold in a prophecy, and the return of the great lion Aslan.
The musical retains most of the familiar characters and scenes– including Edmund’s betrayal, and Aslan’s sacrifice– and makes a few changes. All four children cross into Narnia very quickly, reducing the intro time. Though in the book & movies Peter usually seems like the sibling most at odds with Edmund, Lucy seems most fed up with him on stage. And the musical strongly develops two motifs: Doors & Windows, and Springtime.
Characters and audience members are encouraged to open door & windows, both literally (to explore new places & gain new experiences) and more importantly figuratively (so that our minds, hearts, and souls are “open” to each other and to all the possibilities of life, especially the profound and good); being closed off breeds stagnation, selfishness, meanness of mind & spirit, and evil. Similarly, the coming of spring to Narnia parallels a springtime of the spirit, so that all is life-giving and beautiful. The musical leaves us with the sense that there are many wonders around us, if we are willing to be amazed and inspired, and tells us to take what we learn in Narnia to set our own world right.
- Social Studies/ Geography
- Social Studies/ History
- Science/ Health
- Catholic Connection
1) ENGLISH/ LITERATURE Activities:
1.8) The prophecy regarding the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve is told in rhymed couplets (two lines whose ending words rhyme).
Use them as a springboard to introduce or review the Elements of Poetry—especially Rhyme Scheme (using letters of the alphabet to mark the pattern of rhyming end words in a poem). Help your students/children mark the Rhyme Scheme of specific poems using this system: The end word of the first line is labeled ‘A.’ If the end word of the second line rhymes with the first, it is also labeled ‘A;’ if not, it becomes ‘B.’ If the end word of the third line rhymes with the first end word, it’s labeled ‘A;’ if it rhymes with the second end word, it’s another ‘B;’ and if neither, it becomes ‘C’ … and so on.
Roses are red, –A
Violets are blue, –B
Sugar is sweet, –C
and so are you. –B Rhyme Scheme: ABCB
“She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes …”
Rhyme Scheme: ABAB (see Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” for more)
Certain kinds of poems have a predictable rhyme scheme.
Limericks are generally humorous 5-line poems (2-long, 2-short, & 1-long line) with the rhyme scheme AABBA. (ex. A Lolligag of Limericks, ed. Myra Cohn Livingston; N.M. Bodecker, A Person From Britain Whose Head of the Shape of the Mitten and other Limericks)
Sonnets are 14-line meditations on a generally serious/mature topic or idea, in one of two forms: The Italian or Petrarchan Sonnet uses a group of 8 lines (octet), then a group of 6 lines (sestet), to convey its meaning; the rhyme scheme is often ABABCDCD EFGEFG, though it can vary. The English or Shakespearean Sonnet uses three 4-line stanzas, then ends with a rhymed couplet, so a typical rhyme scheme would be ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
Of course, poems made entirely of Rhymed Couplets will be very easy for children to mark. (Ex. Robert Louis Stevenson “Whole Duty of Children;” Joyce Kilmer “Trees;” Richard Armour “Rain;” Theodore Rothke “The Bat;” Doris Frankel “Song of the Truck;” T.S. Eliot “Macavity, the Mystery Cat”)
Sometimes two end words do not rhyme exactly, but are very close—like ‘pain’ and ‘again’ (a-gen, a-gain)—and it’s clear the poet meant them to be a match. This is called slant rhyme, and both words get labeled with the same alphabet letter in the poem’s rhyme scheme. In the book, Mr. Beaver gives the following prophecy:
When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone,
Sit at Cair Paravel in throne,
The evil time will be over and done.
(In the 2005 movie, after Mr. Beaver recites the prophecy, the practical Susan interjects, “You know, that doesn’t really rhyme.”)
Free Verse does not rhyme at all; it doesn’t even keep the same length of lines, or same number of beats per line. (Ex. Walt Whitman “I Hear America Singing,” Carl Sandburg “Fog,” and Elias Lieberman “I am an American.”)
Some other elements of Poetry to review (Laura Bercquist’s anthology The Harp and the Laurel Wreath includes valuable explanations of these & other elements):
- Alliteration (repetition of the same beginning sound in two or more words)
- Consonance (repetition of a consonant sound in the beginning, middle, or end of words)
- Assonance (repetition of a vowel sound in the beginning, middle, and end of words)
- Onomatopoeia (a word that is an expression of a sound—basically the sound itself spelled into a word; ex. hiss, buzz, pop, aargh)
- Simile (a comparison between two things which uses the words ‘like’ or ‘as’; ex. ‘My luv is like a red, red rose…’)
- Metaphor (a comparison between two things which does not include the words ‘like’ or ‘as;’ ex. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches.’)
- Personification (a figure of speech attributing human characteristics or feeling to non-human things)
- Symbolism (a figure of speech in which one object represents, and calls to mind, another object/person; for example, a hammer might represent a workman, or a poem might speak of ‘the lamb’ instead of naming Jesus Christ specifically.)
- Imagery (language that conveys what the five senses perceive, ideally to produce a fuller picture in the reader’s mind)
- Poets often have a favorite source, or field of knowledge, from which they frequently draw imagery, symbols, comparisons, such as nature, or technology/machinery, or religion, or fishing/sailing, or childhood, or sports.
- Rhythm (basically the regular repetition of stressed and unstressed beats in each line of poem. Four different patterns are iambic, trochaic, anapestic, and dactylic. Older students could also determine the Meter, named by the number of feet in the line, such as -4-tetrameter or -5- pentameter; a ‘foot’ would be a group of two or three syllables including one stressed syllable– in basically one of the four rhythmic patterns listed above.)
1.9) Use your poetic knowledge from above, to study poems offering various viewpoints on these topics, drawn from Narnia:
- Winter (Robert Frost “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “A Patch of Old Snow,” “A Winter Eden,” & “Dust of Snow;” Frank Asch “Sunflakes;” Francis Thompson “To A Snowflake;” Ralph Waldo Emerson “The Snowstorm;” Robert Louis Stevenson “Winter-Time;” Elizabeth Coatsworth “Cat on a Night of Snow;” Jeanne McGahey “Oregon Winter;” from “Snowbound” by John Greenleaf Whittier, in Winter Poems, ed. Barbara Rogasky)
- Christmas (Clement Clark Moore “A Visit from St. Nicholas;” Walter de la Mare “Santa Claus;” Richard Eberhart “Santa Claus in Oaxaca;” Howard Nemerov “Santa Claus;” Philip Booth “Uncle Christmas;” Phillips Brooks “Christmas Everywhere;” Christina Rossetti “A Christmas Carol;” Eugene Field “Jest ‘Fore Christmas;” GK Chesterton “A Christmas Carol;” Sir John Betjeman “Christmas;” R.S. Thomas “Hill Christmas;” Langston Hughes “Christmas Eve;” T.S. Eliot “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees;” e.e. cummings “little tree;” Peter Cornelius “The Christmas Tree;” Eleanor Farjeon “In the Week when Christmas Comes” & “Holly and Mistletoe;” Countee Cullen “Under the Mistletoe;” Leslie Norris “The Stable Cat;” Norma Farber “Spider;” Edwin Morgan “The Computer’s First Christmas Card;” Gerald William Barrax “Christmas 1959 Et Cetera;” Frank Horne “Kid Stuff;” Carl Sandburg “Star Silver;” Vachel Lindsay “Star of My Heart;” William Carlos Williams “The Gift;” anthologies: American Christmas (1967), eds. Webster Schott & Robert J. Myers; Poems of Christmas (1980) & Christmas Poems (1984), ed. Myra Cohn Livingston)
- Flowers (William Wordsworth “Daffodils;” Hilda Conkling “Dandelion;” Helen Gray Cone “The Dandelions;” Jane Taylor “The Violet;” Sydney Dobell “The Procession of the Flowers;” Edmund Waller “Go, Lovely Rose;” Ralph Waldo Emerson “The Rhodora”)
- House(s) (Padraic Colum “An Old Woman of the Roads;” James S. Tippet “Old Log House;” Edgar A. Guest “Home;” Robert Frost “The Census-Taker;” Robert Penn Warren, “The Little White House;” Aileen Fisher “Best Little House”– picture book)
- WWII, or Military Service (Joyce Kilmer “Prayer of a Soldier in France;” Cecil Roberts “Prayer for a Pilot;” John Gillespie Magee Jr.“High Flight;” T.S. Eliot “Defense of the Islands” & “A Note on War Poetry”)
- Magical/ Mythical Creatures
1.10) Narnia, once a utopia or paradise, has become a sad, cold dystopia under the Witch’s rule.
Read & discuss other examples of Utopias & Dystopias in literature (What makes them desirable or undesirable places to live?): Plato’s Republic; Thomas More’s Utopia; Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels; Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The May-Pole of Merry Mount” & “Rappacini’s Daughter;” William Morris’ News From Nowhere; Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward; Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; George Orwell’s 1984; Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451; Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time; Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Gathering Blue, & Messenger; Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Among the Hidden series, as well as Running Out of Time (compare to M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village); Jeanne du Prau’s City of Ember; Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, & Mockingjay; stories of King Arthur’s Camelot; and some interpret Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford as female utopias.
A Utopia could also be a travel account of an unspoiled native or natural place (perhaps Thoreau’s Walden, or Life in the Woods), or a recollection of a childhood place (like a secret garden… a perfect summer… perhaps like Garnet’s Thimble Summer, or the fictional Green Knowe by L.M. Boston). It could be a Commune or Experimental Community, whether political, social or religious– America’s early Puritan colonies; Brook Farm (in which Nathaniel Hawthorne spent some unhappy time); a monastery or convent of a religious order (“The Rule of St. Benedict;” As Great A Right to be Merry; DVD Into Great Silence, etc.); or 1960s/1970s hippie communes. It could be a Planned City or an Ideal/Planned Community, such as the plans for Washington, D.C.; one time “worker’s paradise” Vandergrift, PA (see Anne Mosher’s Capital’s Utopia); New Deal homestead community Norvelt, PA, providing a fresh start to displaced mineworkers (locally chronicled by Sondra Wolk Shimizzi); or the Seaside community that provided the setting for The Truman Show movie.
Dystopias could also include prison literature, failed experiments (see Marx’s “Communist Manifest” and the culture it spawned in Soltzenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich & The Gulag Archipelago); or deliberate “Anti-” literature, writing fictional places/situations to criticize an idea or group (such as anti-technology films like The Net, or anti-genetic experimentation/discrimination films like Gattaca or V for Vendetta; or deliberately anti-Catholic literature like The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk or Lewis’ The Monk).
2) ENGLISH/ WRITING Activities:
2.1) Have you ever made a big mistake, like Edmund? What made you realize you were wrong, and made you want to do better? Did you ask for or receive forgiveness? Describe this episode in your life, and reflect on how it has changed you.
2.2) Imagine you yourself went through the wardrobe into Narnia, and experienced its scenery & atmosphere for yourself. Using all your senses and emotions, write a description of the Narnia you experienced.
2.3) The Inklings group allowed C.S. Lewis and his friends to talk over their story ideas and read writings aloud to each other. Try some Storytelling orally, in a group setting. You can take turns telling a story, or try a chain story in which each person contributes part during his/her turn. Pre-packaged games exist to stimulate your creative, on-the-spot storytelling– such as Rory’s Story Cubes (in which each side of dice has a different picture/graphic which you have to put into the story), or The Storybook Game (54 cards in a lunchbox-case, with a word on each card: deal out the story a word at a time, or lay down a row of cards & plan a story with all of them at once); of course, you could write down your own idea-prompts on index cards, or decorate your own dice with idea-pictures.
2.4) Try writing a fantasy (short) story of your own. John Gust’s Adventures in Fantasy: Lessons and Activities in Narrative and Descriptive Writing is a very helpful guide. (Also suggested for English/Writing, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory/ Willy Wonka Lesson Plans.) Possible steps in the process include: Making a map of your imaginary world, including the hero’s home, two places where conflicts occur, and the villain’s lair. Writing descriptions of these places, as well as of the hero and villain. Deciding on a quest/ mission/ purpose the hero must achieve– and if he/she will have any help, such as a magical object, a magical mentor (teacher, master, fairy godmother/wizard), and/or a sidekick/helper or pet (human or otherwise) along for the journey.
2.5) Write lyrics for a new Christmas carol, just as Narnia includes “Joy for Joy, At Last It’s Christmas.” Or, compose lyrics for a song remembering and/or mourning a loved one, or personal hero, as Susan and Lucy do for Aslan.
2.6) Learn more about the events and/or heroes important to your community during WWII. Visit your local library or historical society to view newspapers dated between 1941 and 1946. Do you find many articles about local homecomings? national/international events? Or purely local happenings? Try to interview someone who experiences WWII, or a post-war baby who has heard all his/her parents wartime stories. Write a report to summarize your findings.
2.7) For older students: View another film or stage-play involving Time-Distortion/ Alternate Time-streams, then write an essay to compare/contrast, and reflect upon how (& why) Time is handled differently in Narnia and the other film/play. Consider using: Washington Irving’s story “Rip van Winkle” or Ray Bradbury’s story “The Fox and The Forest;” H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (book, multiple films); Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (play or film); Sutton Vane’s Outward Bound (play or film, re: suicide); The Portrait of Jenny (Joseph Cotten; Jennifer Jones); Groundhog Day (Bill Murray); Frequency (Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel); The Lake House (Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bulllock); Sliding Doors (Gwenyth Paltrow); possibly Back to the Future or The Terminator movies; Stargate: Continuum or other sci fi (like Original Star Trek’s “Mirror, Mirror” & “The City on the Edge of Forever” episodes); and possible musicals A Christmas Carol or Scrooge; Carousel; or Brigadoon.
3) MATH Activities:
3.1) Review how to convert from U.S. Customary measurements to the Metric system, then convert these:
- a winter temperature: 43 degrees F
- an amount of elixir in Lucy’s bottle: 23 oz.
- a distance Lucy could walk to Tumnus’ cave: 680 feet
3.2) The British are not without their own customary measures: Using you own weight, figure out what you weigh in “stones.”
3.3) Mr Tumnus notices, before bed on Sunday night, that the snow is 5 inches deep outside his front door. If it snows 8 inches every night, and than 2 inches melt off during the course of the day, how deep will the snow be on Monday evening? How deep will the snow be outside his door on the following Monday morning?
3.4) Suppose Lucy’s bottle contains 13 oz. of healing elixir. If it takes half an ounce to heal a non-mortally-wounded Narnian, what is the maximum number of Narnians she can heal? If it takes one fluid ounce to heal a mortally-wounded Narnian, and there are 5 on the field plus Edmund, how many other Narnians will she be able to heal?
3.5) If Father Christmas gives Susan a horn, a bow, and a quiver of arrows, Lucy a dagger and an elixir bottle, Peter a sword and a shield, Edmund a sword, Mrs Beaver a sewing machine, and Mr. Beaver a sluice gate, what fraction of thegifts go to Lucy? What percentage of the gifts go to Susan?
3.6) There are 57 trees in the vicinity of Lantern Waste, but it is dangerous to talk around one-third of them (because word will get back to the Witch). How many trees are dangerous to have near a conversation? If 14 of those trees are only dangerous because disloyal tattle-tale birds are nesting in them, how many trees have actually joined the Witch’s side? What percentage of trees would that be?
3.7) The passage of time in Narnia, relative to our world, can be unpredictable. Suppose one minute of our time equals eight hours in Narnia. How many days/hours/minutes passed in our world, while the Pevensie kings & queens ruled Narnia for twelve years?
3.8) In the StageRight production, Lucy’s elixir bottle is a(n inverted) cone. Learn or review how to calculate the volume of a cone. When the pretty, red, cone-shaped bottle is missing from the prop table, Lucy gets a brownish rectangular prism of a bottle. Assuming that both bottles are 8-inches tall, and that the cone’s bottom is 2-inches wide at its diameter, while the rectangular base is 1-inch by 2-inches, which bottle will have the greater volume of healing elixir?
4) SOCIAL STUDIES/GEOGRAPHY Activities:
4.1) Make a detailed map of Great Britain, and learn more about its history and culture. What is the difference between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom?
4.2) Part of Marbleton Manor’s architecture is:
“Celtic” and “Viking”: Use a historical map to locate the territories most associated with these tribes (ex. Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany/Bretagne; ex. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, …Iceland). Trace the sea routes Vikings used to raid the Celts.
“Anglo-Norman”: Review the people and events of the Battle of Hastings in 1066– the Norman “invasion” of England. Study a map of English & French territories at this point in history (before they became the unified nations we see today). Where is the Danelaw? Wales? Where is Aquitaine? Burgundy? Locate the cities of Rouen, and Bayeux (famed for the Bayeux Tapestry, the only historical “document” of these events).
“Persian grotesque”: Make a map of Iran. Learn more about its history, and compare its present borders with a map of the Persian empire at its height.
4.3) Make a detailed map of Turkey, and learn more about its history and culture. Is it really the source of Turkish Delight?
4.4) Create 3 maps of Europe, showing the continent before, during, and after World War II (for example, in 1938, 1943, and 1947).
(Any quality European History textbook should include this info, but for those who love to learn through maps, Ronald Storey’s Concise Historical Atlas of World War Two [Oxford UP, 2006] provides an overview of the entire conflict through a series of 50 maps, each with a companion page of historical discussion.)
4.5) Draw a map (including a compass rose and map key) of an imaginary land, suitable to become the setting of a fantasy story. Include, at the least, a hero’s home, two places where conflicts can occur, and a villain’s lair. (If desired, write a draft of the story as an English/Writing activity.) You might like to study a map of Narnia, and/or a map of Middle Earth (from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), for ideas.
4.6) Pick 5 countries from around the world, and research their Christmas/holiday customs. Who is their Father Christmas figure, and what, when & how does he deliver?
5) SOCIAL STUDIES/ HISTORY Activities:
5.1) Research the different architectural styles referred to in the description of Marbleton Manor– Celtic, Viking, Anglo-Norman, Romanesque, Gothic, Tudor, “Persian grotesque,” and probably Victorian– to determine the date & place of historical origin. Also consider study the architecture styles as an Art/Architecture Activity.
5.2) Research the World War II backdrop of this musical– especially The Battle of Britain, the evacuation of London’s children to the countryside, and rationing of food and clothing (which has its own Wikipedia entry!).
Some sources we’ve used, Gr 4/5- up: Penny Colman, Rosie the Riveter: Woman Working on the Home Front in World War II; Scholastic Encyclopedia of the United States at War; DK Eyewitness World War II; Usborne World War Stories & True Stories of D-Day; Ronald Storey, A Concise Historical Atlas of World War II; Michael Lyons, World War II: A Short History; the classic Victory at Sea and History Channel’s Battle 360 Pacific DVD sets; World War II and Military History magazines; Time-Life Commemorative magazines on D-Day & America’s Victory; Gordon L. Rottman, FUBAR: Soldier Slang of World War II; Sledge (Marine memoir), With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa; R.G. Grant, New Perspectives: Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and books & media for all age groups from the NCCHE (National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education) Resource Room in Seton Hill University’s Reeves Library. Winston Churchill also wrote an acclaimed five-volume history, but we haven’t read it yet!
Some books from a younger child’s perspective: Michael Foreman, A Country Childhood: War Boy (a memoir of Pakefield, Suffolk, England); Kushner/ Sendak, Brundibar (allegory of Jewish oppression); Japanese atomic survivor memories: Junko Marimoto’s My Hiroshima, Toshi Maruki’s Hiroshima No Pika, and Eleanor Coerr’s Sadako (a picture book version of her longer work, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes). Other youth novels by Rumer Godden, An Episode of Sparrows, by Hester Burton, In Spite of All the Terror, by Nathaniel Benchley, Bright Candles, and by Hilda van Stockum, The Mitchells: Five for Victory and The Winged Watchmen, depict wartime childhoods in England, the USA and Holland. Author Roald Dahl recounts some of his WWII experiences in his first published story “A Piece of Cake” and in Going Solo.
Some websites to check: The National Archives: 1937-1945; BBC Primary History: Children of World War 2; neoK12: World War II; and some HD videos available at History.com
Jennifer Ruby’s Costumes in Context: The 1940s and 1950s shows us how the Pevensies might have dressed in England, while the volume on Medieval Times suggests clothes they might wear in Narnia.
5.3) Since fantasy stories like this one often have a Medieval-style setting, learn more about the Middle Ages (from the Fall of Rome in 476: approx. 500yrs of the Low Middle Ages, then 500yrs of the High Middle Ages)– especially life in a castle & village, and the nature of warfare (weapons, tactics, etc.).
[Avoid sources that refer to “the Dark Ages” as probably outdated and inaccurate. Current historians recognize that a series of renaissances, as well as setbacks (like the Black Plague), occurred during the Middle Ages– and that Medieval people had their own political, military, scientific, literary, artistic, philosophical, and religious achievements, the same as people of other eras.]
5.4) The professor offers the Pevensies chocolate with their tea, though that would be hard to get during the war years. So research the history of chocolate! (See more about this at Social Studies/History, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory/Willy Wonka Lesson Plans.) When did Hershey develop a special, more heat-resistant chocolate bar for military personnel?
5.6) Remembering Edmund, generate a list of famous traitors in history. Some possibilities: Judas the betrayer of Christ; Brutus and Cassius who assassinated Julius Caesar; Benedict Arnold; Rodney Cox, who was shot/executed on the White House lawn by Thomas Jefferson.
Research the history of Spies & Spying. Who were the memorable traitors in national espionage (treason), and also in industrial espionage.
5.7) The White Witch’s rules Narnia more like a dictator than a queen. Study the natures of different forms of government, and the advantages/disadvantages of each (ex. monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, republic, anarchy, theocracy, tyranny, etc.).
6.1) Turkish Delight (Boxes also for sale in Marshalls and Giant Eagle.)
6.2) Stained Glass Window cookies
6.3) Homemade Christmas Ornaments
6.4) Recipes from WWII: Making Do with Rations: Victory Cookbook, by Marguerite Patten (UK); or Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen and Grandma’s Wartime Baking Book, by Joanne Lamb Hayes (USA); Eating for Victory, by Jill Norman
6.5) Stage your own “English Tea” with scones, etc
7) SCIENCE Activities:
Possible Research topics:
7.1) Safety on Ice. Safety during Winter play (frostbite, hypothermia).
7.2) Experiment to determine the best melting agents for ice.
7.3) Recalling the statues, who once could move, research Paralysis. What sort of injuries or diseases cause paralysis? What treatments are available– or how do people adapt to living without use of legs, arms, or both?
7.4) Lucy carries a bottle with a healing elixir, and Aslan cures Edmund of the Witch’s Turkish Delight with bread & wild grapes. Learn more about the Development of Medicines– and the development of Poisons, since the two are often related (or have been mistaken for each other, in history). Toxic! Killer Cures and Other Poisonings by Susie Hodge makes this point; Hodge also recommends John Elmsley’s The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison, Peter Macinnis’ Poisons, R.M. Youngson’s Scientific Blunders, and Bee Wilson’s Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee. For a stronger medical focus, consider Fran Balkwill and Mic Rolph’s Microbes, Bugs, and Wonder-Drugs: Potions to Penicillin, Aspirin to Addiction. Perhaps pick a specific pharmacy school or pharmaceutical company to research.
7.5) In honor of the famed lamppost, learn more about Light, and the history of Lighting (sunlight; candlelight; famous lighthouses; gas lighting; electric lighting/ light bulb, and now… gas bulbs or solar?).
7.6) Narnia has had 100 years of winter, so learn more about Snow/Snowflakes: Young readers will enjoy Jacqueline Briggs Martin’s informational picture book Snowflake Bentley, about a pioneer in the study of snowflakes; older students might enjoy Wilson A. Bentley’s Snow Crystals itself. Where and why might people study snow today? Consider meteorology/ weather prediction. What else can be studied in snowbound or arctic climates? Research explorers of/ expeditions to the North and South Poles. (At least one IMAX film exists on Shackleton’s amazing survival story.) What projects are undertaken in Antarctica today? What goes on in the Arctic circle (ex. William F. Althoff, Drift Stations: Arctic Outposts of Superpower Science)? Finally, consider playing the board game “Snowstorm!”.
7.7) In honor of windows, research Glass– what it is, how it’s made (from the past to the present). Consider field-tripping to one of Pittsburgh’s glass-related sites, or viewing glass art made at St. Vincent’s Archabbey, Latrobe, PA.
7.8) In honor of the crocuses beginning to bloom again in Narnia, learn about the Anatomy of a Flower. (Consider a bulb dissection kit for a hands-on approach.) Experiment to see if Fragrance or Color is more attractive to bees and/or butterflies.
7.9) Learn more about one of the animals seen in Narnia: the eagle, bull, fox, leopard, dog, (white) stag, reindeer (incl. the Sami people; Lapland), wolves, squirrels, or the beavers (who have their own IMAX film!, because their logging & damming changes the natural terrain more than any builder other than man).
7.10) Study the Anatomy of a Tree, in honor of the great tree of Narnia.
7.11) Learn more about how dams work, in honor of the beavers. What is a sluice gate? Consider viewing a dam, whether local (Connemaugh) or nationally known (Hoover Dam). Learn more about the disastrous Johnstown Flood; would you say a dam was the problem?
7.12) Use Medieval warfare as a means to learn concepts of physics, like speed, velocity, acceleration, etc.. Keva Catapult and Trebuchet kits, or (we used) Pathfinders Catapult, Trebuchet, and Siege Engine kits, can help you get started. William Gurstelle builds his own projects & tells you how in his books, Backyard Ballistics and The Art of the Catapult. The Osprey guide to Medieval Seige Warfare explains the relative advantages of each weapon and generally puts everything in historical context.
7.13) Time passes differently in Narnia than in our world, so read about the Physics of “the Impossible”: Time Travel, & Alternate Realities/ Timelines. Surprisingly, physicist Michio Kaku, author of Physics of the Impossible, tells us that there are few ‘impossibilities’ which truly violate the laws of physics– so most are considered impossible because we don’t yet have the technology figured out.
8) ART/ ARCHITECTURE Activities:
8.1) Coloring Pages.
Younger fans of the Narnia books will enjoy coloring these iconic scenes and settings.
8.2) Cut out paper snowflakes. Some editions of Jacqueline Briggs Martin’s informational picture book Snowflake Bentley (recounting Wilson A. Bentley’s lifelong effort to photograph and study snowflakes) come with a booklet of snowflake patterns; but other such pattern books exist (Peggy Edwards’ Make Your Own Paper Snowflakes; Dover Coloring Books Snowflakes, etc.). (Creativity for Kids also produces a kit for assembling snowflakes out of pearl-like beads.)
Consider researching more advanced paper-cutting art: from the Amish/ Pennsylvania Deutsch; Polish folk art; the amazing book illustrations of David Wisniweski (Elfwyn’s Saga; Golem; and many more).
8.3) Make a snowglobe. Again, a pre-packaged kit is available with plastic globe base & top, clay for making a figure(s) for inside, water and glitter. We’ve made our own using a carefully-cleaned large-sized clear glass baby food jar (though mustard, olive, cherry, any jar would do) with baked clay figures (like a snowman) or plastic trinkets (from gumball machines, dollar stores, Michaels) superglued inside the lid –and, yes, filled with silver glitter and water.
8.4) In honor of Narnia’s fantastic creatures, practice the magical beast of your choice. Many How-to-Draw books exist to help you with the animals realistic (eagle, bull, dog, beaver, reindeer, squirrels, etc.) or mythical (faun, dryad, centaur, gorgon, minotaur, dwarf,etc.).
- a page of illuminated manuscript;
- draw a tapestry design (on legal paper), or embroider a “tapestry” (handkerchief, or plain cloth);
- woodworking (or woodburning kit);
- fresco (Paint quickly on a layer/section of wet plaster of paris in a foil pan.);
- paint on wood (possibly a triptych or diptych)
- bas-relief in metal (Michael’s offers metallic foil press kits; we ordered Shure Metallic Foil/Hammered Metal kits from Rainbow Resource. More realistic than folding heavy duty foil & then pressing an image into it with a popsicle stick.)
8.6) Learn more about Medieval Heraldry, and the different kinds of information (about rank, family, mottoes/values, etc.) that can be displayed. Learn especially the different positions in which lions can be displayed (rampant, couchant, etc.), and the possible positions of a stag– both animals deeply meaningful in Narnia. Then create on cardstock, cardboard, or even with wood, a coat of arms for Narnia’s royalty– perhaps personalize it for Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.
Then create an appropriate coat of arms for yourself.
8.7) Research WWII-era propaganda posters (British, if possible, but American, German, or Italian are also available). Create a poster of your own, in similar style, with an appropriate message.
8.8) Learn more about Norman Rockwell, the illustrator who became famous for his iconic scenes of American life (first with Boy’s Life magazine, then the Saturday Evening Post). See especially his Christmas scenes, and those related to WWII: his depictions of the Four Freedoms from FDR’s speech—Freedom of Speech; of Religion; from Want; from Fear/Tyranny– and to see how he “Welcome[d] the Hero”, ‘”The Homecoming” (May 1945) and “Homecoming” (Oct. 1945). In Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Norman Rockwell, Mike Venezia emphasizes how Rockwell knew how to tell a story without words. Draw/color a memorable scene from your own family or community life. Or, recreate one of Rockwell’s famous scenes using contemporary characters, fashions, objects. How might you depict the Four Freedoms for today’s (also war-time) generation?
8.9) Learn more about the different old architectural styles that adorn Marbleton Manor, including Celtic, Viking, Romanesque, Anglo-Norman, Gothic, Tudor, and even Persian elements. Then research (the comparatively more modern) Victorian home architecture. Consider how it differs from at least one other home/building style you might see today– neo-Classical, Colonial, Prairie-style or Craftsman, Southwestern, or Contemporary designs. What are some hallmarks that help you identify a Victorian home, inside or out?
8.10) Learn more about decorated doors, such as the sculptured bronze doors of Ghiberti. As in 8.5, try your hand at pressing a similar design in a sheet of thin metal or foil. (Bas-relief also mentioned in 8.8 above).
Or, use a sheet of cardstock and a sheet of paper (or two sheets of cardstock) to create a paper craft with doors– “lift-the-flap” style. On the sheet of regular paper, draw the exterior or facade of a church, barn, castle, house, or apartment building, including at least one doorway or window; or make your own (Advent-style) countdown calendar by drawing a picture/design with at least 10 doors on a sheet of paper. (If you drew a building, you may cut the top of you paper to create a roofline.) Gently cut and bend your doors open. Lay the sheet of paper on top of the cardstock, carefully matching up the edges. Take a pencil & lightly trace the open spaces of your doors/windows onto the bottom sheet. Set your top sheet aside. On each of the pencilled door/window shapes on the bottom cardstock, draw the person, place, or thing you want to see when looking in through that opening– making your picture slightly larger than the pencilled outlines. When all the pencil marks are filled with drawings, carefully glue the top sheet onto the bottom, again lining up the edges. Enjoy opening your doors and windows!
8.11) Learn more about stained glass windows. Research an artist who works/ed with glass, such as Louis Comfort Tiffany or Dale Chihuly. Perhaps also research Pittsburgh’s glass history– glass as factory product, and as art; or learn more about glass artists in your local community (ex. monks at St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA).
9) MUSIC Activities:
9.1) Try to find out what sort of music C.S. Lewis liked– and listen to it.
9.2) Research, listen to, and learn more about one of the categories of music below:
–Coronation marches, or other music written for royal occasions (in honor of the kings & queens of Narnia). Which composers have received royal favor or patronage (any country, any century)? Pick one to research in greater depth.
–Scottish folk music and/or ballads (in honor of Mrs. MacCready); try to attend the Ligonier Highland Games (in September) to hear live pipe & drum bands and vocal & dance competitions
–English folk music (in honor of the Pevensies): ex. Susan Brumfield’s Over the Garden Wall: Children’s Songs and Games from England (book & cd, 1940s-1960s) ; or traditional, like “Greensleeves,” “Ash Grove,” “Turtle Dove,” etc.
–Christmas carols (in honor of “Joy for Joy, At Last It’s Christmas”)
–World War II-era music, including big bands and/or songbirds Vera Lynne, Dinah Shore, the Andrews Sisters. (We love the CD-collection Songs That Won the War.) Be sure to listen the iconic “White Cliffs of Dover” and playwright Noel Coward’s “Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans.” You can also read analyses of the music, like John Bush Jones’ Songs That Fought the War: Popular Music and the Home Front, 1939-1945.
–Medieval music: Listen to Gregorian chant, and learn more about Pope/St. Gregory the Great’s impact on musical notation. Research Hildegard of Bingen. Find some secular music as well, such as madrigals (check out the singing group Chanticleer) or folksongs with “hurdy-gurdy” accompaniment. What other were popular during the Middle Ages? Also consider “Bell” music– especially “Cast In Bronze,” music played on the Carillon (a massive Medieval bell instrument) at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Faire, and on CD & DVD.
9.3) RELATED MUSICALS:
- Christmas-related: A Christmas Carol, or Scrooge (1970); Irving Berlin’s White Christmas; Babes in Toyland (two versions exist: Laurel & Hardy’s 1934, & Disney’s 1961); Madeline’s Christmas; It’s A Wonderful Life (Harnick/ Raposo); Meet Me in St. Louis
- WWII-related: South Pacific; The Sound of Music; Cabaret; Irving Berlin’s This is the Army, Holiday Inn, and White Christmas; Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks ; On The Town; Walton Jones’ The 1940s Radio Hour; also mentioned in Yankee Doodle Dandy (starring James Cagney); and Sheldon Harnick/Joe Raposo’s It’s A Wonderful Life. Stage Door Canteen is a war-time romance featuring cameo appearances & songs by many stars of the era (demonstrating their patriotism & support for the troops).
- Medieval-related: Camelot; Monty Python’s Spamalot; Magic Treehouse: The Musical; possibly Kiss Me, Kate; any Disney musical with a fairy tale castle & royalty, such as Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin. Also, the ending of Disney’s Bedknobs & Broomsticks.
- Magical/ Mythical Character(s): Disney’s Pete’s Dragon (dragon); The Wizard of Oz (witches, munchkins); Wicked (witches); Into the Woods (witch, giant?); Xanadu (muses, Greek gods); Finian’s Rainbow (leprechaun); Magic Treehouse: The Musical (dragons, wizards, fairies?); Bedknobs & Broomsticks (witch, talking animals); the musical A Christmas Carol, or Scrooge (ghosts); possibly Cats (for talking animals) and Little Shop of Horror (for a talking plant?). Does Snoopy count as an intelligent/talking beast, as in Narnia? (Then add You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Snoopy.) And again, just about any (Disney, etc.) musical based on a fairy tale.
- Time-distortion musicals: A Christmas Carol, or Scrooge (1970); Carousel; Brigadoon.
- Imaginary/other worlds: The Wizard of Oz; Alice in Wonderland; Disney’s Bedknobs & Broomsticks.
- Christian: Children of Eden; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Jesus Christ Superstar; Godspell; Like a River of Light; Sister Act; possibly Disney’s So Dear to My Heart. Though they may not be true musicals, Going my Way (1944, starring Bing Crosby) and The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945, with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman) fit the time period. And if you’re brave enough, you can try watching one of the worst musicals ever made– The Apple. Mr. Bim, the devil-figure, tempts blue-jeaned Alfie & Bibi, who love & perform with each other (the ballad “Love, the Universal Melody”) in a music contest, and who almost defeat Mr. Bim’s spandex-and-glitter techno-rock group (singing “Hey, Hey, Hey, Disco Away”), with the apple of a lucrative recording contract. Bibi succumbs– but will she repent, and find the grieving Alfie, who’s joined a group of hippie dropouts from Mr. Bim’s regime, and will they receive any help from the unseen Mr. Tops?
- Other Religions: Fiddler on the Roof; Yentl; Book of Mormon
10) CATHOLIC CONNECTION Activities:
Possible topics for Research/ Discussion:
10.1) Research the impact of WWII on Catholics individually or collectively. (Consider picking a specific country to examine, in terms of civilians & clergy, or Catholics in the military & military chaplains.) Learn more about Just War Theory and pacifism.
10.2) Review the life & work of St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra — the original Father Christmas/Santa Claus.
10.3) Locate & discuss other instances of gift-giving in the Bible. Ex. Joseph’s colorful coat; Ex. Gifts of the Magi– What are frankincense & myrrh anyway? (Kevin Orlin Johnson’s Why Do Catholics Do That? gives a wonderful explanation of this– and many other topics.); Ex. Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and fruits of the Holy Spirit
10.4) Peter Pevensie’s destiny takes him by surprise, but under Aslan’s tutelage, he moves from untried newcomer to”High King Peter”– left to rule Narnia in Aslan’s absence. Re-read the story of Simon Bar-Jonah, simple fisherman, as he becomes a follower of Christ, receives the name Peter, has his strength tried, and finally takes leadership of the Church (Acts of the Apostles). Review the evidence from Scripture and early Church history that shows Peter’s position.
10.5) Some Christians reject the “Bel and the Dragon” episode from the Bible, as too “fantastical” & too unlike the rest of the Bible to be inspired. Why is a “dragon” included? What do we learn from this section of the Bible? Do you think the presence of a “dragon” suggests any use/acceptance of the fantasy genre? (What would you call this style of Biblical writing?) How does this “dragon” compare with other exceptional creatures in the Bible, like angels or demons, or possibly the “giant” Goliath? After discussing the Bible story, take the opportunity to review what it means for a book to be canonical, deuterocanonical, or apocryphal.
10.6) After realizing his betrayal and mistake, Edmund receives forgiveness and reconciliation. Find & discuss other stories from the Bible where characters repent and receive forgiveness (whether OT– Jonah & Nineveh, King David– or NT). Then, review the sacrament of Reconciliation.
10.7) English activities 1.7 and 1.8 promote a deeper understanding of poetry, and many of the poems mentioned have a Catholic connection (in topic, like Christmas; or because the poet is Catholic). Track some of these poems back to their source anthologies, and read more: Is there anything different, or definitively Catholic, about a Catholic poet’s approach to these subjects? [Anthologies: Flowers of Heaven: One Thousand Years of Christian Verse, ed. Joseph Pearce; Joyce Kilmer’s Anthology of Catholic Poets (updated 1937, 1939, 1955), eds. Joyce Kilmer & James Edward Tobin; The Harp and the Laurel Wreath, ed. Laura Bercquist]
10 Dec 2011 — written by Leigh Jerz; posted by Dennis Jerz
15 Dec 2011 — updated by L. Jerz