'Hunger' in the classroom

When Kieran Reynolds heard he was going to be reading "The Hunger Games" in his eighth-grade English class at Brethren Christian Junior and Senior School, he went to hunt for the book in his room.

"My son read the whole series before it was even a class project, and he saw the movie," said Patricia Reynolds, Kieran's mom. "He loved it."

The book had a much more realistic feel in the second read, Kieran found. But the story become even more realistic. After finishing the novel with his English class, which is taught by Cara Cutruzzula, Kieran found himself as a character in the story Wednesday in Cutruzzula's first annual "Hunger Games."

"The Hunger Games" is a trilogy of popular science-fiction novels written by Suzanne Collins. Through the voice of narrator/protagonist Katniss Everdeen, the series tells the story of a futuristic society in which its young citizens are entered into annual "Hunger Games" where they fight to the death.

"It's really just about giving them the experience of the novel in a real, authentic way," said Cutruzzula of why she decided to start her own nonviolent "Hunger Games."

Just like in the book, Cutruzzula's class of about 45-students was divided into districts, or class systems, of four or five and participated in a "reaping" to select the students, or "tributes," who would compete in the games. Those who weren't chosen in the reaping served as stylists and trainers to the tributes.

"It's an engaging book, but it also has a main plot, a subplot and a very strong theme I wanted them to learn," Cutruzzula said. "I wanted them to try and experience what the kids in the book would be experiencing in the situation."

Each district developed its own unique game and the tributes competed in all 10, with two tributes being eliminated in each round. The games ranged from makeshift archery contests and potato-sack races, capture the flag and other activities that tested the student's knowledge and skills on a wide range of subjects.

Elizabeth Meador, 13, said the entire project took about a month to come together.

"It's been fun and interesting getting to know other people more," Elizabeth said of the group aspect. "You have to compromise to decide on something to do."

While there were many similarities to the actual story, Cutruzzula's students were obviously not thrown into an arena where only one emerges. Cade Bullock and Justin Hudgens were the two eighth graders who proved victorious in the "Hunger Games" at Brethren Christian.

When asked what the best part of Cutruzzula's English class has been this year, Elizabeth didn't hesitate.

"So far this," she said.

When Brethren Christian returns from Christmas break, Cutruzzula's class is going to do a report on how the world they live in today became the dystopian society it is in Collins' novels.

"Anything that brings literature alive I think is a great idea," said Saundy Hill, a class parent and volunteer/judge for the games. "I think it's a great teaching tool, especially for kids who don't love to read."


Twitter: @TCNShortall

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