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“Super” way to end year at Longfellow Middle School

Super Hero LongfellowIt's not every day you see Wonder Woman walking the halls of Longfellow Middle School, but last week, the superhero and a host of other comic book and fantasy characters could be seen roaming the hallways as part of the school’s Spartan-Con event. The event was a school-wide exploration of elements of fiction and the promotion of reading.   


“Spartan-Con was conceived by our language arts teachers as an event to engage our students, give them opportunities to apply their English language arts and reading skills, and keep them excited about coming to school,” said Nancy Rodriguez, Longfellow principal. “It quickly blossomed into a multi-disciplinary event involving teachers in a number of content areas. It was really great to see so many teachers leverage the concept to create excitement among our students.” 


The two-day extravaganza allowed all students to participate in the fun, no matter what subject they were studying.   


Students developed and filmed Spartan-Con commercials, which were shown leading up to the event during morning announcements. The teasers contained costume ideas and highlights of some of the exciting lessons planned for the event. In their language arts classes, students studied a hero’s journey in literature and discussed the journeys of their favorite characters.   


During Spartan-Con, the students celebrated those characters through cosplay, and language arts classes were transformed into the famous Hall H of San Diego Comic-Con – the center of the pop culture universe. The students watched premieres of the newest trailers from Marvel, Star Trek, Dune, and many more, analyzing the imagery, characterization, and effectiveness of the trailers. Then they traveled to the library where they extended their thinking by analyzing how the same movies were marketed internationally. Additionally, the students worked on murals, took superhero-themed pictures, and tested their superhero knowledge. 


The Language Arts Department felt it was important for students to have books to read over the summer.  They created onomatopoeia-themed swag bags for every student containing books, supplies, and treats. These bags were available for virtual and in-person students. School librarian, Tina Duffy, and a team of volunteers made custom Spartan-Con buttons and face masks. 


“Initially, we planned to use high interest stories and characters to increase student engagement in our own ELA classrooms,” said Daniel Guerra, Longfellow language arts teacher. “But after we got into the planning, we realized Spartan-Con could be a great opportunity for our IB World School to stage a cross-curricular celebration of creativity! I feel very fortunate to work with a dedicated group of teachers, administrators, and staff that all came together to make the event a huge success.”  


Incorporating comic book-themes into science lessons, Longfellow teachers used the video game Mario Kart to engage students learning to calculate the speed of moving objects. They also capitalized on the mutant powers of Marvel's X-Men characters to anchor discussions about DNA editing and the human genome. 


“My favorite part of Spartan-Con was seeing the creativity and enthusiasm of the students as they celebrated the fandoms they are passionate about,” said Veronica Goldbach, Longfellow special education teacher. “This was the perfect way to honor great stories and encourage self-expression, all while having fun.” 


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