Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Diorama Dilemma: "Back in the Day..."

A few weeks back I posted about Lindsey's diorama project for Earth Day. She was very proud of her project and had a great time presenting it to her class. It is now in her room on top of her bookcase, a bit worn for the wear but in one piece.

I remember having to make a diorama once in my entire grade school education, and that was in 6th grade. It was a nightmare.

My family had just moved to a new city and I started at the new school. This was a small town, and all the kids knew each other if not from kindergarten then from pre-school or daycare.

While small towns sound quaint, safe and friendly, I'll have you know that it takes years -- YEARS -- for someone who moves to one to no longer be "new in town." But that's for another day.

My teacher had sent home the project assignment, which was to make a scene from a favorite book, and I got started on it right away. Or should I say, my mom and I got started right away. I came up with the idea, she came up with how to create it in diorama land.

Perhaps my choice of books is what set me off from the rest of the kids: it was some sort of sci fi about people who had to live in a ecosystem bubble because they had poisoned the planet and couldn't live outside of the bubble any more. At least they thought the outside world was poisonous, but they didn't know that the earth had re-generated itself and that it was beautiful outside of the bubble; they were afraid to venture out until some kids showed them the way. think this is what the problem was?

My idea was to create a landscape with green grass and trees, and a large bubble in the middle of it with people walking out of the bubble. So we used green construction paper for the grass, made trees that we glued upright, and made a bubble from wax paper that we had to carefully craft into a sphere. I cut out human shapes and we glued them onto the grass.

The day the project was due I proudly carried it to school and before the school day started I set it in the back of the room along the window where we had been instructed to put them.

No one else's diorama was there. Not one.

No one had done one -- not one single other classmate.

So the teacher extended the deadline by two days.

A couple more trickled in.

She extended it by a week.

A couple more trickled in.

At the end of two weeks she called the final FINAL deadline and finally the majority of kids turned in their projects, though a few never did, a concept I could never grasp. What? Not do homework? But...what??

By the time the rest of the projects showed up, mine had been sitting in the back for over two weeks, being poked and prodded by my classmates. Someone had stabbed the sphere with a pencil multiple times, making the stuffing inside of it trickle out. It resembled a deflated, dented soccer ball. The heads had been ripped off of the people, the trees were smashed down, and it ultimately didn't resemble the finished project that had been turned in what seemed like an eternity ago.

Finally our teacher got around to grading all of the projects. I remember seeing her face as she went down the line and looked at them all, smiling at the new, freshly made projects that hadn't been abused. I will never forget the pursed lips and look of distaste on her face when she got to mine. She didn't even look puzzled, she looked faintly disgusted.

It was one of the worst grades on any homework I had gotten in my life.

The day finally came when we could take our projects home. I swept mine up and carried it home, letting it beat against my leg the entire way. When I got home I threw it into the big trash barrel in our garage -- it never even made its way into the house.

I never told the teacher that mine had been destroyed by my classmates before she'd ever looked at it. I was so defeated I didn't think it would serve a purpose.

Thankfully Lindsey's first experience was a good one. But when I saw her diorama come home a little dented and a little worn, it brought me right back to my first project. I am so glad she had such a different experience.

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