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Ideas for the Classroom

Below are several classroom ideas and discussion topics for using this year’s Campus Read, "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel, in all sorts of classrooms. Whether these be exercises specifically about the Campus Read, or warm-up discussion topics, we think you’ll find lots of value here.

The Bookmarks Exercise

This ice-breaker exercise makes use of the five Campus Read bookmarks containing discussion-worthy quotes

  • “Survival is insufficient.”
  • “Survival might be insufficient . . .but on the other hand, so was Shakespeare.”
  • “We traveled so far and your friendship meant everything.”
  •  “The more you remember, the more you’ve lost.”
  • “A life, remembered, is a series of photographs and disconnected short films.”
Have students choose the bookmark with the quote that resonates most strongly with them.Ask students to find someone else in the room with the same bookmark, introduce themselves,and explain why they chose that quote. After a few minutes, ask for volunteers to introduce the person they met to the rest of the group, read the quote in question, and summarize the conversation they had about both of their responses.If you need a selection of bookmarks, email humanitiescenter@mail.wvu.edu .

Worried about using excerpts?

If you’re concerned about students who may not have read the book, consider sharing the New York Times review of "Station Eleven" by Sigrid Nunez, Sept. 2, 2014.  

University Libraries LibGuide 
Check out this fantastic collection of reviews (including the one above), media appearances,and other resources related to Emily St. John Mandel’s "Station Eleven."  

Chapter Six: “No more . . .”

Chapter six is the most excerptable part of the novel, containing a list of experiences and  features of modern civilization that have been lost. The whole thing can be read aloud, or you  can focus on a specific part, such as the very beginning:

“No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and  nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and  relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas,  complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more  reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in  the room. No more avatars.”

Have students write briefly on some element of civilization they’d miss without the  technologies sustained by organized society and by public utilities like the electrical  grid. What would they miss? How would they replace that? What part of their  university education might they use to fill in those gaps? Using a think/pair/share  method, have students share their responses and report out.

A Discussion about Hopefulness

Consider Robin Parrish’s definition of post-apocalyptic linked below. A key quote:

But watch closely, and you’ll see a recurring theme in post-apocalyptic fiction: the rise of the  worst failings of human beings — cruelty, greed, suffering, a desire for power, selfpreservation.  Basic animal instincts of survival take over when people are stripped of all  pretenses and facades.

This year’s Campus Read seems to confound this definition—the book takes a hopeful  and optimistic view of humanity after the initial panic. Several questions might follow  from this observation:

  • Without the structures of society, are people likely to become more brutal, or are they likely to retain some humane features of our present culture?
  • What humane features of our present culture would you work to retain or recuperate?
  • How do your plans for your education / your major / your life after college reflect these priorities?Are those plans fundamentally optimistic about contributing to a humane society?

Parrish, Robin. “A Brief History of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction.” MythBuilders. 2017.  https://mythbuilders.com/brief-history-post-apocalyptic-fiction/ 13 August 2018.

Honors College Summer Reading Assignment

The Honors College asked their first-year students to arrive on campus having completed the  novel and written an essay. To see their prompts—to build on in your discussions or perhaps  to see what your Honors first-years have been thinking about—visit here:

Honors College Poster Challenge

Sections of the Honors Orientation course are doing a “Project Rebuild” poster competition, in  which students will create a " Station Eleven" -themed poster (8.5x 11) done in the style/motif of  the video game Fallout . The posters will be judged by leaders in the Honors Student  Association (HSA) and leaders in the Honors College.Two posters developed by students One says  Tips for Survival the other says Museum of Civilization 

Some other discussion prompts related to "Station Eleven:"

What makes a culture?

What are the uses of the arts?

What are the characteristics of human resilience?

What is the value of friendship in the context of survival?

What does the threat of violence do to our humane selves?

How do we remember and respect those we have lost?

How does a pandemic spread?

How/would we care for one another in the context of contagion?

What would healthcare look like without advanced technology?

What technologies would we pursue, reinvent, reinvigorate?

What knowledge and skill would it take to rebuild our technological infrastructure?

How would we educate ourselves without experts?

Add to the list! Email  the Campus Read committee   to suggest other activities