the “hunger games” curriculum.

beyond the political satire of the different districts, such as corporate mining villages in the global south, there are lessons to be teased out of the gory ’child vs. child’ narrative of “The Hunger Games” for environmental educators and naturalists.

emulating characters, events, and skills from “The Hunger Games”, such as having the ability to make a bow, quiver, arrows out of the woods,  is a controversial means of hooking kids back into environmental education by using their passion for popular culture against them.

sounds strange, i know, but it’s incredibly effective, and, arguably not just for kids. since seeing the movie, i have made this quiver from black willow and a half dozen arrows from goldenrod, manitoba maple, evening primrose, and other lightweight plants; and truth be told, even though i have been shooting a bow since i was the age of Rue (from the story) and making baskets for awhile now, this is the first quiver i have made…


this adaptation from pop culture certainly isn’t news…..using hobbit invisibility cloaks, or harry potter invisibility cloaks, or jedi invisibility cloaks, to inspire kids (and maybe yourself) to hide in the forests and fields is a popular strategy. it’s odd how much life and detail you see when crouched in a bush or behind a tree, waiting for prey or predators you imagine to be around…

but there is a huge difference between nature hide & seek and the intergenerational gladiator-style bloodbath of”The Hunger Games”. the desire to become the heroic characters in the film opens a door to conversation about fire by friction, bows and arrows, water, shelter, and others on the list which can otherwise be hard to smoothly bring up with a class of kids and their teacher. the key to delivering such curricula lies in redirecting the passion for the story and film away from bloody conflict or awkward teen angst and into skills which, through using natural materials, invites connection to the natural world. the stronger their passion for the film, the deeper their connection to nature. sound too good to be true? well, it takes something to improve on and teach the requisite skills needed to become Katnis….haha

but seriously….in “Catching Fire”,  the handrill used by contestants in a training scene, for example, was a bit flimsy.  and, rather than having Beetee (the techy) work the handrill alone, Katnis would have been better off having all three contestants work together, one after the other, to ensure that friction was properly applied. (i cannot help laughing at myself writing that last sentence–feels like gossip). but to continue: the fire board or hearth (the piece of wood they were pushing into with the hand drill between their palms) was improperly made; the hole needs to be nearer to the edge of the fire board, and have a notch cut in it to collect dust created by the smokey friction, which then amasses in heat and mass and becomes a coal, which then can be transferred to a tinder bundle and blown to flame.

this video illustrates fire by friction, and was made by sticks and stones wilderness school, whose courses cover many of the skills requisite for teaching kids, teens and yourself the ‘hunger games’ curriculum.

anyway, it is great to get kids and teens to try and make fire this way, and tis quite the challenge.

my intention in posting today’s blog is to initiate creative discussion on how to extrapolate lessons from pop content (which you may not approve of)–not really to critique the story, especially since i have not read the books.

my favorite recent incidence of using kids’ culture against them, in order to teach healthy lessons, comes from the land of infinite zombie books and movies. a camp counsellor was expressing frustration about a group of boys in her care; whenever the boys were drawn out into the woods and fields, they would instantly and irrevocably fall to chatting about zombies. all further inroads created to interject nature lore were eaten by their zombie minds (i love this sentence, btw ;).  luckily i was leant a book not long before, which could cure the boys, and subsequently her, of the zombie problem:  “The Zombie Survival Guide”


this is not directly related, but funny, i thought. A great/hilarious use of zombie culture (union station, 2008 i think) to get attention for climate change issues.

anyway, we managed to find a couple passages to read to the boys in camp about being able to hide and build shelter in the forest, which brought the program back on track, though still in the guise of zombie-survival. every day she would read a passage to pacify them, and inspire a group of eight to be able to survive the coming battle.

i imagine all these different characters, their dress, accents, weapons changing infinitely, nevertheless teaching the same lessons through guided imagination, teaching the same story to successive generations of kids, whether through the battles of gladiators, or man vs beast/nature/other people, and now children ala “The Hunger Games”.In the end the point is: remember who the real enemy is!

this enemy is not just whatever industrial mechanisms of control and oppression are being mocked/portrayed through “The Hunger Games” story, but the medium through which it is being displayed to us all: the theaterswhich pedal gmo corn and sugar, sensory deprivation and advertising, and the intention of an entertainment corporation to subvert moral messages in literature when adapting for the big screen, all for private gain….in some regards, it’s logical to stay away from the story altogether, since the gore and medium outweigh the leverage gained by using the survival scenarios from these stories, until you are ready to make a friction fire in -10c with a foot of snow like in toronto this evening…….

i’m sure friends at can help with this if you live in toronto…..good luck….and may the odds be ever in your favor!