The first week of May has two important pop culture events: May the Fourth and Free Comic Book Day. These fan celebrations are great ways to connect to student learning and camaraderie both in and out of the classroom. More and more, students are interacting actively with media in terms of their interest in characters and immersive communities.
When I was growing up, the May 4th “Star Wars Day” existed only as a pun and has exploded over social media the past 10 years. Most of my colleagues knew of my fondness for this space franchise and when the day began to be celebrated with fun tie-ins for kids both young and old, I naturally incorporated it into my classroom. I was particularly excited for this year’s being the first in person occasion in three years and the first since arriving to my new school two years ago. I was pleasantly surprised when colleagues showed up in some Star Wars hair and shirts with stuffies of various characters, and since our principal encouraged us to be inclusive and call it “Space Day”, there were many star and moon ensembles as well.
Students enthusiastically showed up at nutrition break to my room wearing various outfits, including some in costumes. They participated in word searches, Mad Libs, and fun poses against a galactic backdrop. What pleased me the most was that many years ago, mostly only boys would have these shirts and plushies on hand. The fan culture has catered more and more to all genders with various characters and positive representation that appeals to a wider variety of fans.
Free Comic Book Day is a wonderful opportunity to check out the local comic book store and begin the journey to learning about superheroes and villains in graphic novel form. Students enjoyed drawing using step by step videos of characters from their favourite cartoon shows and were encouraged to check out events at their local library. Once again, more inclusivity in terms of characters’ backgrounds and ethnicities leads to more children seeing themselves represented on the big and small screen and in the pages of books that are a great resource for a variety of reading styles.
The terms ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ can be used to negatively stereotype both neuro-divergent and neural typical children with interests and personalities that don’t ‘fit’ into society norms. It’s empowering to see students embrace ideas that being a fan, whether comics or sports, is something that can introduce lifelong friends and talents.