Back to the Future Day!

Back to the Future Logo

Days like today make me reminisce on all of the wild and wacky things I would do in my classroom.  There was the time I played the sound of a heartbeat as students entered the classroom.  Perplexed, they kept asking me, “Ms. Williams, what is that sound?  Is that a heartbeat?”  I kept playing it off, pretending that I heard nothing.  It was amazing watching them squirm and assert that they were not losing their marbles.  When I introduced them to our activity of the day, in which we read Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, it all made sense.  Back to the Future Day, the day in which Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly travels in time and discovers a wild future in Back to the Future Part II, is one that would have played so perfectly into classroom excitement.  Since I am no longer a day-to-day classroom teacher, here is what I would have done today if I were a teacher of the following subjects:

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math):
    • First and foremost, the HOVERBOARD! Imagine the students walking into a room with what looks to be a skateboard with no wheels sitting on the Back-to-the-Future-II-Hoverboardfloor.  It would have wires, magnets, and circuit boards attached to it haphazardly.  After having the students write one paragraph in their STEM notebooks (because, of course they would have notebooks), hypothesizing what it is that lay before them.  Then, I would provide a brief explanation…visually.  I would play a video clip of Marty McFly zipping through the future on his hoverboard before having the students divide up into groups.  Each group would explore the modern attempts made to create a hoveboard by Lexus, Omni, and Hendo.  Each group would first identify their overall thoughts, observed pros, and observed cons of the hoverboard they researched, they would then share their thoughts whole group.  The students would then compare and contrast the examples presented and use that to help them create their own brand of hoverboard.
  • Art:
    • If I were an Art teacher, I would use Back to the Future Day to explore the concept of modernity as it has been shown in art.  The classroom would be set up much like a gallery, but with iPads placed around the room, to showcase the work of artists from the 1950s to today.  After this gallery walk. the students would then watch a short scene from “Back to the Future Part II” and use that, plus one of the artists they observed in the in-class iPad gallery walk, to create their own work.  Their own work could be inspired by the artist they chose in the movie or it could be a rendering of how they imagine the future.
    • An alternate version of this lesson would employ some car design, where the students would learn about the DeLorean Motor Company, its rise, its demise, and its rise to iconic status.  They would then design their own cars that they think could also become iconic.
  • Social Studies:
    • Class would start with the students walking into the classroom decorated to look like it was the Wild West (or the mid-1800s).  With the student desks in groups, each group would feature a metal bucket with rolled up maps placed inside.  Of course, I would not answer a single question about the maps until the right time.
    • In the movie, Marty McFly does not change geographical locations as he and Doc Brown embark on their travels, but in time.  With this in mind, I would have the students watch a brief clip showing when Marty and Doc are transported to two distinct placements in time.  Thereafter, the students would be presented with maps of the school’s community.  They would work in groups to identify which maps were from today, which came from ten years ago, and which came from fifty or one hundred years ago.  They would make observations about these changes and pair this with their prior knowledge to identify potential reasons (other than population growth) for the changes in the community’s layout.
  • Language Arts:
    • I absolutely LOVED teaching English Language Arts because any of the lessons here could be used to teach literacy, grammar, audience, tone, etc., etc., etc.
  • Math:
    • Um, no ma’am.  Math is not in my wheelhouse.  That said, perhaps I would challenge the students to identify places within the film where math would have had to have been used.
  • Film Studies:
    • This film would pair so nicely with others that predict the future such as the “Terminator” films, any “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” film, “Mr. Nobody,” or even the so-called first science-fiction film “Metropolis.”  I would embark upon a whole unit or section of study on films that focus on the future.  The students would be invited to consider the historical context in which the films were made, the genre of films they explored, as well as the features they found made some versions of the future more believeable in some films than others.

Alas, I am no longer in the classroom on a daily basis, but I know many awesome educators who would be willing to create crazy connections to days like today.  If you are such a teacher, please do not hesitate to use the inspiration above to make some classroom magic happen!  If you do, please let me know and I would love to come to see it in action.  If you’re to afraid to do so, I’ll gladly come to your room to co-teach with you for a day (seriously).  While I cannot tell the future, I think its safe to say that ultimately a fun classroom is one where students love being and one in which we educators love working.

To quote the great Doc Brown, “your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.”

Until next time,

Ms. W.

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