Exploring Earth Deconstructed

Exploring Earth Deconstructed

ZaZu Lippert

Co-reported with Chetana Ramaiyer 

For the past few weeks, it was difficult to go through a single day on the MVHS campus without hearing about “Earth Deconstructed: Before the Flood,” an event put on by MVHS faculty and students in partnership with the Tech Museum. From trying to get Leonardo DiCaprio to attend to creating videos and stories for the event, this is the story of how it came to be

AP Chemistry teacher Kavita Gupta was about to leave Chicago to drop off her son at college and was asking friends for any book recommendations. Someone suggested a popular book at the time — “The Martian.” At first, MVHS AP chemistry teacher Kavita Gupta wasn’t all that interested. After her friend convinced her to read the first chapter, however, she couldn’t put the book down. And that’s when she started to think about the possibilities for the book being integrated into her curriculum at MVHS. In the previous years, the chemistry department had an end of the year project called “Fact or Fiction,” where students would pick a movie or a book to fact check. That year, however, Gupta envisioned a different direction for the already formulated end of the year project for her students — the Martian Deconstructed.

“We’re evaluating the truth. Fact or Fiction is not just science. [So] then why not engage Drama and Art?” Gupta said. “Kids can use the medium of their choice, but they can still learn to think critically around issues.”

Science teacher Kavita Gupta at Earth Deconstructed. Photo by Gauri Kaushik.

Gupta began by cold calling different museums in the area and received a response from the Tech Museum, where The Martian: Deconstructed event was held, and where the legacy continued with Earth Deconstructed. After the successes of last year’s event, Gupta discussed with some teachers and they decided to do it again.

Panelists for the Earth Deconstructed event answer questions posed by the student panel. Photo by ZaZu Lippert.
Panelists for the Earth Deconstructed event answer questions posed by the student panel. Photo by ZaZu Lippert.

Over the summer, she watched the documentary “Before the Flood,” which features many different aspects of global warming. For this year’s event, however, there is a much greater contribution from different departments. From math and history to drama and French, teachers of all different grade levels and subjects were involved in helping coordinate and plan the event. According to Gupta, this collaboration of different departments benefits the students to learn the subject matter in different ways.

“Learning processes are the same, skills are the same, critically thinking about something, analyzing something has similar steps,” Gupta said. “It may look different in different disciplines, but the steps that are taken [to master] these skills are what the end product looks like.”

Most of all, however, Gupta hopes that this event becomes something for students to remember. To this day, Gupta describes how she looks back fondly at productions and plays that she participated in when she was in elementary school. At The Martian: Deconstructed, students came up to her telling her that they would never forget that night.

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“I’m just excited to experience student enthusiasm and energy when they stand in front of these projects and explain them,” Gupta said. “I observe them from a distance engaging with content matter experts and these students are just gung ho about this subject matter … I’m excited for people to say ‘You’ve got the best students ever!’ and I say ‘Yes, I do.’”

Dramatic Effects

Advanced Drama performs their skit at the event. Photo by ZaZu Lippert.
Advanced Drama performs their skit at the event. Photo by ZaZu Lippert.

Art teacher Tyler Cripe’s Advanced Multimedia class partnered with MVHS’ drama department to create the official trailer for the event. Junior Samantha Millar was heading the team from Advanced Drama Honors and was working with Cripe’s class to create it. Throughout the process, they researched what makes a dramatic trailer, coming up with concepts for Cripe’s class to consider for the final product. Later on Millar would do the voiceover for the final trailer. The cause has personal importance to Millar, as well. “[Climate change] is an extremely vital problem that is endangering our earth,” Millar said. “And currently, we have no other place to live.” Meanwhile, the Advanced Drama class prepared a short skit on climate change to perform at the event, titled “We’re All in the Same Boat.” The skit was created using original quotes from the documentary “Before the Flood,” which was the anchor text for the event.

From Fiction to Facts

Photo by ZaZu Lippert.
Cripe’s class’ photo tree at the event. Photo by Chetana Ramaiyer.

Advanced Multimedia and Photography teacher Tyler Cripe got both of his classes involved this year with the event. His Photography class created a tree of photographs, each with a little climate change message on them. Having participated in The Martian event held last year, Cripe has seen a progression between the two. “Last year, we took a piece of science fiction and tried to find the truth in it, and try to pick out the parts we could actually teach around science, the real things,” Cripe said. “We’re doing quite the opposite this year, where we’re taking something that is proven science even though [others disagree] and we’re trying to kid of build off of it and defend it more.”

Breaking the Language Barrier

French teachers Melanie Lhomme and Sarah Finck at the French booth during the event.
French teachers Melanie Lhomme and Sarah Finck at the French booth during the event. Photo by Chetana Ramaiyer.

For French teacher Melanie Lhomme, Earth Deconstructed gave her the opportunity to use environmental French vocabulary of her curriculum, which focuses on the environment. Students used the vocabulary to create a French video with English subtitles regarding the environment and conservation in different areas of France, demonstrating that the issue extends beyond the United States. Lhomme saw the event as a great way to be able to apply the French language outside the classroom and also to impact the community. “When you go and you actually present it and the community is invited, it really shows how relevant what you’re doing is in the real world,” Lhomme said. “I think it’s inspiring for the community to come and see what you’re doing, to see young people work on real world issues.”


For more coverage of the event, click here.