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Let the Hunger (and learning) Games begin

Alissa Widman Neese • Oct 16, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Sporting a hot pink wig and her best television announcer voice, Diane Zam dipped her hand into a bowl of names and enthusiastically bellowed each selection.

Conor Cadigan, 12, a fan of the popular book and movie series “The Hunger Games,” laughed as Zam and other Port Clinton Middle School teachers attempted to portray its characters Monday.

One by one, Zam called out names of Cadigan’s classmates, randomly selected to represent one of 12 teams in the school’s adaptation of a Hunger Games competition.

Then it was his turn.

“I didn’t think I’d get picked but I was hoping to,” Cadigan said. “I’m really looking forward to competing.”

Throughout the rest of October and most of November, Port Clinton Middle School seventh-graders will read the first book of “The Hunger Games” and re-enact it through friendly, educational contests.

The lesson is one of several “interdisciplinary units” at the school, which aim to unite topics across various class subjects — in this case, mostly language arts and social studies.

“The Hunger Games” takes place in post-apocalyptic North America. The title competition is an annual event in which a teenage boy and girl from each of a nation’s 12 districts are selected to fight in a televised battle to the death.

Author Suzanne Collins based the book on a seemingly odd combination: reality television, war and Greek myths. At Port Clinton Middle School, the games are a little less threatening. “I don’t think there’s going to be any fighting to the death here,” Cadigan joked.

In the school’s Hunger Games, students will participate in various mental and physical challenges each week, said Mallory Myers, a seventh-grade language arts teacher. The team that wins the most contests earns a prize. Each student will have a role in the competition, with those selected at Monday’s ceremony serving as their leaders.

Myers, who portrayed main character Katniss Everdeen on Monday, coordinated the unit this past year during the first movie’s release. The book and movie series is still very popular among middle school students, as its second movie, “Catching Fire,” is set to debut Nov. 22.

“We’re going to compare and contrast the movie and the book, discuss characters and themes and also the author’s inspiration,” Myers said. “Even those who have already seen the movie or read the books still have a lot to learn. They really enjoyed it last year.”

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