New Traditions Taking Off: The 5th Grade Comic-Con and Toy Study

What is your superpower? How will you use it to fight injustice?

These are the questions presented in the first annual 5th Grade Comic-Con & Toy Study culmination. Throughout the year, 5th graders have engaged in interdisciplinary projects that uncover the stories lying beneath topics familiar to us. In this inaugural showcase, students dug deep into the purposes, impacts, and potential of super-people and mass-marketed toys. In the integrated toy study portion, students explored questions like, What would we find if we looked at toys and games throughout history? What messages do super people intentionally and unintentionally send? What is the design process for creating a video game? Why are stereotypes about young adults so similar around the world? Are there certain toys and types of play kids should be engaging with? What barriers to equity exist and what can we do about them?

Students channeled the super (s)heroes within by creating custom super people personas based on their values, identities, and unique talents. Each super person had a catchphrase, theme song, name, and power pose to be empowered in mind and body. Throughout the process of building up their characters, students partnered with Cappy’s Boxing Gym to learn new boxing moves that helped the (s)heroes feel strong in their bodies. Each student showed off their moves and performed their “super speech” that told who they are and what they believe to a full audience.

In the months leading up to the culmination, students analyzed popular and subculture toy and game markets, looking for tends in American culture and history. They identified and evaluated marketing differences based on gender, age appropriateness, and environmental costs. After taking all of this into consideration, they planned, designed, and created their own functioning toys that meet 21st century standards for neuroscience, equity, and environmentalism.

Among many lessons gleaned from this culmination, the 5th graders proved just how powerful youth voices and movements can be. Each one of our students has a unique super power, and we can’t wait to see them use these powers for good in our communities.