Colorado high school combines writing class with cli-fi novel by local author
Boulder Prep High School is using the cli-fi genre to hook reluctant readers and science fans on language arts.
The year-round charter school in Gunbarrel is piloting a class that combines climate change science with literacy using a cli-fi book written by local author William Liggett.
"We have a lot of science oriented students who hate language arts," said Boulder Prep Headmaster Lili Adeli. "We were trying to find an interesting way to offer language arts for them. It's worked out really well."
Math and science teacher Justin St. Onge, who's co-teaching the class with Adeli, met at a book signing at the Boulder Public Library for his novel, "Watermelon Snow."
They struck up a conversation, developing an idea for a cli-fi class based on "Watermelon Snow." Watermelon snow is the term used for snow that's painted pink by algae that grows on glaciers — and the pink snow absorbs more sun, melting it faster.
"Watermelon Snow," which published in June, is about a female professor who leads a team studying the Blue Glacier in the Olympic Mountains of Washington. The plot includes a NASA behavioral science observer and a storm that forces an evacuation.
"It's a science-based cli-fi adventure," Liggett said.
Liggett joins the Boulder Prep class each day to observe and answer student questions as they read the book.
"Having the author here so we could ask questions was extremely important," said junior Tristan Bloom. "I've learned a lot about writing books."
The class alternates between reviewing students' science topics and teaching language arts. In a recent class, students listened to a short cli-fi story, then filled out a story map with ideas for characters, a climax and rising and falling action to help them write their own short story.
"It's a really interdisciplinary way to teach climate change science and reading and writing skills," St. Onge said.
Freshman Brian Palmer said it's been "a little easier" than a more traditional "boring" language arts class.
"There's actually some science," he said. "It's interesting learning about it."
Sophomore Keegan Theiss said he signed up for the class because he was interested in climate science.
"It's been great," he said, adding that he's learned about the possibility of diseases springing from melted ice caps and the dangers of rising sea levels.
Senior Alex Tarrant read ahead of the class, finishing the novel early.
"I got really into it," Alex said. "The author used so many details. I could really visualize it and see what they were seeing. I really like science, and I'm not as into language arts. This made language arts better for me."
Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/boundsa