Hunger Games: The Exhibition has arrived in San Francisco and, since I live just 45 minutes away and the event folks sent free preview passes to every English teacher in my school district, we’re taking the blog on a field trip this week! (If you don’t live in the Bay Area and/or want to skip the review, jump to the Free Stuff area below to grab a few downloadable goodies.)
Okay, so the Exhibition folks are trying to woo teachers, marketing this as “a rich educational experience” that we should bring our students to enjoy – at a discounted rate of $15 per kid for groups of 10 or more. Sure it’s fun, but a “rich” educational experience? Not really. The space is slick and my teacher friend Annette and I happily nerded out for about an hour, but the exhibit itself is thin on educational content. (Imagine hundreds of costumes/props and lots of movie clips with just a dash of academic relevancy.)
This really shouldn’t be a surprise since the Exhibition was built to be a tourist destination, not a classroom. The traveling exhibit, expertly built set recreations mixed with clever tech elements, spent six months in Times Square this fall and is now in San Francisco for the next few months. The tour’s next stop hasn’t yet been announced, but L.A. seems like a logical choice. Tickets are $22 for ages 3-11 and $27.50 for ages 12-to-adult.
When Annette and I received the free preview invites, we had to check it out and our tweenagers were happy to tag along.
I’m definitely a fan of the series; I read and enjoyed all three books, saw three of the four films, and even dressed as Effie Trinket a couple times to pull my kids into Hunger Games-themed writing competitions. But as we walked through the exhibit (more of an ode to the films than the books), the idea of taking selfies in the Hob, climbing aboard the train to the Capitol, or chatting with a digital Caesar Flickerman just felt…sort of wrong. Panem’s a brutal world where people are forced to send their children to fight to the death, yet the Exhibition encourages us to place ourselves in this world as we follow Katniss’ path. Thanks, but I really don’t want to stand in Katniss’ lace-up boots. I mean, I’m happy to visit Hogsmeade and throw back a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, but Panem is a far grittier world and the Exhibition seems to celebrate it (seriously, some of Katniss’ gowns are g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s) rather than force us to reflect on the elements of our world that could lead to this sort of future. Again, I do realize the Exhibition was built for movie fans, not English teachers.
A Cornucopia of FREE Stuff for Teachers
But Lions Gate didn’t forget about us. On the Exhibition’s website, there’s an Education section where the company provides four bundles of project-based curriculum to use along with a study of the novels. One or two of the activities per pack are dependent on a trip to the Exhibition, but the bulk of these materials stand on their own. I don’t teach The Hunger Games in my class and most of the lesson materials are more appropriate for middle school students, but I’m impressed with the thought the company put into building these materials. And the best part? The curriculum is free and pieces of it could work for a variety of classroom situations. If you’re teaching the book/s, you’ll definitely want to dig through all of these materials; if you’re not, you still might find some jewels that would make good supplementary lessons for other units of study, such as the Hero’s Journey or the Holocaust. Just click on each of the curriculum covers to view/download the lesson materials:
The Bottom Line
I’m glad I went to the Exhibition and we all had a good time, but paying the full ticket price of $110 for the four of us to have 45 minutes of entertainment would’ve been a budget-buster. Also, I can’t imagine someone paying $22 to take a young child through the exhibit – not because of the blood and gore (there isn’t any), but because the kid would probably be bored. At the end, the tour dumps fans into a massive gift shop, where my kid saw a poster she liked but balked at the $49.99 price tag. “Oh please, I can get that for 15 bucks online,” she whispered to me. That’s my girl.
In terms of academics, there’s not a great deal of actual learning happening in the exhibit. For example, in Beetee’s propo station, students can build their own propaganda commercial, stitching together three clips from a pre-selected menu and then inserting their own face with the Mockingjay background as the closing shot. During my visit, the kids in that area weren’t learning about the power of media manipulation or even the technical skills of video editing; they were simply goofing around, taking silly pictures of themselves that displayed in a loop projection on the wall. Goofy fun? Sure. Educational gestalt? Not at all.
Still, if I taught middle school and we studied The Hunger Games and my kids deserved a treat and I had the energy to organize an outing, I would arrange a field trip to the Exhibition. As Annette said, “Teachers take kids to Great America and Disneyland all the time, so why not bring them here?” Solid point.
Despite my misgivings, I just had to say yes when a charismatic photographer asked us to jump aboard the green-screened chariot.
Annette said, “You look like you’re ready to kill everyone and I’m thinking I’m going to be the first to die. Pretty much sums up our personalities, don’t you think?”
And one more photo, just because Annette is the kind of friend who’ll let me publicly display such ridiculousness:
(Please note: I have no business affiliation or relationship of any kind with Lions Gate Entertainment. I received only free admission for myself and a guest. No other compensation was received and I purchased our chariot photos with my very own money – ask for the teacher discount! Permission was given to post all of these photos and images.)