“Who done it?, Sleuthing & Self-discovery” is designed for 7th and 8th grade creative writing students. Much of the information contained herein can also be applied to other disciplines as well, such as theatre, social studies, and English. The unit is comprised of various sections relating to the genre of crime fiction, and it offers topic-specific information in each section by way of storytelling, literature, and videos of movies and television shows.
Under Title II of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act—which acknowledged the arts as core subjects comparable in importance to traditional content areas—an arts program curriculum such as this one should be aligned to certain criteria as set forth in the document, “National Standards for Arts Education” (published in 1994). This document is a 142-page book composed by the Consortium of National Arts Education Associations, and was funded by grants from the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Cultivating the whole child, building many kinds of literacy, developing intuition, reasoning, and imagination, are some of the aims of this unit plan that align with the arts program standards, and many of the activities have been designed with these goals in mind.
The focus on the crime fiction genre in this unit is intended as a means to combine the linear and sequential learning inherent in the educational paradigm we have come to expect through such content areas as social studies, language, science and math, with the intuitive and oftentimes ingenious creativity we hope for from students in our arts program. Since crime fiction heroes tend to engender this type of multidimensional thinking, they should serve well as models for our students. From the fastidious sleuthing of Sherlock Holmes to the action-packed adventures of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the “Lethal Weapon” movies, students are offered a variety of personas and methodologies with regard to problem solving, logic, deductive reasoning, and issues of moral and social responsibility.
Crime fiction can also be easily integrated into various academic and arts disciplines, owing to its broad historical scope and flexibility in crossing over into other genres. The playing field for interdisciplinary study and activity is broad. Therefore, breaking through some traditional (educational) turf barriers is part of the objective of this curriculum unit. Overall, the unit employs the genre of crime fiction in order to focus on experiential learning for students through practical and aesthetic applications that directly affect them in a positive and productive way: They gain the values of self-esteem, integrity, teamwork; they have fun, and they find learning a living, breathing, “real world” experience. It is to this audience of middle school students that I dedicate this curriculum unit in the hopes that it will entertain and excite them as well as aid them in their enormous task of “growing up,” which, at this point in their lives, seems to happen at the speed of light.