The Stars At Night

Ponyboy and Cherry at the drive-in!  If it’s been a long time since you read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, you might not remember the critical scene between the two at the Nightly Double.  Under the stars, these two young people find common ground despite their differing social affiliations, the Socs and the Greasers. 

The Outsiders, published in 1967, has been called the first ever young adult novel and was actually written when the author was in high school.   The Outsiders is the required summer reading book for all seventh graders at Greenhill, and they typically begin the year immersed in the two rival gangs and the struggles of the Curtis family.   

Written from the perspective of fourteen-year old Ponyboy, the novel connects our students with the characters and as well as its relevance to current times.  But a drive-in?  What student in the Class of 2016 has even been to a drive-in?  Seventh grade Composition teacher Adam Holt offered a great writing opportunity to his students … head to the Galaxy, a drive-in theater in Corsicana, to experience the atmosphere, see the first run movie Secretariat, and return to write about the night. 

Over fifty seventh graders took him up on his offer.  Organized by super-mom Dani Butowsky and braving some serious tornadic activity, a caravan of cars headed to Ellis County and one of the few operating drive in theaters in North Texas. 

In their follow-up writing pieces, the students do not have much to say about the actual movie.  Their papers, instead, focus on positioning the car just right, hearing the sound track through the radio or through the speakers, and ordering snacks at the snack bar.  It seems that several car batteries required jump starts after using the radio for the entire movie, but that was a minor inconvenience.

Seventh grade student Megan noted, “This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I would not have known about it if it were not for this assignment…The movie was touching, but what made it even better was that I got to see it at the drive-in.  The drive-in makes watching a movie even more exciting.”

Megan’s classmate Sahil offered a different perspective: “During the movie, I looked up once.  What I saw were stars everywhere.  I remember that the last time I saw them was on the fifth grade campout because of air pollution.  They were really nice to see that night, with clouds and lightning off in the distance.”

So our seventh graders did not see a Paul Newman movie, like the characters in The Outsiders, but they were able to place themselves right in that very same environment, forging a connection to learning that can’t be accomplished in the classroom.

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