Lesson Plan #26

One Day You Will Die and that Death Is For Real (And Not Pretend)

An Educator’s Reference Desk Lesson Plan

Submitted by: Sister Daisy Podaidae

Email: nunofyourbeeswax@gmail.com

Date: March 31, 2009

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Where are your students going?: To discover humanity’s terrible secret.

How are they going to get there?: One way or another (barring pre-recognition “sudden death”).

How will you know when they’ve arrived?: When the read out on their Mental Dolorimeter strikes Exquisite Anguish/Bullet Ant of the Mind (on the Voight-Schmidt Sting Index).

Grade Level: 2nd Grade.

Subject: 2nd Grade.

Duration: One (1) class day.

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Description: Teach your students that one day they will die and that death is for real.

Goals:

– Instill recognition of mortality, the resulting value of scarce time, experience and opportunities
– Cultivate practical/applicable notion of infinity, finity, and the stark, terrible smelling difference between the two
– Make those sonsanddaughtersofbitchesandbastards squirt blood tears

Objectives:

– How is this different than goals?
– Is it less abstract, more checklist based?
– Make those sonsanddaughtersofbitchesandbastards sit through this and do it.
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Materials:

– Obituary Section of Local Paper
– Boombox w/ Dual-Cassette Deck
– Radio Station that plays All the Hits of the 50s, 60s, and 70s
– Audio Cassettes– enough for everyone in class (optional)
– Mental Dolorimeter (and all necessary electrodes, wires, bindings)
Labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges [El Hacedor? The Book of Sand?]
– Ten (10) gerbils
– Ten (10) knives
– Sensory Deprivation tanks (enough for everyone in class) with Internal Intercom
– Or, barring the budget for SensDep, Those Gel Filled-Blindfolds– enough for everyone in class
– and A Whole Bunch Of Sleeping Bags (extra-padded, with that glossy-ish ripstop exterior shell)– enough to cover, completely, the floor.
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Vocabulary

Adenosine-5′-triphosphate: a nucleotide that, when no longer produced by the non-functioning brain, causes rigor mortis.
Autolysis: the destruction of a cell by its own enzymes; it is a vital aspect of creating excellent champagne.
Ballistics: the study of the motion of bullets.
Cadaveric spasm: or cataleptic rigidity, a non-rigor stiffening of the muscles that occurs, rarely– usually during violent deaths. A picture of Jerri Blank’s dad.
DNR: Get Out of Coma Free card.
Euthanasia: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.
Free Radical: a substance of interest in the case of “How do we Age?”
Glaister Equation: Hours Elapsed since Death = (98.4 – rectal temperature) / 1.5
Gomphertz-Makeham: law by which risk of mortality increases exponentially with age.
Homeostasis: a system that regulates itself in order to maintain stability, order and balance.
Lime: a rock that dissolves human bodies.
Luminol: chemical that is capable of detecting blood, no matter how good you clean it.
Mammalian Diving Reflex: blood is diverted from all organs to the heart and the brain when the face (and just the face) is submerged in cold water, conserving oxygen
Mummification: a corpse whose organs and skin were preserved by an ancient recipe and then bandaged to lock in all eleven secret herbs and spices; DO NOT TAKE ITS JEWELS!
Pathologist: sexy mystery-solving doctor/YYYYYYyyyyyeaaAAAHH!
Pro Patria Mori: loving your country so much you gutter, choke, drown; fumble, as if in lime.
Rigor mortis: one of the stages of death in which absence of adenosine triphosphate causes the corpse to become stiff and difficult to move.
Senescence: even if nothing happens, even if you are the healthiest person on earth, you will still die anyways AS A MATTER OF COURSE.
Serology: the science of serums in the bloodstream.
Thanatos: the death-seeking better half of Eros in Sigmund Freud’s early 20th century neurology fan fics.
Turritopsis Nutricula: the lone exception; the jellyfish turritopsis nutricula is biologically immortal and, unless killed, will not die. Instead, after reproduction, it has the ability to revert itself back to polyp stage, thus recurring its life. “The Beginning is The End is The Beginning,” indeed, Mr. Corgan!
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Procedure

Instructor-led Introduction: Read to students from Borges. Break their brittle little minds with the weight of infinity; leave them susceptible to recognizing death.

Small Group Activity: Divide the class into ten groups, ideally of 2-3 students per group. Give each group a gerbil. Give each group a map of the gerbil with 3 spots marked.

If the students execute your incisions according to the diagram, the gerbil shouldn’t die until each student has had a chance to claim a hand in its passing.

Until you recognize– in action– your ability to take life, how can you weigh seriously you own mortality?

Listening Activity: Using the boombox, tape beforehand a collection of the best death songs from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This includes, but is not limited to: “Leader of the Pack,” “Tell Laura I Love Her,” “Last Kiss,” “Ode to Billie Joe,” “Seasons in the Sun.” “In The Year 2525,” while not strictly speaking a death song, certainly overwhelms the brain with notions of infinity, human extinction, and the fact that even by the first date they mention Everyone You Know And Love And Could Possibly Ever Know Will Be Long, Long Dead. Bring this tape to class and play for students.

For a better, more easily studied experience, use the second tape deck in your boombox to make a copy of the tape for each of the students.

Whole Group Sharing: While the children are at recess, move the desks and chairs and line the floor with the unzipped sleeping bags. Distribute the masks at a child-size interval. Turn out every light and shut the blinds. Make the room slightly too cold or too warm, whichever it wasn’t outside.

Once they return, instruct your students to lie on the floor and put on the mask or enter their SensDep units and turn on the intercom.

Read to them the following:

When you are dead you will no longer be able to partake in physical existence, but neither will you be able to observe.

You will be dead

but you will be unable to recognize your death.

Your consciousness will cease to create,
and your synapses cease to fire,
but you will be unable to acknowledge this absence.

Stop to think:
Think about being unable to think about being unable to think.
Think about the fact that the world, which until this point had existed only in your conception of it–
only in your persisting observation of its existence–
will not stop existing.

The world which had continued while you slept, to have changed upon your waking, will continue to continue while you can no longer sleep, will still have changed while you can no longer awake to observe its new condition–

People will still lead lives, even the people you know.

You will be unable to receive any feedback about these lives.
You will be unable to receive any feedback, period.
Your story finished, the myriad stories still unraveling will continue to unravel.
Try to think about thinking about these lives.

Try to think about your inability to think about them.

Think about every single life, every single observable phenomena, even those occurring off-screen, happening to the distant kin of friends of friends you never had.

The darkness when you close your eyes, sans the softness of the pillow.

The abdication of heft that your body relents once it climbs under the covers,

sans the softness of blankets.

No comfort, no constraint; not even the feeling of your eliding eyelids placing you there, in sleep:

All that remains is the stasis of body, now permanent, and the loss of thought that

follows.

None of this will actually disappear; all of this will exist, but not for you.

End of Thought Exercise

Give it a minute to sink in.
Maybe read it again.

Cosplay: Lighten the mood at the end of the day by having the students dress up as their favorite stage of death!/:

Pallor mortis – paleness that occurs 15-120 minutes after death
Livor mortis – a purplish red discoloration of the skin that occurs due to the heart ceasing to pump blood (starts 20 minutes – 3 hours after death, reaches maximum lividity 6-12 hours)
Algor mortis – steady reduction in body temperature until body matches ambient temp.
Rigor mortis – without ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), the body’s muscles cease to be manipulatable, become stiff
Decomposition – when the tissues of the dead organism break down and return the body’s borrowed matter back to Life; occurs in four phases
Fresh/Autolysis: first few days after death, homeostasis ceases and autolysis begins; acids, gases, and volatile organic compounds are produced; flies.
Putrefaction: odor, color change, bloating; hair sheds, skin becomes slippery, bacteria invades, ditto flies (moreso than before).
Decay: the body cavity ruptures, gases escape and color darkens; bones start to reveal themselves; increased diversity of flies and their children; wax and mummification.
Dry: have you seen the Ghost of John? Long white bones with the last of the soft-tissue removed from the body (Ooh, ooh…)
Skellington – (…oohooh ooh ooh-ooh) wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on?

Costumed play allows students the Tralfamadorian experience of being their once-and-future selves, alive and dead, in communion.

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Useful Internet Resources:

That Budd Dwyer video

Other Resources:

Faces of Death 1, 2, and 4
“Get a Room,” by Jim O’Rourke

What To Do While You Are In Bed, Alone, At Night:

– Cry
– Listen to the tape you made
– Fully embrace your loved one/one you’re with taking bodily note of the entire fullness of the hug, that no further constriction will result in increased proximity, and that soon enough one of you will stop
– Oh no wait, you are by definition alone.
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