Happy 200th Birthday Frankenstein!


Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Literature, Creative Writing, Science – Ecology, Weather

Possible Art Concepts: Types of Art – Sculpture (Free Standing, Relief), Art Media – Mixed


Sorry this comes too late for a halloween themed lesson. Please tell me I’m not the only one just hearing about the bicentennial anniversary of the Frankenstein novel by Mary Shelly. Frankenstein, a green faced monster with the signature bolts in his neck and stitches on his forehead, is a character that most children recognize. Looking at just one recent Halloween Pinterest idea page alone, I found three Frankenstein ideas. Two were food ideas found here and here. The other was a popsicle craft idea found here.

You may be asking, why teach a lesson about this monster? At first, I thought the same thing, until I heard the story behind the origin of the book. In the summer of 1816, Shelly travelled to Geneva with her future husband poet, Percy Bysshe Shelly. They were visiting another poet, Lord Byron. That summer it rained virtually everyday. And, evidently, the non rainy moments were cloudy and gloomy. The cause of all these dreary clouds was a volcanic eruption in southeast Asia. Since Byron’s guests were stuck inside, he proposed each person write a ghost story. Mary Shelley was experiencing a bit of writer’s block, until one evening, when she overheard the men talking about a recent scientific experiment. In the experiment, a scientist touched a dead frog with a jolt of electricity and the frog body flinched. This led to a discussion about bringing dead animals to life using electricity. Shelly began thinking about the implications of a human-like creature brought to life by electrical current. And Frankenstein, the short story, was born! Two years later the novel was published. So, if it hadn’t been for weather and science, there might never have been a Frankenstein.

Light bulb moment! How about an ecology lesson inspired by Shelley?  First read the picture book, She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein, by Lynn Fulton. This book is most suitable for intermediate students. Discuss how the weather and the volcanic eruption contributed to the artist’s inspiration. Then ask students to brainstorm or research recent science news. I was thinking the great plastic garbage patch in the Pacific ocean is a good example. A similar story occurred at  Yellowstone Park when a geyser spewed steam and trash. Students could pretend that the patch has come to life. Will it take on an animal shape, a human shape or perhaps the shape of a wave? If you’re anything like I was, you have a stash of recycle items in your closet. If so, set up a Pop Up Recycle Shop in your room like the Boston Children’s Museum did in this post. Next, individually or as a group, students can plan, shop for and create a recycle monster. The monster can be free standing or glued to cardboard as a relief. I’ve found that tacky or wellbond glues work best for adhering plastic parts. Then, students can write their own modern day horror story about their monster. Students should include some suggestions for improving the plastic problem in their story.

You can also celebrate Frankenstein’s birthday with the primary crowd. First ask students if they are familiar with who Frankenstein is. Then read them the crazy book, Frankencrayon by Michael Hall. You can find a video version here. I love that Frankencrayon is created from three recycled crayon stubs. I also love that this story keeps going on and on after it has been cancelled . There is not only the Frankencrayon monster but also a scribble monster. After finishing the story, students can discuss whether Frankencrayon is a story or not. Does it have characters, a setting, a plot, a problem, and a resolution? Afterward, students can create more recycle characters from old broken crayons. Glue on some arms, feet, hats. Add facial features with a thin black marker. Some ambitious students can also make a scribble monster. Students may wish to create a sequel to Frankencrayon and use their recycled characters as puppets to perform their story.

For more monster ideas, check out my Pinterest board here.

So, what do you think? Could the Frankenstein story fit in your ecology or weather unit? How about a literature or writing unit?  Do you have some other ideas, thoughts? I’d love to hear. Simply click on the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and add your comment.

Stop by again real soon!