By Nolan Patrick Smith
High Desert Daily
(Apple Valley) A special education class at Granite Hills High School is once again breaking the mold for class projects. Mr. Dunn’s class has produced magazines focusing on technology and Steampunk this year, with more to follow. I know what many are wondering; wait, what’s Steampunk?
“Steampunk is kind of a dress up, renaissance faire fun thing to do,” explained Bryan C. Dunn, Special Education English Teacher for juniors and seniors at Granite Hills High School. “It started off like Dungeons and Dragons, the role playing game. One of the games that branched off of that was Diesel Punk, which was a role-playing game. A branch off of Diesel Punk was Steampunk. Diesel Punk was set kind of in a World War 1 type of era where the technology was advanced but it ran on crude machinery. Steampunk is taking a step back; it’s where the technology has advanced, computers and robots and all that, but it’s all clockwork and steam powered. Levers and pulleys, very little electricity, coal oil, all with a Victorian bend, so there are a lot of the top hats, corsets, cogs, goggles are a real big thing.”
The idea of a high school class producing a magazine, let alone on such a drastically different topic from today’s modern society, would almost seem unheard of if you never met Mr. Dunn and his dedicated class. “The paradigm of teaching has shifted and whereas we used to be the resource, we are no longer the resource. Kids don’t need the teachers anymore to give them the answers, but to guide them. We have the Internet, kids can look on their phones to see what a noun or verb is. We need to be the resource of resources, we need to be a clearinghouse, and we need to guide them rather than teach them. So when it came about, I thought “how can I make this learning practical? Pragmatic, applicable to everyday life?” I teach students with learning disabilities, I teach students with special needs. What can I do to get them to see that this writing, this reading, this editing, is pertinent? So I thought, we will publish a magazine. That way they have to write, they have to edit, they also have to use the technology. They have to use the Internet for research, they have to know where to find the information.”
The skills the students learn in the class include utilizing computer programs such as Microsoft Word and Publisher, as well as Adobe Photoshop. Of course, the skills obtained through the course fall right in line with California’s educational expectations. “This meets all the California State Standards, which is ideal,” Mr. Dunn said about the various skills his students learn during the span of the class. “It kicks it up a notch, now they are not just doing a hand out; they are actually producing a product. It also builds integrity: when my student’s leave high school, they will be published, they will have published a magazine, they understand what it’s like for a business. They have marketable skills now.”
Students not only get hands on experience with the Steampunk culture, but many got to visit Steampunk events for free via a press pass, as well as interview some famous figures in the scientific field. “We have two main magazines that we cover: the first one is a Steampunk magazine called Steam Powered Teen. The other one is called New Era; it’s more of a cutting edge, technology gadgetry, whatever is on the horizon magazine. We have a good interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, the host of NOVA scienceNOW and one of the premier scientists out there.” Tyson, an astrophysicist and science communicator, is world renown for his work and is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York.
The students have grasped to the idea of Steampunk, but that wasn’t the case at first. Apple Valley resident Akira McMillian, 16, one of Mr. Dunn’s students, spoke about her reluctance at first to dive in to this science fiction like culture. “Well, it’s a good experience, very fun. I didn’t like it at first, because you know how kids are; “ugh, doing magazines, it’s hard work and stuff.” But actually, when you put your mind to it, it’s actually a fun experience. It’s pretty cool; it’s not what I expected. I didn’t even know it existed.”
Another student, Julian Lones, 17, of Apple Valley, spoke about his experience with Steampunk, and what he thinks about the class thus far. “It’s pretty wonderful, actually. We got to make magazines that sell world wide pretty much. Actually, I signed up for a website called Steampunk Empire, and with pretty much everyone on there, all they do is Steampunk. So I went on there asking people why they do Steampunk. They replied back, saying that it is something to do in their free time, or that they love the non-fiction part of it, the Victorian style. Some people like to keep it old school, pretty much.”
Disabilities that the students have include auditory processing disabilities, visual processing disabilities, high functioning autism, ADD, and ADHD among others. But it is not the disability that is focused on: “While they have a learning disability or two, they have hundreds of learning abilities,” Dunn spoke about his class. The atmosphere in the classroom is one of a bustling newsroom, with excitement in the air and the sound of keyboards being put to good use.
All the issues produced so far this year, as well as the issues from last year, are available at www.daspub.org. If you would like to donate towards the printing cost or would like more information, please contact Mr. Dunn at Granite Hills at (760) 961-2290 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.