Because planning a program doesn't just take 5 minutes

On the Banks of Plum Creek

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Thingsplum-creekProgram Plan:

Start off by briefly discussing the book while snacking on lemonade, old-fashioned candy (hard candy & ribbon candy), and dried plums; if they get stuck on what to talk about, see suggested questions below.

Split into two groups to watch clips from season one of the Little House on the Prairie TV show.  The girls will watch part of episode 7, “Town Party, Country Party,” and discuss how it is like and not like the book chapters that inspired it.  The mothers will watch part of episode 15, “Family Quarrel,” in which Mr. and Mrs. Oleson decide to separate, and discuss the ways in which the TV show was influenced both by the 1870s, when the action described in the Little House books takes place, and by the 1970s, the era in which the TV series was created.

For the last 10 minutes, make button strings, using waxed string and a variety of buttons.  Before starting the craft, introduce April’s book, Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine.

What Happened:
Six mother-daughter pairs attended.  They started out by taking snacks to the table.  The lemonade was popular, as was the ribbon candy.  Most of the girls tried the dried plums, and a few tried the licorice ropes.  The other hard candies were less popular.

Little House is still extremely popular.  All of the mothers and most of the girls had read this book before.  For one of the girls, this was her first Little House book; another had read the first two books.  All of the mothers and two of the girls had seen the TV show, and most of the mothers had fond childhood memories of the book and the show.  Two of the girls had also written reports on Laura Ingalls Wilder, and another two families had traveled to one or more of the museums dedicated to the Ingalls family.  The initial comments on the book were all quite positive.  We went on to discuss questions #1 and #2 before splitting off to watch the TV episodes.

I stayed with the group of girls during the split discussion.  They noted several of the differences between the TV episode and the chapters it was based on.  We talked about how some things might be too gross to show on TV (like the leeches, which would have changed the scene of Nellie falling in the creek from funny to just yucky) and how the TV show was trying to appeal to both kids and adults.  I gave the adults an additional question, why Mrs. Oleson was changed from a nice character in the book to a shrew for the TV show.  They talked about their two questions for a bit and then did some Little House reminiscing.

After the discussions, we moved to the craft tables and worked on button strings.  I assigned a variation of discussion question #3 below (what would you want to tell your kids/grandkids about growing up now, and what do you want to know from your mom about what it was like when she was your age?)  No one really focused on the questions, but they did enjoy making the button strings.

Possible questions for discussion:

#1 In this book, Laura is 8 and Mary is 9, just about your age.  How are their lives (chores & responsibilities, schooling, play, interactions with family & friends) similar to and different from your own? 

#2 Would you like to live on Plum Creek in the 1870s?  Why or why not?

#3 This book was written in the 1930s, describing events that happened to Laura and her family in the 1870s.  If you were to write a book about your life, what would you want girls your age 50 years from now to know about growing up in 2014?

#4 Mary seems to have an easy time following the rules Ma and Pa give to the girls, but Laura finds it much harder.  (Discuss some examples?)  Have you ever been in a situation where you knew what your parents would want you to do, but you really didn’t want to do it?  What happened?


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