'Star Wars' mania becomes a force in schools and classrooms

115008 full
115008 full

"Star Wars" mania is in full force just weeks before the seventh film hits theaters. Riding that wave, some Los Angeles Unified schools will host "Star Wars"-themed, anti-bullying assemblies next year.

Local members of the "Star Wars" costuming organization 501st Legion plan to travel to schools in galaxy garb spreading the message that bullying is a bad use of the force. It's a program called Heart of the Force. 

"A lot of times using characters brings the point across more to younger minds," said Scott Allen, leader of the 501st Legion's Southern California group. 

The idea is that if kids see the bright green alien Greedo getting picked on by a pack of sleek, white storm troopers, it may mean more. The group will put on short, interactive role-playing presentations and have children take a pledge to respect others and stand up for what's right.

The 501st Legion's Wisconsin and Utah chapters have performed the anti-bullying program a few times, but they hope to roll out the program more significantly in LAUSD schools.

"Star Wars"-obsessed teachers have been using the movies as a tool to teach all sorts of concepts.

At Davis Magnet School in Costa Mesa, fifth-grade teacher Danielle Lopez is known as "The Star Wars Teacher." She has a "Star Wars"-themed classroom decked out with posters and toys. She's used light sabers in physical education and droids to break down engineering concepts for the math and science magnet students.

She also uses references from the films to organize her class. When she plays the "Star Wars" main theme, "that means, come sit down on the carpet." Table groups are named after planets from the films, like Cloud City, Endor and Kashyyk.

Caption: Fifth-grade teacher Danielle Lopez organizes her class into "Star Wars" planets. Credit: Danielle Lopez

And she's not alone. The website Star Wars in the Classroom has a database of nearly 400 teachers, known as "The Rogues," who incorporate concepts from the films' stories into their teaching -- even at the high school level. Teachers post ways they uses Star Wars to hammer home history concepts or character development techniques.

Lopez says the site is great resource to trade ideas and build a community from their shared passion. "I’m not the only geeky teacher out there, there are other geeky teachers and they’re doing some really neat things." 

With the new movie coming, she says students are even more engaged with the content. She can’t wait to see "Star Wars: Episode VII" for more inspiration. 

We'd love to hear from you! If you’ve used Star Wars as a  teaching tool, share your stories in the comments.

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