- Posted September 25, 2013 by
"Axel's Chain Reaction": promoting special needs kids' self-affirmation through art and science.
A reality in today’s U.S. classrooms is that teachers must balance the requirements of high-stakes accountability, while meeting the needs of diverse students within their classroom. In August, the U.S. Department of Education’s OSERS released a “Dear Colleague” letter to school districts regarding their responsibilities in addressing bullying of students with communication, processing, intellectual, or emotional difficulties. Teachers’ roles as bridges to understanding individual differences are crucial in creating awareness among the rest of the school community about these student’s talents and strengths, instead of emphasizing only their limitations. Inclusion seeks to establish collaborative, supportive, and nurturing communities of learners. This can enrich the lives of all the students.
In the new story app "Axel’s Chain Reaction", children's author Allison Pomenta introduces young readers to a third-grade boy named Axel. A creative child who has a hard time connecting with his peers because of his distracted, fidgety behavior, Axel struggles with challenges that many children face: clumsiness, making friends, and on top of it all, Daniel, the class bully.
In an attempt to win over his classmates, Axel — inspired by examples of great Kinetic Art - strives to create an impressive moving sculpture.
This book app was created integrating interactions into the story from the moment the story was being structured, with the aim of not only enriching readers’ immersion in the story, but also deepening their empathy towards Axel.
Some interactions are necessary in order to make the story progress. Other interactions are optional, as they activate complementary character dialogues, thoughts, and images to expand the reader’s experience of the situations Axel goes through. If the reader wants to explore the illustrations in depth, there are also hidden texts that expand storytelling with additional information about Axel’s creative process. Animations and underscore important parts of the narrative, so enhancements are story-related and reinforce messages in the story.
“There are many children’s books about being different, but only a small percentage of fiction stories that specifically address developmental differences. Even fewer titles promote the notion of opening our minds to embrace these kids as part of the group, and celebrating their special interests or talents,” says Pomenta. “Most of the great innovators in art were considered ‘eccentric’ or ‘quirky,’ or even crazy. Nowadays, some of these creators would have probably been diagnosed as having autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s very important to give children a chance to express themselves according to their particular skills and abilities.”
Not only does the story itself offer a creative use of interactivity. The app includes open-ended games for creative play. Tapping on a tray in Axel’s kitchen will open the opportunity to use objects from Axel’s search to create any animal the reader can imagine, and then store the pictures in the device’s camera roll. An update to the app will include an open-ended 3D domino effect game. Here children will be able to form paths with lines of dominoes in order to form figures they can see from any angle, and place toys or props along the paths in order to activate these chain reactions with real physics behaviors.
The app includes hands-on projects with step-by-step instructions so kids between ages 6 and 9 can make their own kinetic sculptures. There are links in the Biographies section, to extend information about the artists featured in the story.
Axel’s Chain Reaction will be available on the Apple App Store on October 1. Android and Kindle versions will be available later this fall.
Trailer available on website: Axelschainreaction.com