If you’re reading this as a parent or teacher I want you to know that I am on your side. Below this brief essay are links to summaries of a few of the “lessons” incorporated into the various books in the Star Trails stories. As a series it’s helpful to read them in sequence but each is a self-contained volume which can be read independently. Depending on a student’s interests, one volume may hold more appeal than the others. Thus, I’ve provided a glimpse of the educational content of each volume in the links at the bottom of the page to guide your decisions should you decide to include them on your reading list.
These discussion and lesson plan suggestions are also included in the Star Trails Compendium which you can download for FREE on Smashwords and various other retail sites (except Amazon, who insists on selling it for $0.99). If you like what you see, you may want to purchase a print copy which is available through Create Space or Amazon. Also note that I have a “Physics Explained” blog you can visit here and a blog which contains one example of the science content in Beyond the Hidden Sky with my suggestions for further discussion which you can find here. –MF
I chose to target readers in the adolescent to young adult range, i.e. 8th grade and above, hoping to inspire them as old-time science fiction writers inspired me. I didn’t learn much science from them as I had hoped but it did fascinate me enough to provoke interest. Star Wars inspired a new generation and continues to do so today in spite of faux pas’ like the misuse in Episode IV of the term “parsec.” If you find any such mistakes in my work I encourage you to let me know! Other than the necessary excursions into science fiction which are purely speculative or the product of imagination, I have made every effort to include accurate scientific principles or at least rationale based on them. Thus, readers will hopefully learn something along the way.
I recognize that Star Trails is not for everyone. It’s directed toward young readers who have a thirst for knowledge in science, math, physics and engineering as well as modern social issues without being intimidated by a somewhat challenging vocabulary. My goal is to incorporate basic information related to these disciplines within the plot to educate and stimulate learning while entertaining the reader, painless learning, if you will. While my goal is not to present information in a pedantic style, it’s possible that students who don’t have an interest in these subjects may skip those sections in search of the next scene that involves lively plot action. Face it, even adults will do that from time to time when overwhelmed with what seems to be too much information or extraneous detail. Furthermore, the expansive vocabulary may bring challenges.
In addition to a sophisticated use of English words, there are numerous technical as well as fictitious terms created specifically to establish the stories’ extraterrestrial foundation. A glossary of terms and definitions is included on this website for words unique to Star Trails as well as some technical terminology not in everyday use. (This glossary is included in the Compendium as well as all the information in the Cyraria section of this website.) Readers who are interested in science and the joy of learning new words should figuratively “eat it up” as an appetizer for furthering knowledge. Face it, a youth’s brain is like an unfragmented hard drive that absorbs and stores information much more easily than that of an adult. But as noted earlier, this series is not intended for the “average” student.
Today’s multi-media technologies provide the means for an environment which help address the many learning styles whereas past generations were stuck with only one, primarily that of the auditory learner. As a visual and kinesthetic learner that simply didn’t hold my interest, exacerbated further because I was ADHD, youngest in the class, introverted, and had a surname that began with “U” which placed me in the back of the classroom year after year. Providing individual attention is a teacher’s greatest challenge and it’s horrifying to think how many bright students get lost, believe they are stupid, or lack confidence simply because the teaching style didn’t match their natural abilities. Unfortunately, history repeated itself and many of my children suffered a similar fate.
I hope to think these books will contribute one small part toward a solution, not only to solve the boredom issue but also show context and relevance, which is another complaint of many students, bright and otherwise. Not knowing why they should learn something is another huge demotivator. When science, sociology, history and politics are put into context it can help fuel students’ interest more than rote facts. When I was in school back when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth all I remember from history class was having to memorize dates and to some measure specific events without knowing the context or reasons behind them. Later it was a major “Aha!” moment to discover what was really going on as I got involved in genealogical research and developed a deep love and appreciation for history.
Another consideration is that with the multi-media explosion currently saturating the modern world it’s also possible that reading fiction may become a thing of the past, overcome by movies, television, YouTube, video games and other visual effects which require little if any imagination. Einstein once stated that “Imagination is more important than knowledge” which begs the question whether lack of use will ultimately dull that ability in upcoming generations? Einstein came up with his amazing theories through the use of what he called “thought experiments” where he would use his imagination to speculate on unfamiliar concepts such as traveling at the speed of light. If he had been living today would he have even considered such excursions of fantasy? Perhaps these stories can also be used as an intermediary source to encourage reading as entertainment so literary skills and imagination are maintained with the added benefit of learning something along the way.