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Taking ‘The Outsiders’ into the great outdoors

Photoshoot recreates pivotal scenes from classic novel

East Grand Rapids — Those weren’t hoodlums recently seen roaming Gaslight Village. Those were East Grand Rapids Middle School students in hoodlum garb — jeans, sneakers, letter sweaters and leather jackets — to recreate scenes from the novel they were reading.

Three of language arts teacher Amy Marlow’s classes fanned out recently at Collins Park, near the empty water fountain and just inside the parking deck, dressed as “greasers and socs” from “The Outsiders.” 

The 1967 novel by S.E. Hinton or the 1983 movie of the same name is about a rivalry between poor and privileged gang members.

The novel serves as Marlow’s kick-off to a unit on contemporary classics.  It’s also the eighth-graders’ first experience in middle school reading a novel as a class.

Isabelle Babinski, who dressed as the greaser character Johnny in jeans, a muscle T-shirt, jean jacket and boots, had read the book before. Classmate Kenna Kettler, who played a soc character in a letter sweater, jeans and sneakers, said she was enjoying the novel so far.

“It’s nice to pick up a good book,” Kenna said. “I like how it goes in depth behind the characters, and also how their personalities and characteristics are all different.”

A New Way to Engage

It wasn’t the first time Marlow assigned the book for class, but it did mark the first time she tried the photoshoot activity. 

“I’m really trying to think of things that give them a little bit of a break from the grind of our typical online school work,” she said. “Even though we’ve been fully in person most of the year, we still have kids who are also Zooming into our classes each day.” 

Students learning from home also were invited to participate in the photos.  

Marlow said she’s noticed that her students enjoy creating photoshoots in their free time, “so I thought this book created the perfect opportunity to mimic that passion.”  

The photoshoot coincided with the point in the novel students were reading, when characters Ponyboy and Johnny get jumped in the park, and Pony is held under water at the fountain. Obviously, no students were harmed during the reenactments. 

“My hope is that it really helps them connect to the characters in the novel, as well as deepen their comprehension because of their interest and passion for the book,” Marlow said. “When they pretend they are one of the characters, I think their reading of that character throughout the novel will take on a whole new role.”

Marlow plans to amass the photos as a presentation that students will caption, then share it with other students and parents. 

Classmates Jan Timek and Quinn West said they were all for recreating more scenes out of novels. If he could pick the next one, it would be “Lord of the Flies,” Jan said. “Anything with a lot of action in it.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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