Adventure Time!

Guest Article by Andrew Foltz-Morrison
Rutgers University

It wasn’t difficult to choose this theme. I love the show, and it gets played
regularly on Astro, the main satellite television provider, so many of my students
share this enthusiasm. I drew the logo for the camp in the school canteen, and
the students confirmed my suspicions by whispering “Adventure Time!” to one
another as they walked by. I introduced the helping teachers to the premise by
showing them an episode, but its manic pace, non-sequiturs, and short length of
ten minutes didn’t do much to help clarify exactly what it’s all about.

So what is Adventure Time all about? It features a boy, Finn, and his dog
companion, Jake, teaming up to explore dungeons, fight monsters, rescue
princesses, recover ancient equipment, and solve mysteries. It takes place in the
colorful, post-apocalyptic world of Ooo, which features Candy, Ice, and Fire
kingdoms, massive deserts, pine forests, crystal dimensions, and Lumpy Space.
The show appeals to me because it treats the problems in kids’ lives with
respect, realizes all its characters fully, and has a great visual style. But neither
the teachers at my school nor the ETAs who planned to help shared my passion,
so what could I do?

Fortunately, I had a team of students who had previously attended the Kota
Belud district English Camp who were ready and willing to help- and a few of
them had seen as many episodes as I have! So I set about preparing the
materials with them: crafting gemstones, making paper cutouts, and going over
the plan for the day. They were a tremendous help to me; I couldn’t have
finished everything in time without them. After a grueling Friday, we left our
supplies behind and arrived bright and early the next morning to set up for the

ETA Andrew Foltz-Morrison dressed as the Ice King

I dispensed with the usual introductions after the students arrived. Instead,
the students got attacked by zombies! The resulting game of zombie tag forced
the students to learn the rules on the fly, which was chaotic and fun. Once the
zombies were turned human again, we noticed that one of them dropped a very
important book: the Enchiridion. The book, we discovered, is a manual for
heroes: they must speak boldly and without hesitation, show respect for everyone,
help anyone in need, and fight evil wherever they see it.

English camps often feature competition between teams of students. In the
land of Ooo, things tend to go awry when the heroes don’t work together
effectively, so I wanted to emphasize cooperation. I divided the participating
students into teams, each exemplifying a different heroic quality: might, magic,
skill, and heart. After the teams were prepared, we heard about an epic quest for
powerful gemstones. The quest required them to decipher the password to a
computer, translate ancient runes, sniff out some clues in a forest (I hid them
next to some bits of durian for the distinctive smell), sneak past the Ice King,
and have a party in Lumpy Space. While all of this was happening, I was running
around, preparing things for later in the day. Once we got all the gemstones, we
stopped for lunch.

Making Gemstones for the Camp
After lunch, we could feel our power as heroes increasing. It was time for a
wizard battle to test our new abilities. I split the students into two teams. They
would all combine their powers and cast a spell at the same time as their
opponents. Earth magic triumphs over water magic, water magic prevails over
fire magic, and fire magic defeats earth magic. When a team was defeated, they
had to run away before the victorious wizards can tag them. If tagged, they
joined the victorious team for the next round. We continued until one team
emerged as the clear winner.
With the wizard battle complete, I offered the students a chance to relax
and visualize their newfound powers by drawing themselves as heroes. While this
was happening, I briefed my student leaders about the upcoming final
confrontation and played a trick on the rest of the students. Because they
weren’t watching the gemstones carefully, I got Marnikah, one student leader, to
steal them for me. By the time they noticed the gemstones were gone, it was too
late! Marnikah marched back triumphantly, announcing that she didn’t have the
gems anymore- she gave them to the Lich.
The Lich
The students gasped in horror as they realized that their quest had
backfired and put powerful artifacts into the hands of an undead wizard.
However, they didn’t give up- they were ready to fight their greatest foe! At this
point, I had vanished to play my part in the final confrontation. But it didn’t go
according to plan. The speaker I intended to use was overwhelmed by feedback
and shut down, leaving me without the ability to provide voiceovers for the
battle. As I attempted to figure out what to do, Annabel and Melvin, two of my
student leaders, stepped up like the heroes they were and improvised, in
English, their own version of the battle with the Lich.
I eventually snuck past the students, who were on a balcony overlooking a
courtyard, approaching them from behind on the ground. I pulled one of the
gemstones out of my bag, held it up, and called out:
“Looking for this?” The students turned to look, confused. “There was no
lich. It’s just a paper cutout! I took your precious gemstones. And not because I
want to destroy the land of Ooo, but because they can make me rich!” After a healthy dose of maniacal laughter, I dashed off at full speed, drawing every
student into a chase around the school. When they caught me, one student
created a mock sword by rolling up a sheet of paper, poked me in the back with
it, and marched me back to the school hall, where the students cried out their
disappointment. They encircled me, asking:
“So, sir, any last words?”
“I don’t regret what I did. I’d do it again if I could get away with it!” They
knelt me down, about to stage a mock beheading, when suddenly Asyraf, another
student, stayed the executioner’s hand, saying “no. We are heroes.”
None of the events after they caught me were scripted or planned in
advance; my students played their parts exceptionally. I debriefed the day with
the students, asking them:
“Who can be evil?”
“Ordinary people!” someone called out.
“And why might they do evil things?”
“Because they’re greedy!” said someone else.
I was so happy to see that they were learning so quickly from the day’s
events, and I couldn’t have been prouder of my student leaders, who did such a
wonderful job helping the students stay on track and in character despite
confusion. I saw some real heroes come out of a pretend quest.

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