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The Young Jedi Academy: How One Teacher Awakened the Force in His Classroom

From the moment you first read the glowing blue words and heard the bracing orchestral swell that kicks off each film, it’s always been easy to love Star Wars. Now that The Force Awakens has ignited our collective geek passions, this feels like a great time to highlight a Jedi master we know to be especially strong with the force—teacher Andy Yung of P.S. 244, the Active Learning Elementary School, in Flushing, Queens. He started his own Jedi Academy at the school. Teaching Star Wars in the classroom is a genius, crazy idea, and I can’t help but love it.
“Many of the elderly people in our neighborhood engage in tai chi exercises using swords,” Mr. Andy explained. “I thought we could do the same but with lightsabers.”
Mr. Andy’s students, a group of 11 made up of his former pre-K class, love it so far, and his training sessions are filled with memorable moments like the time a 2nd-grade girl exclaimed, “I’m actually sweating from this!”
Even if they aren’t Star Wars super fans (yet), to his young padawans, it’s another way to exercise and because it’s so popular, they can easily participate and have fun with the cultural reference while they move. In the class, he and the students stretch, run, eat snacks, work on their breathing, engage in reflex exercises, and top off their routines with lightsaber choreography.
For Mr. Andy, it’s a blast. He’s a huge fan of the franchise as a whole, and has even dressed up as different Jedi to go to Comic-Con every year. He’s even gotten costumed photos taken by news outlets like the Village Voice and Gothamist.
But even that nerd-cred didn’t prepare him for the first day of this activity. He had an itinerary planned, but was unsure of what to expect. His students impressed him by taking to it like champions.
“They were so focused on getting their feet the right way and holding their light sabers correctly,” he recalled. “We were still working on the choreography when another after-school class came down for dismissal. Since they were early, they sat and watched. The reaction from the other kids was hilarious. They wanted to switch over and become Jedis!
“When the class ended, we had had so much fun. We couldn’t wait for the next day,” he said. “I couldn’t wait for the next day.”
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Check out a few great portraits Andy took of his students after letting them borrow his own personal lightsabers. Do these shots remind you of some Force Awakens posters?
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