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Chaos Ensues! Teaching Jurassic Park via Chaos Theory

By Sarah Degnan Moje

Themes of Chaos Theory are repeated throughout "Jurassic Park". This lesson provides an easy way to teach a complex theory to your High School English class.

Jurassic Park & Chaos Theory: High School English Lesson Chaos theory, in and of itself, might be almost un-teachable to high school students. It is a complex string theory that requires a great deal of in-depth mathematical analysis. Luckily for those of us teachers who have delved into the world of Jurassic Park, Crichton’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm, does an excellent job of watering down chaos theory into its simplest explanation. He also uses the fractal curve, a form of geometry, to enhance his explanations and the book comes with drawings of each stage of the curve, that shows how to predict that the park will prove to be a liability.

As readers and English students, one of the best lessons for our classroom would be to have students develop an essay which supports Dr. Malcolm’s claim that the park will erupt into chaos. Again, Crichton has done most of the work for us, by having Malcolm introduce each section of the book with a quote explaining Chaos Theory and a drawing to illustrate the curve. All we need now are quotes from the novel to support his findings and we have the makings of an excellent analytical paper.

Use the downloadable power point to better understand each quote and what it represents within the framework of the story. Then, as you read, find quotes to support Malcolm’s basic theme for each chapter and once you are done with the novel, the outline of your essay will be complete. This is a great way for students to engage in an ongoing writing task throughout the study of the novel and it is also a great way to teach them to continue to use in-text support when writing about one of their readings.