Do your kids love all things Star Wars? If so, it’s time to bring the Force to your homeschool through a George Lucas Unit Study.
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George Lucas and his legacy have been longtime dinner conversation topics in my home. My husband is a lifelong Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan. My son has had me researching Star Wars storylines on Wookiepedia since he was four. And my daughter? She was sleeping with a stuffed Yoda at the tender age of one.
Indeed, the Force is strong with my family.
It’s no surprise at all that we frequently find ourselves learning more and more about George Lucas, his life, and his contributions to filmmaking. Since Lucas’ work is universally appreciated, I thought a unit study would be a great way to share what we’ve learned over time.
George Lucas: Background Information
It’s probably safe to say that George Lucas never dreamed he would one day be a household name when he was a young boy. Born on May 14, 1944, George Walton Lucas, Jr. grew up in Modesto, California. While his family owned an office supply company and he could’ve easily found a spot in the family business, Lucas wasn’t interested in learning the family business. In fact, he wasn’t interested in learning much of anything. For Lucas, school was about blending in and getting by instead of thriving and exploring.
As a teenager, Lucas wasn’t any closer to thriving. His teen years were focused on fast cars and rock-n-roll, but not much else. By the time high school graduation rolled around, he still hadn’t found his academic sweet spot and was still working on his final assignments a few days before graduation.
Fortunately, Lucas found the direction he needed, though it came in a horrible, unexpected way. Three days before his high school graduation, Lucas was involved in a nearly life-threatening car wreck. Lucas could no longer race cars, – his one passion up until that point – so his father presented him with an 8-millimeter movie camera so that he could film cars instead.
That movie camera was the beginning of a new focus for Lucas. He started viewing independent films and reading books about film. He even enrolled at the local junior college and took courses in anthropology, sociology, literature, and creative writing.
Entering Film School
After earning his associates degree two years later, Lucas began looking into film school at the University of Southern California. This felt like a great match for him because it would allow many of his interests to come together and it wasn’t difficult to get accepted to the program because film studies weren’t popular at that time.
While I’m sure his parents were happy that he found direction for his future, they weren’t particularly thrilled with him choosing film school. His father would’ve preferred for him to join the family business and film school was a far cry from selling office supplies.
Nonetheless, Lucas attended film school and found his niche. He learned, experimented, and made a name for himself among his fellow film students. It wasn’t long after his USC graduation that he received a scholarship from Warner Brothers that paved the way for his career. This scholarship helped George establish a friendship with another up-and-coming film industry trailblazer, Francis Ford Coppola, and that friendship laid the foundation for Lucas’ career.
Filmmaking with the Force
That friendship between George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola eventually became a partnership and led them to create their own film company, American Zoetrope. One of the films produced through American Zoetrope was THX 1138. THX 1138 was Lucas’ first film, but it received mixed reviews at best and didn’t bring in good box office sales. In fact, it nearly ended American Zoetrope and caused Lucas to have a difficult time finding support for his next film project, American Graffiti.
Thankfully for Lucas, American Graffiti turned out to be a box office success. This film loosely based on Lucas’ teenage years still received a few negative reviews, but end the end it didn’t matter. It earned more than $50 million for Universal Studios. The best part, it was produced on a $750,000 budget. Lucas’ profits for American Graffiti made him a multi-millionaire. That financial success was nice, for sure, but it played a big part in Lucas’ ability to approach filmmaking with the Force from that point forward.
From a Star Wars perspective, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power and it’s what holds the universe together. From a practical application perspective, it’s your inner voice and your intuition. The success of American Graffiti afforded Lucas the ability to proceed with his next project following his instincts and his vision for the film and the story it would tell. He was now in a position to use the Force, that intuition, to guide him as he created Star Wars.
That opportunity to follow his own vision for the Star Wars story made a difference. Star Wars: A New Hope broke all the records, raised the bar for filmmaking, and continues to impact generations of fans more than 35 years after it released. You probably know the rest of this story, but Lucas went on to create five more Star Wars blockbusters, four Indiana Jones movies with friend Steven Spielberg, television projects, and continued to build his Lucasfilm empire before selling it to The Walt Disney Company in 2012.
George Lucas Unit Study Resources
George Lucas Free Printable Pack
I’m sharing lots of great resources to go along with a George Lucas Unit Study in the section below, but first I want to let you know about the free printable pack I created. It contains six pages notebooking-style pages for George Lucas biographical information, character qualities, copywork, and more.
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George Lucas: What to Read
As much as George Lucas may be a household name, I find it interesting that there aren’t too many good, kid-friendly reading options to use in a unit study about him. That’s partially why I provided that ridiculously long bio at the beginning of this post. 😉 That said, I’m happy to share the good reading options I found with you:
- George Lucas on Biography.com – This is a good overview of Lucas’ life and probably the best one I found online.
- George Lucas on IMBD – His IMBD listing includes a brief biography, trivia, and quotes.
- Who Is George Lucas? – This book is perfect for children who are looking to learn more about George Lucas. It was published in 2014 and includes recent developments in Lucas’ life such as him selling Lucasfilm to Disney and his marriage to Mellody Hobson in 2013. I Am George Lucas is a comparable reading selection if you’re unable to find this Who Was book.
- George Lucas (A&E Biography) – I borrowed this biography from my local library and found it to be a great unit study resource. Although it was published in 1999 and doesn’t include recent happenings, this one is an especially good choice for older kids and middle school students because it digs a bit deeper than the Who Was book.
George Lucas: What to Watch
Star Wars is an obvious choice when it comes to viewing suggestions for a Lucas-inspired Unit Study. That may come in the form of the original trilogy, the prequals, the Clone Wars cartoon series, Star Wars Rebels, or even some of the LEGO Star Wars movies.
Note for any Star Wars purists out there: I realize the Clone Wars, Rebels, and the LEGO movies may not be purely George Lucas’ Star Wars, but I include them because they’re more likely to be a better viewing match for younger kids who are learning about Lucas.
If you have older kids or teens, you may also want to incorporate American Graffiti or one of the Indiana Jones movies into your study. Beyond watching the films that Lucas created, here are a few good options for learning about his life and career.
- Icons: George Lucas, Season 1, Episode 3 – This is a good overview on Lucas and his career. You can watch it for free through your Amazon Prime membership. (Click here to add it to your watchlist)
- Power Players: Screen Power, Season 2, Episode 8 – Also available for free through Amazon Prime Video, this episode starts off focusing on Steven Spielberg, but moves into Lucas and his influence on the film industry around the four minute mark. (Click here to add it to your watchlist.)
- George Lucas Interview Clips – My YouTube playlist contains interview clips from Charlie Rose and Oprah Winfrey. These are all good because they’re short and well done.
George Lucas: Hands-On Ideas
While there may be more to George Lucas than Star Wars, most of the hands-on ideas for our unit study center around his legendary franchise.
- Diorama – Lucas enjoyed building detailed dioramas as a child. His diorama experience was a great help to him while designing movie sets for Star Wars and his other films. Ask your kiddos about their favorite Star Wars scene and build a diorama inspired by it.
- Star Wars Chalk Art – Draw BB8 or the Death Star with chalk pastels. (Pin it here)
- Star Wars Character Tutorials – Art for Kids Hub has tutorials for Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, Yoda, Darth Vader, and more. These are especially great for younger kids because most of them have a more cartoon feel to them.
- Star Wars: Build a Galaxy with Code – My kids both loved this free Star Wars-themed introduction to coding.
- Filmmaking – What better way to get hands-on, Lucas-style than by taking a filmmaking course just for kids and teens? The whole premise behind this course is to teach kids to be media creators, not consumers; I’m pretty sure Lucas would happily support that idea!
Have you studied George Lucas in your homeschool before? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
Lastly, this post is listed in iHomeschool Network’s Birthday Lessons in May. Hop over to learn about other notable people who were born in May.