Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Discussion Questions

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
By William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

1.        Let’s start with the title, Harnessing the Wind is generally considered impossible, what do you think of this as a title for the story?  Appropriate?  Did it pull you in?  Notice the subtitle:  Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope…thoughts?

2.      P35 the story of William’s father’s conversion.  How did this impact you?  Why was it important to include this background to William’s family?  How does this information shape the rest of the story?

3.       P41 the story of Mangolomera – super strength.  How does this sit so close to the story of Christian conversion?  Interesting as an example of the competing cultures in the village and the life of William.

4.       P86-185 The telling of the famine continues for nearly 100 pages!  For me, this made it much more real, I could feel the time dragging on, not believing it could get worse or that they could survive on less.  Also the evidence of their faith helping them through it and driving them to help others when it seemed they had not nearly enough themselves 

5.       P185 one of my favorite lines of the book:  “We all laughed about it [the famine] now, because it was only during the better times that we truly acknowledged the bad ones.”  Isn’t this so true in our lives as well?  When have you experienced this and does your faith help you during those bad times?

6.       Finally, we get to the building of the windmill!  Gilbert is obviously very influential in making William’s dream come true.  Who else helped make it a reality?  How much was dependent on just the ingenuity of a young boy and how much from his supporters (angels)?  Do we ever accomplish anything on our own?
7.       The windmill makes a huge change in the way William’s family lives and survives – in their actual quality of life.  Can you think of anything in your life that has had such an impact?

8.      What was your favorite part?

9.       What do you like least?

10.   Would you recommend this book to others?  Why and to whom or why not?

1. Could you imagine living without electricity? What would your life be like? Describe William's life and compare it to American teenagers and even your own.

2. How did the villagers compensate for not having electricity, telephones, or most of the modern conveniences we take for granted?

3. What is the role of magic in the story? What about education? Contrast the two. Is there room for both in a culture? What about education and religion? How do the two impact each other? How did William's religion influence his outlook?

4. What did electricity and the creation of the windmill mean for William, his family, and his village? What might his accomplishment mean for the world?

5. What motivates people like William to attempt the unthinkable? How would you describe him to someone who's never heard of his achievement?

6. Compare William to his father and to his mother. How are they alike? How did his parents shape William's outlook?

7. Imagine what a handful of Williams with some encouragement and financial backing from government and private sources might accomplish. Offer some ideas.

8. Malawi is an extremely poor nation. What are the causes of this poverty and what exacerbates it? How might these causes and influences be overcome? How has the West—think of organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, run by Americans and Europeans—helped to contribute to nations like Malawi's troubles? 

9. William writes of the corruption, greed, nonexistent services, and lack of empathy that turned the drought into a disaster for average people like him and his family. Can you see any similarities with our own culture, both past and present? Think about the American Depression. How did that compare to Malawi's drought?

10. William was desperate to stay in school but could not because of money. Think about American students. Why do you think with all the opportunities for schooling, students are disinterested in learning? In your opinion, what accounts for the differences between William and his American counterparts? 

11. Many Americans criticize public schools and some even question the need for them. Others argue that money doesn't matter when it comes to education. How does William's experience address our own debates on the subject? Think about his school, and compare it to American schools. Might William's life be different if he had access to education without having to pay? How so?

12. What lessons did you take away from William's story?

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