stemread@gmail.com 148 N 3rd St, DeKalb, IL 60115

Quick Pick: After the Fall by Dan Santat

Dan Santat’s After the Fall and Failure-Based Learning

By Hannah Carmack, Creative Content Coordinator

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat book cover

During our STEM Read events, we work to encourage creative play and exploration. Some students love to leap into hands-on learning, tackling everything from puff-ball launchers to paper airplanes without rigorous instruction. Other students, however, won’t even dare make a fold into their paper because they are afraid of doing it wrong.

How do we teach kids that it’s okay to fail? That there’s really no wrong way to fold the paper. That there’s always more paper in the box? It’s important kids know it’s okay to fail. And, when they do fail, that they can pick themselves up again.

Dan Santat’s After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) is a perfect picture book to introduce kids to the topics of failure and determination.

Everyone knows Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, but no one knows about his recovery process and how he dared to climb back up the wall. Santat’s spin on this classic rhyme imagines Humpty as an avid bird-watcher. (Now we know why he was on that wall!) And although, Humpty does fall, Santat focuses on how Humpty faces his fears and dares to get back up again. We can’t say much more without spoiling the story’s big twist, but take our word when we say After the Fall, but you’ll certainly fall for this brave little egg with big problems and big dreams!

Here are some STEAM activities students could participate in after reading the book:

  • Design a paper airplane that looks like a flying animal. It could be a bird like Humpty’s, a  pterodactyl from the Jurassic period, or something all your own!
  • Engineer a device to help get Humpty up the wall safely or protect him so he doesn’t crack next time he falls.
    • Don’t be afraid to limit supplies the first time around so students get a taste of failure and can work to re-think their design. 
  • Research your favorite bird. What makes it unique? What types of things does it do? Use the facts you found to create your own story to encourage the bird to keep trying as it does something like finding food or building a nest.   
  • Discussion Guide (Spoilers Abound)
    • In Santat’s After the Fall, Humpty is afraid to climb up the wall after he has a great fall, but he does it anyway. What was one time you were afraid to do something, but did it anyway?
    • Humpty loves to watch birds. What are some of your favorite animals to watch? Why?
    • At the end of the book Humpty turns into a bird! If you could turn into any animal, what animal would you turn into? Now, research and share three facts about that animal.