Sky: Focus Area 4
- Sky by Ondine Sherman
- Focus Area 4 – Close Analysis Worksheet
- Focus Area 4 – Student Handout – Understanding Terminology
- Voiceless Blog
- Glossary (selected words appear in bold)
Suggested Learning Activities
This focus area refers to a range of chapters.
- How can we define animal rights and animal welfare?
- What are ethics? Why is it important to be open-minded and respectful when discussing ethical issues and varying perspectives?
- How can blogs be used as a means of informing and persuading?
One of the most important issues explored within the novel is that of animal protection.
Write the following terms on the board and ask students to brainstorm what comes to mind when they read/hear each word.
What is the difference between, animal rights and animal welfare?
Ask students to write a sentence which explains their understanding of each term.
Animal welfare refers to how a non-human animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives.
A person or organisation adopting an ‘animal welfare’ approach to animal protection, is referred to as an ‘animal welfarist’. Animal welfarists are concerned with how well animals are coping with their environment, i.e. whether they are experiencing positive or negative wellbeing. For welfarists, it is morally acceptable for humans to use animals for human purposes, so long as that use does not cause unjustifiable or unreasonable pain and suffering.
A welfarist would not be opposed to horse racing on the grounds that it uses animals for human entertainment. However, they may be opposed to some practices used in horse racing, if those practices (such as, whipping) cause unjustifiable pain to the horses.
Animal rights refers to the moral and legal entitlements/rights of non-human animals.
A person or organisation adopting an ‘animal rights’ approach to animal protection is referred to as an ‘animal rights advocate’. Many rights advocates believe that animals are entitled to enjoy fundamental rights such as the rights to life, health and liberty. An animal rights advocate would challenge the property status of non-human animals, and disagree with the idea that it is morally acceptable for humans to use animals for human purposes.
A rights advocate would be opposed to horse racing on the grounds that a horse should not have to race for human entertainment. They believe that animals have a right to live their life naturally without human interference, and they should not be forced to perform for humans. Therefore, a rights advocate would oppose horse racing even if the horses did not experience pain and suffering.
Although this novel is fictional, it touches on some very current and controversial topics. One such topic is the ethics of factory farming.
Chapter 12 – The Farm / Comprehension and Annotating
In this chapter, Sky visits the chicken farm in order to get some information for her ‘Celebrating Agriculture’ project. Although she does not have an appointment, she is able to meet Greg, Marissa’s father (although she does not know this until further on in the novel) and interview him. Upon leaving, Sky breaks into a restricted area and takes Chirp home.
Students answer the following questions to explore more about the theme of animal protection.
- On page 99, how would you describe the atmosphere/setting? Find words or phrases to support your points.
- What reason does Greg give for not allowing Sky into the ‘chicken sheds’?
- What is ironic about the words and pictures in the ‘school kit’ which Greg hands to Sky?
- Greg say ‘We Aussies have a love affair with chickens’ – what does he mean by this statement?
- List some of the statistics discussed in Sky’s interview with Greg.
- What is the simile used to describe the type of life the chickens lead, according to Greg? (hint: page 103)
- In what light does Sherman present Greg in this section?
- There are two different perspectives given in this chapter. Sky is a teenager and Greg is the owner of the farm – how does their age and position influence the reader’s perspective of them? Which do you find more convincing and why?
- What are some of the reasons Sky gives for entering through the door which reads: ‘DO NOT ENTER’?
- Focus on pages 106-108. Read the section carefully. Then complete the Close Analysis Worksheet.
Ethics and Perspectives
- Ask students to re-read pages 137-141. In this section, Sky has a confrontation with Greg about what she witnessed at his farm.
Ethics are essentially what an individual believes to be right or wrong. Our ethics are determined by the morals and principles which guide our lives.
To ensure students understand these terms (ethics, morals, principles) ask them to write their own definitions – using the dictionary, Glossary or Quizlet if required. Refer to page 187 – here Sky watches a video of her mother who discusses her principles. This is a good example to use when helping your students understand the terms.
‘These are the principles I’ve always tried to follow, and now you’re nearly a grown woman, it’s your turn. When you don’t know what to do,’ Mum’s gaze is so direct she must have practised this a hundred times, ‘remember who you are. Our value of loving kindness. Surround yourself with good people. People who love you for you. ‘When you don’t know what to do, trust your heart, my love. It will never lead you astray. But most importantly, don’t let the world dent your spirit, Sky. There are good people and bad out there. And you will have good times and the toughest hardships. But keep your spirit strong. You are full of compassion and wonder. You are and have always been strong, creative and wise beyond your years. ‘When you don’t know what to do, stay true to yourself.’
- Discuss the following statements/quotations from the novel. Ask students to think critically about these – give students some time to note down their ideas/opinions first, before opening the floor up for discussion.
- Was it wrong for Sky to enter the prohibited area at the farm?
- What about taking Chirp, should she have done this?
- Greg: “Animals aren’t like us, sweetheart, and we must be careful not to attribute human traits to them”. (pg. 138) What do you think? Are animals different from us? How?
- Sky: “Animals can feel, they can suffer. I saw with my own eyes how miserable the thousands of chicks were”. (pg. 138) Seeing the broiler chickens has a big impact on Sky. How did the events of Chapter 12 affect you?
- Sky: “The brochure doesn’t show the foul smell, the poo-covered floor, the windowless walls, the thousands of hopeless animals.” (pg. 137) Is it right for Greg/his company to conceal the truth from the public?
- Sky: “It’s cruel” (pg. 139). What is your opinion?
- Greg: “They’re chickens, not babies”. (pg. 138) Consider the word ‘babies’ – why might Greg use this word? What point is he trying to make?
Remind students that it is okay to not agree with your friends, teachers or parents. Educating yourself on important issues is healthy but not everyone shares the same perspective. Having an open mind when discussing difficult topics is essential.
In this lesson/s, students have discussed some serious issues. In the text, Sky writes a guest blog for an “animal lovers website” – of which she is very passionate.
Lead a class brainstorm on the following:
- What is a blog?
- Have students read blogs previously?
- Do any students write their own?
- Do you follow a blogger? What do you like about their blogs? What don’t you like?
Direct students to the Voiceless Blog (or, print some blogs in advance).
Give students time to read 1-2 of the blogs and then answer the following questions:
- Who is writing the blog?
- Who is the intended audience? How do we know this?
- What topic/s does the blog cover?
- What features does the blog have in terms of layout, design, language?
- How do these features influence the reader?
- Which blog appeals to you most? Why?
Relevant blogs from Voiceless include:
- Animals: things or persons? Voiceless in conversation with Professor Steven Wise.
- Is it possible to produce ‘ethical’ dairy? By Anna Wotherspoon.
- Pigs and dogs: Same same, but different? By Jeffrey Masson.
Or refer your students to:
- Do Dolphins Belong in Captivity? Written by 16 year high school student, Jasmine McManus.
After having explored a variety of different blog styles, students write their own blog entry based on one of the topics raised in the text. Brainstorm potential topics on the board with your students.
Students will need to spend some time researching and ask themselves the following questions:
- What is your blog for? Is it to attract and educate people? To provide a communal space for discussion or an attempt to change policy? Perhaps to provide fellowship and support?
- Who is your blog for? Is it for children? Young adults? Everyone?
- What will be your blog’s primary focus? Choose one or two facets of the issue to explore first. Every political issue has many facets and it’s easy to overload a text with too much information, especially if you’re passionate.
- What will your blog be called? A succinct and catchy title helps to attract the interest of readers.
Reflecting on Blogs
Ask students to read a peer’s blog and provide them with some simple feedback in the form of:
WWW – What Went Well (a positive);
EBI – Even Better If (an area for improvement).
6. TAKING IT FURTHER / EXTENSION
Has one of your students written an exceptional blog about an animal welfare/rights/protection issue? Ask them to edit and polish this to a high standard.
Voiceless would love to read your student’s blog – please send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org (and if it’s appropriate we will consider it for publication).
Want to know more about issues discussed in this series of activities? Direct students who are interested in factory farming and broiler chickens to the Voiceless website.
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