Snow: Focus Area 1

Animals in Alaska

Resources 

Additional Resources 

Suggested Learning Activities

Pre-requisite 

It is assumed that students have already read the novel, Snow, prior to the commencement of this unit.

Inquiry Questions 

  • How can fiction texts help us to understand current animal and environmental issues in the world?
  • In what ways does the writer help the reader to understand the importance of considering multiple perspectives when discussing controversial topics?

1. PRE-TEST

Alaska – True or False 

What do you already know about Alaska?

Give students 5 minutes to write down what they know.

  • Alaska is a state of the USA (T)
  • There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska (T)
  • Anchorage is the capital of Alaska (F – Juneau)
  • Alaska was one of the first places in the world to be mapped by Europeans (F – it was one of the last due to the harsh weather conditions)
  • There are active volcanoes in Alaska (T)
  • The population of Alaska is over 1 million (F – 737,348 in 2018)
  • Mt Denali is the tallest peak in North America (T)
  • There was a gold rush in Alaska in the 19th Century (T)


Collect the pre-tests and have a quick read – it’s a good indicator of prior knowledge.  

2. STARTER

Epigraph – An Inscription of Knowledge  

Read the epigraph to the novel and ask students to write this into their books.

All good things are wild and free.’  Henry David Thoreau

Students complete the following questions 

  • What is an epigraph?
  • Who was Henry David Thoreau? What was he known for?
  • What do you think Thoreau is trying to say here?
  • What could the ‘good things’ be?
  • Consider the connotations of ‘wild’ and ‘free’.
  • In light of having read the novel already, why do you think Sherman has chosen to begin her narrative this way? Can you make any links to big ideas/concepts within the text?
  • 10-minute research – What ‘wild’ and ‘free’ animals inhabit the Alaskan landscape?

 

3. EXPLORE

Animal Protection and Environmental Conservation 

Sherman’s novel is set in Alaska and interweaved into the narrative are various issues regarding animal welfare, protection and conservation.

Adam, Sky’s father, lives in Anchorage not far from the Denali National Park.

Give students some time to view Alaska from Google Earth.

Answer the following: 

  1. What observations can you make about the landscape?
  2. What do you notice about the place names?
  3. As part of a national effort to monitor Denali National Park and its inhabitants, the park guides compiled a ‘Wilderness Character Narrative’ to help others understand the unique qualities of this place.

As a listening test, read the following excerpt from the narrative to your students and ask them to note down the words which they think best describe the environment.

Excerpt:

The Denali Wilderness is a land of paradox. It is inviting and it is terrifying; accessible and remote. It is an essentially undeveloped wilderness with a road corridor through the middle that brings millions of people to its edge. It is untrammelled, yet managed. Some of the land within its boundaries is well known and studied, but much of it is full of mystery. It is a natural and intact ecosystem celebrated by scientists, writers, hunters, adventurers and artists alike.

  1. Creative Writing

Using the icon of the human (right hand corner of Google Earth), zoom into Denali National Park and Preserve.


The blue dots indicate where you can drop the figure and see a ‘street’ view 

Task: Ask students to imagine they are standing on one of these peaks.

Using sensory imagery, write a descriptive paragraph which describes the surrounds.

What can you see – taste – hear – see – feel? 

As an extension, students can opt to challenge themselves by using some of the words from the narrative:

  • Paradox
  • Inviting
  • Terrifying
  • Underdeveloped
  • Untrammelled
  • Mystery
  • Natural
  • Intact
  • Ecosystem
  • Celebrated

 
Refer to the Glossary and Quizlet for vocabulary definitions.  

4. DISCUSS

Relationships with Animals and the Environment  

The key characters of the novel have close relationships with the environment and/or animals. Students complete the Relationship Worksheet.
Or, as an alternative could draw this table into their workbooks.

 

Character Describe their relationship with animals/environment  
Sky   

 

Adam   

 

Jaxon  e.g. Jaxon has worked for the Anchorage Visitor Bureau, as a horseback guide in the Chugach Mountains, and as a researcher at the national parks studying wolf populations which live close to the towns. He enjoys spending time in the great outdoors, especially camping. Jaxon has a clear love for animals, and really wants to be able to see Kangaroos in the wild. Although, unlike Sky, he is okay with recreational hunting.
Melody  

 

Ralph   

 

 

Marketplace 

Instructions  

Print the Marketplace Statements and stick each one to a large sheet of paper. Place these around the room as ‘stations’ and ask students to form groups of three.

Give students approximately 4 minutes per station to note down their thoughts/opinions on each of the quotes. They may start with identifying who the speaker is and providing some context. Students should also consider the connotations of key words and the thoughts and feelings they bring to the text (these have been highlighted in bold).

As students move from one station to the next, they add to the notes made by their peers. Once you have completed the task, use the notes made on each sheet of paper to spark a class discussion.


This task could take a whole lesson, if you don’t have a lot of time, just get students to rotate between 2-3 of the stations. Perhaps use an online countdown and project this so students can use their time wisely. 

5. SHARE

Creative Letter Writing 

Ask students to reflect on the hunting incident with Ralph.

Ralph is a recreational trophy hunter and this is both illegal and legal in many parts of the world, depending on the country and animal. In Alaska, it is a big part of the tourism industry, as well as a practice undertaken for centuries by many indigenous peoples for survival. This practice is called subsistence hunting. As with all complex issues surrounding animal rights – there are many perspectives to consider.

Imagine you are Sky, write a letter to Ralph explaining your point of view and stance on hunting. Aim to include a few examples to support your points, this may require you to look into the laws and types of hunting in Alaska. Read the definitions in the Glossary of Animal Rights Advocate and Animal Welfarist and consider which one you think Sky would align herself with. This should help you when thinking about what to write.

Consider the following in your letter:

  • A salutation or greeting;
  • An introduction about yourself (Sky);
  • Tone – how will you inform him of your views in a non-confrontational way?
  • A letter should be formal. Think carefully about the vocabulary you choose to use and what message this is sending;
  • Clear paragraphs;
  • Examples to support your ideas;
  • A sign off.


This task would make a good homework project  

Voiceless would love to read your student’s letters – please send a copy to education@voiceless.org.au, and if it’s appropriate we will publish it.

6. REFLECT

Difficult Questions – Difficult Answers

Ask students to reflect on the following excerpt from the novel.

At the festival with Melody, after finding out the truth about her father, Sky laments:

‘Why is there so much cruelty? I can’t understand how people can do it.’ I bite my lips as tears well. ‘Do they not know animals feel? How can they not? Why would people feel but not animals?’ (pg. 141) 

In the novel, Melody responds by explaining that you cannot ‘abracadabra the world the way you want it.’ Sky is concerned about the cruelty towards animals because animals are sentient creatures.

  • How would you respond to Sky’s questions? Write a 250-word response – aim to include the words ‘ethics’ and/or ‘morals’ and ‘sentience’ in your response. See the Glossary for definitions.

7. EXTENSION

There has been much debate recently over the killing of fishes, wolves, bear, caribou and other animals in Alaska.

Read the following news articles to find out more about what has been happening:

Further Extension  

The articles above would be considered cases of animal cruelty, according to an animal rights advocate. Animal cruelty can be difficult to understand and measure. Explore the Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI) to learn more about animal cruelty and how it has been measured around the world.

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