Snow: Focus Area 1
Animals in Alaska
- Snow by Ondine Sherman
- Focus Area 1 – Relationships Worksheet
- Focus Area 1 – Marketplace Statements Handout
- Glossary (selected words appear in bold)
- Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI)
- Julia Jacobs, New York Times: Alaska hunter who killed cubs in bear den gets 3 months in jail, 2019
- National Park Service, Wilderness Character Narrative, 2019
- Sam Friedman, Daily News Minor – The Voice of Interior Alaska: Three sentenced for illegal hunting, wolf poisoning at remote Alaskan lodge, 2019
Suggested Learning Activities
It is assumed that students have already read the novel, Snow, prior to the commencement of this unit.
- 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?
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.
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?
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:
- What observations can you make about the landscape?
- What do you notice about the place names?
- 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.
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.
- 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:
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|
|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.|
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and if it’s appropriate we will publish it.
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.
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:
- New York Times: Alaska hunter who killed cubs in bear den gets 3 months in jail.
- Daily News Minor – The Voice of Interior Alaska: Three sentenced for illegal hunting, wolf poisoning at remote Alaskan lodge.
- The laws of hunting are very complex in Alaska, as they are in many parts of the world. What do you think? What are your thoughts and opinions on the topic after having read these articles? Refer to the Glossary terms; animal rights and animal welfare, as these may help to determine your views.
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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