By Maureen Nagle, seventh grade English
Seventh grade students have been immersed in studying wolves since early November as part of a cross-team, cross-curricular science/English unit. They read Never Cry Wolf in English class about a scientist who goes into the wild to study this top predator. They also took a field trip to the Marine Museum in Fall River to meet three wolves who were traveling the Northheast as part of the Mission Wolf project, Colorado organization that works to educate the public on all things wolf related. By December, students started working with a partner in science class to create an iMovie documentary about the necessity of wolves to the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park. They also took on the role of stakeholder to research our driving question for our culminating class debate: How should the US government respond to the presence of wolves beyond government-managed lands? As students are tackling this issue, our own government is working to solve this very same wolf dilemma, whether to keep this essential predator on our endangered species list for further protection or to celebrate its regeneration and remove it.
These last days of school before winter vacation are indeed the most exciting weeks of the project. In science, students are working with cross-team partners to finish and polish their iMovie documentaries about the essential presence of these top predators in Yellowstone Park, and in English students are collaborating with cross-team groups to build their arguments for a class debate. We also welcomed film director Marni Zelnick to campus to screen her internationally acclaimed film Druid Peak which won the Special Jury Award at our own Providence Film Festival last year. Her film tells the story of a teenager whose experience with the wolves in Yellowstone helps him overcome personal tragedy, and in doing so, discovers a new purpose in life.
But the best part of this entire experience has been witnessing all the different ways students are engaging in their learning. Students Kade, Eve, David and Lily share their reflections below.
Kade T.: The seventh grade class read Farley Mowat’s book Never Cry Wolf. This book is about a young biologist’s trip into the Keewatin Barren lands in Central Canada. I liked Farley’s dry humor which kept the book moving and in a flow. Through his scientific studies he was able to disprove much of the negative thoughts people had about wolves. I learned that Farley is crazy enough to eat a mouse whole to prove a scientific point. I learned that wolves aren’t as a bad as people portray them to be. Wolves live in a very social and active community. I’ve learned that wolves keep their ecosystem healthy. I would recommend this book because it describes the misinformation about wolves and a young biologist’s opportunity to scientifically show that wolves weren’t the killers that the media portrayed them to be.
Eve H.: The seventh grade English class is debating about whether the wolves of Yellowstone National Park should be “protected” or not. I’m on the con side, so I’m arguing that the wolves shouldn’t be protected. I am excited to enter this debate, full of information and ready to argue. It’s fun working in groups. For example, my group and I get along and work well together. It’s awesome working with team three kids because we don’t usually work together in academic classes, so it’s refreshing and we get the benefit of learning new things from each other.
David G.: Currently in science class, groups of pairs are working on a video that is going to persuade the viewer about which stakeholder is right in the wolf dilemma. My favorite part of the project is taking on the perspective of people who are actually involved in the cause and viewing the problem in their shoes. Working with a student from team 3 is really exciting because they’re not usually in our class and I get to have more interactions with other people. The part of this project I’m most excited about is seeing if my partner and I will actually be able persuade the viewer that my stakeholder is right.
Lillian H.: Mission Wolf is a organization that helps wolves by keeping a wolf “shelter” in Colorado. The wolf part is obvious, but the mission part declares what they do with the wolves – take them to places and hold events to introduce the wolves to people. My class – the MB class of 2020 – got to go to one of these events. At the Mission Wolf event at the marine museum, I am embarrassed to admit that the first sensation I felt was an adrenaline that coursed through my veins like a cold sweat – an adrenaline caused by fear. After the wolves were introduced to the people, the girl wolf with silver fur sat six inches away from my feet, making it abundantly clear she was not scared of me. I learned so much and even got to be next to a wolf – not many people can say that! The best part about the field trip was definitely going with my peers and friends from team 1 last year. After getting over my fear, I noticed that the entire seventh grade had been together, in one room, and that in itself was a blessing.