BOOKS

Janine Kitson

Investigating Aesop’s Fables: Texts, Contexts & Transformations

By Peter Adams
Phoenix Education, 2014

This valuable teaching resource about Aesop’s fables provides fascinating insights into the enduring nature of fables. Part one focuses on Aesop and how his fables emerged from the cruel and brutal world of slavery that existed in the ancient world.

Part two focuses on the different interpretations of The Ant and the Grasshopper including the 1934 Walt Disney short animated cartoon film and Somerset Maugham’s 1924 short story. Peter Adams adeptly includes other fable-based examples such as World War I propaganda posters. An excellent resource for teaching critical literacy. The book includes detailed teacher notes, student resources and assessment tasks.

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

By Carl Safina
Souvenir Press, 2015

This scholarly book unpicks our human arrogance that portrays animals as inferior to us. This view has justified the appalling cruelties inflicted over time on wildlife, pushing many to the brink of extinction.

What Carl Safina does most brilliantly is to reveal how animals are just like us. They feel joy, grief, jealousy, anger, and love.

Based on extensive field observations, Safina demonstrates how animals bond and communicate in ways that could only be described as “human”. They show kindness, playfulness and compassion. Safina’s journeys to Kenya to study elephant families and there he comes to appreciate their personalities, close-knit family groupings, amazing memories, and deeply-felt grief. Elephants today face extinction as they continue to die from drought, habitat loss and the murderous ivory trade.

Safina also studies the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park and how one wolf’s death can have dire ramifications for future generations of wolves.

Finally, there is a study of the gentle and playful “killer” whales of the Pacific north-west coast whose social needs many believe are “as strong as or stronger than humans”. They, too, face extinction as overfishing and pollution deplete and poison their food supplies. As well, they are often captured for the entertainment industry and face injury and death from navy sonar exercises.

An important book to read in the light of NSW Premier Mike Baird’s recent disastrous suite of laws that will once again unleash massive land-clearing across NSW, threatening the extinction of some wildlife species.

Safina’s message is simple: unless we reconnect emotionally with our fellow species there is no way we can end our war against them.

Yak and Gnu

By Juliette MacIver
Illustrated by Cat Chapman
Walker Books, 2015

This poetic picture book pokes fun at Yak and Gnu as they row down the river, singing and exhorting their exceptionality because “No-one else / but you and me / can float a boat / or sail the sea”.

As they travel down the river, however, they are overwhelmed by other animals such as a herd of giraffes on hovercrafts and “an ocean cruise full of yaks and gnus”. Finally, Yak is saddened with the admission that he and his friend are quite ordinary. Regardless, Gnu just smiles and says “But does it matter?/ Who cares, my friend, when I have you?”.

All three books are available from Federation Library. Look up suggestions for classroom activities in the digital edition of Education. Links are provided to the English, Geography, Science and History syllabuses.

Janine Kitson is a Federation Life Member.

Yak and Gnu
English K-6 Syllabus
STAGE 1

THINKING IMAGINATIVELY AND CREATIVELY

Outcome

A student:

  • thinks imaginatively and creatively about familiar topics, ideas and texts when responding to and composing texts EN1-10C.

Content

Students:

Engage personally with texts:

  • recognise the way that different texts create different personal responses
  • respond to a wide range of texts through discussing, writing and representing
  • identify creative language features in imaginative texts that enhance enjoyment, eg illustrations, repetition
  • Respond to and compose texts
  • recreate texts imaginatively using drawing, writing, performance and digital forms of communication (ACELT1586)
  • predict and discuss ideas drawn from picture books and digital stories
  • use creative and imaginative features in role-play and drama
  • recognise similarities between texts from different cultural traditions, e.g. representations of dragons in traditional European and Asian texts
  • recognise the place of ancestral beings in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dreaming stories
  • jointly adapt a well-known text for a different audience and purpose
  • express a range of feelings in response to a text.

Small group/pair discussion

  1. Who is your special friend?
  2. What do you like doing together?
  3. Have you ever felt overwhelmed by others who want to do the same thing you and your friend are doing?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Role play a situation where two friends enjoy playing and spending time together. However they are gradually inundated by others who seem to have bigger and better toys.
  2. Make up your own poem about two friends who journey down a river and are swamped by others.
  3. Change the illustrations of animals into people. How does this change the story?
  4. Discuss: Does it matter that some of the animals in this story are endangered animals?

PEOPLE AND PLACES

Outcome

A student:

  • describes features of places and the connections people have with places GE1-1
  • communicates geographical information and uses geographical tools for inquiry GE1-3

KEY INQUIRY QUESTIONS

  • How are people connected to places?
  • What factors affect people’s connections to places?

CONTENT FOCUS

Students explore places across a range of scales within Australia and Australia’s location in the world. They describe connections people, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, have with places, both locally and globally. Students identify factors affecting people’s accessibility to places.

CONTENT

People’s connections to places

Students:

  • investigate people’s connections and access to places, for example: (ACHGK013)
  • discussion of why people visit other places
  • identification of factors influencing people’s accessibility to places eg distance
  • examination of how technology has improved people’s access to places.

Small group/pair discussion

  1. What rivers have you seen?
  2. How does a river start and end?
  3. Have you ever sailed down a river?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Draw a map of a river and how it reaches the sea.
  2. Make two columns and compare a real river with "Yak and Gnu’s river". How are they similar? How are they different?
  3. List the different craft used by people to travel down a river e.g. kayak, canoe, boat, raft, dinghy, outrigger, catamaran flotilla, hovercraft. What impact do they have on the river?
  4. Draw different buildings built near rivers e.g. waterwheels, lighthouses.
  5. Draw different bridges over rivers.
  6. Make a model of the river showing the changing vegetation along the river, the vessels that travel it, and other aspects of a river.
  7. Find out about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ connections to rivers.

Investigating Aesop’s Fables
English 7-10 Syllabus
STAGE 5

OUTCOME 5

Outcome

A student:

  • thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information, ideas and arguments to respond to and compose texts EN4-5C

Content

Students:

Engage personally with texts:

Develop and apply contextual knowledge:

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features:

Respond to and compose texts:

  • compose texts using alternative, creative and imaginative ways of expressing ideas, recognising, valuing and celebrating originality and inventiveness
  • compose a range of visual and multimodal texts using a variety of visual conventions, including composition, vectors, framing and reading pathway
  • critically analyse the ways experience, knowledge, values and perspectives can be represented through characters, situations and concerns in texts and how these affect responses to texts.

Refer to the excellent 20 Student Resources and Assessment in Investigating Aesop’s Fables, Texts, Contexts & Transformations By Peter Adams, Phoenix Education, 2014.

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel
History Years 7-10 Syllabus
STAGE 5

DEPTH STUDY 5: THE GLOBALISING WORLD
TOPIC 5B: THE ENVIRONMENT MOVEMENT (1960s-present)

The background to environmental awareness, including the 19th-century National Parks movement in America and Australia (ACDSEH028)

Students:

  • identify major threats to the natural environment
  • outline the origins of environmental awareness and activism
  • briefly describe the purpose of the 19-century National Parks movement in America and Australia.

The intensification of environmental effects in the twentieth century as a result of population increase, urbanisation, increasing industrial production and trade (ACDSEH125)

Students:

  • use a range of sources to explain how the growth of cities, population and industries have affected the environment in Australia and the world
  • discuss how global resource needs and trade have intensified environmental issues in developed and developing nations.

The growth and influence of the environment movement within Australia and overseas, and developments in ideas about the environment ("rights of nature") (ACDSEH126)

Students:

  • discuss key events in the growing awareness of environmental issues in Australia and the world before 1975
  • describe the influence of at least ONE of the following environmental ideas: - rights of nature

Responses of governments, including the Australian government, and international organisations to environmental threats since the 1960s, including deforestation and climate change (ACDSEH128)

Students:

  • examine the role of international governments and organisations in dealing with at least ONE environmental threat.

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel includes background to environmental awareness:

  • the establishment of animal behaviour as a science with researchers such as Jane Goodall’s study of chimpanzees in the 1960s. In 1973 Karl von Frisch, Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen were awarded the Nobel Prize for their research highlighting animal behaviour and motivation.

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel includes:

  • the history of the ivory trade since Roman times and its dire consequences for elephants and slavery.
  • the Industrial Revolution produced many ivory-based products e.g. piano keyboards, hair combs that killed millions of elephants (page 110-111).
  • Ivory is linked to poverty, ethnic rivalry, corruption, terrorism and funding civil wars in Africa (page 118).

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel includes:

  • the view that more recently scientists have rejected philosophers such as 1600s Rene Descartes who endorsed a view that animals had inferior intelligence. This dominating mindset has justified their exploitation.
  • the discovery that whales sang structured songs and how this research contributed to the anti-whaling movement of the 1980s.

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel includes:

  • successes and failures of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (page 119)
  • ivory trade to Japan and China (page 119)
  • poverty and corruption fuelling elephant extinction
  • US Marine Mammal Protection Act, 1972
  • international whaling ban, 1986
  • UN high seas driftnet ban, 1991.

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel
History Years 7-10 Syllabus
STAGE 5

LANDSCAPES AND LANDFORMS

Outcomes

A student:

  • examines perspectives of people and organisations on a range of geographical issues GE4-4
  • discusses management of places and environments for their sustainability GE4-5.

KEY INQUIRY QUESTIONS

  • What environmental and human processes form and transform landscapes and landforms?
  • To what extent are landscapes and landforms sustainably managed and protected?

Content focus

Students explore landscapes and landforms throughout the world. Students examine issues of landscape degradation and ways to manage and protect landscapes and landforms.

Content

Changing landscapes

Students:

  • investigate the human causes and effects of land degradation e.g. (ACHGK051):
  • identification of the ways people utilise and change landscapes
  • description of the impact of a range of human activities on landscapes
  • examination of ONE type of landscape degradation including its spatial distribution, causes and impact.

Landscape management and protection

Students:

  • investigate ways people manage and protect landscapes e.g. (ACHGK052)
  • - description of the nature and extent of landscape protection across a range of scales eg locally protected places, national parks, world heritage listing
  • - examination of management and protection strategies for ONE landscape

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel discusses the management of Amboseli National Park, Kenya, Yellowstone National Park, US, and Pacific Northwest Coast of the US and Canada.

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel discusses human-induced drought, poaching, and habitat fragmentation from agricultural expansion and human overpopulation in Africa.

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel discusses the continuing controversy of hunting wolves in the US. Safina explains how wolves are necessary for healthy ecosystems:
"The hunting of wolves can have shattering impacts on wolf packs. The death of a wolf leader impacts on future generations of wolves. 'Hunters like to say that if you take out an alpha, it doesn’t matter,' notes Laurie Lyman, who used to be a schoolteacher. 'It matters. The pack becomes a classroom with no teacher.'" (Safina, 2015, page 187).
By 1930, humans had nearly hunted wolves to extinction in the US. Elk numbers exploded in Yellowstone National Park. Safina writes: "No wolves meant too many elk; too many elk meant almost no food for beavers which meant almost no beaver ponds for fish, which meant ... ( Safina, 2015, page 173).

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel discusses the threats to killer whales living along the Pacific Northwest Coast:

Declining salmon from overfishing that are pushing killer whales to extinction. Also the problems of pollution, especially toxic chemicals.... Nowadays, toxic chemicals also concentrate as they move up in the food pyramid from plankton to small fish to big fish to whale – toxic chemicals that did not exist in the world in the first half of the 1900s when the oldest living whales here were born.... Banned chemicals like DDT and PCBs – which in the 1970s caused birth defects in Puget Sound seals – are declining. But in ascendance are flame retardants and other new, gender-bending estrogen-mimicking chemicals. These chemicals weaken immune systems and can disrupt reproductive systems (Safina, 2015, page 402-403).

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel
History Years 7-10 Syllabus
STAGE 5

LIVING WORLD

Outcomes

A student:

  • Explains how biological understanding has advanced through scientific discoveries, technological developments and the needs of society SC5-15LW

Content

LW2 Conserving and maintaining the quality and sustainability of the environment requires scientific understanding of interactions within, the cycling of matter and the flow of energy through ecosystems.

Students:

  • a. recall that ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment (ACSSU176)
  • b. describe how energy flows through ecosystems, including input and output through food webs (ACSSU176)
  • c. analyse how changes in some biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem affect populations and/or communities
  • d. assess ways that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' cultural practices and knowledge of the environment contribute to the conservation and management of sustainable ecosystems
  • e. evaluate some examples in ecosystems, of strategies used to balance conserving, protecting and maintaining the quality and sustainability of the environment with human activities and needs

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel discusses colonialization and agriculture in Africa and its impact on lions:

In the 1950s,” wrote Thomas, “the lions of Gautscha belonged to one continuous population, a single lion nation occupying a more or less undivided country.” Then came Europeans, bringing into a land of fleet-footed herds their plodding cattle, taking the land from all its inhabitants for more ranches and farms. And true to script, “what had once been the uninterrupted lions nation . . . became more precarious.” The lions around the new cattle posts had held prospering territories. In the old days, lions sometimes spread out in a line a mile or more long, keeping in touch with one another by roaring. But as the farms expanded, “the lions who lived there became the unfortunates . . . the poor.” Farmers took the lions’ land, shot out their antelopes and other animals, shattered the lion economy and culture and the lions themselves. And European settlers did the same to the Juwa and Gikwe “Bushmen”. [Safina, 2015, pages 181-182]

Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel discusses the impact of overfishing on killer whales:

First we took their children, then we destroyed their food supply. Long-term, whales’ fortunes follow their foods’ fortunes. The Northwest’s mammal-eating “transients” have more food now than they did forty years ago – and they’ve been showing up increasingly often. That’s because of the decades-long recovery of seals, sea lions, and whales, thanks to legal safeguards including the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the international whaling ban enacted in 1986, and the United Nations’ High seas driftnet ban of 1991. By the 1960s, harbor seals in British Columbia were down to 10 per cent of normal and many Steller’s sea lion colonies were gone, largely because fishermen shot everything that seemed like “competition”. That’s improved too.

But for the Northwest’s fish-eating whales, life’s been increasingly difficult. There’s been no salmon protection act. So after decades of abuse, salmon struggle along at a fraction of their former abundance here. Consequently, these salmon-catching “resident” whales have been struggling too. They’ve long lived below the waterline. Now they live below the poverty line. [Safina, 2015, page 400]