A few months ago, I had my students read “The Interlopers” by Saki. It’s a cool little story about two men whose families are feuding over a worthless piece of land. The kids liked it, and I decided to have them read a related nonfiction piece and since I had just finished reading the March issue of National Geographic with its fascinating story about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, I had them read that.
“The Interlopers” involves wolves and the National G story focused on the feud between humans and wolves over land, which made it a good piece for our state standard that focuses on the way similar themes are presented in different genres. The kids really liked it, and the discussion afterward was lively and interesting, and beyond the appropriate connections regarding theme and genre, conflict and resolution, they found a new way of seeing the pointlessness of feuds, and learned a lot about the importance of predators in an ecosystem.
But toward the end, it went were discussions of large predators typically go when a roomful of boys, even teenaged ones, is involved.
“What would happen if a wolf met a mountain lion?”
“That lion would eat that wolf.”
“No way, wolves travel in packs. That wolf ain’t alone.”
“Yeah, but one-on-one.”
“The Lion, probably.”
“What about a wolf versus a bear?”
“How about a wolf versus an alligator?”
“Wolf vs. hyena?
“Wolf vs. …?”
I let it go as we were toward the end of class and they were clearly enjoying themselves, which is an important part of education. Too often, it’s easy to forget to just have fun, but any teacher can tell you that if the kids are enjoying your class they’ll follow you almost anywhere.
I asked later if they enjoyed reading the article and they unanimously said yes and wanted more. A few asked for an article about big cats, and I suspect they’re already cooking up the “What about a tiger vs. …” questions for that discussion.