I’ve never thought about using children’s stories as starting points for high school and middle school lesson plans but Kathy Neilson really showed how they can pique interest or be jumping off points of culturally relevant lessons. I picked the The Tale of an Alaska Whale which is a Tlinget story involving a man who made the other hunters jealous so they stranded him on a rock in the middle of the ocean. The sea lions helped him return home and he plotted revenge against the other hunters. At first I didn’t see how it could be tied to science but Mrs. Neilson showed me how this man in plotting revenge, is conducting an experiment. His experiment involves carving a killer whale from different types of trees. First he tries alder and it is too heavy and didn’t float well. Then he tried Red Cedar and it floated too much. Then he tried yellow cedar and it was perfect. The yellow cedar killer whale then proceeded to kill all the hunters who had wronged him. This experiment could be replicated with the cooperation of a shop class and maybe a local elder or artist to explore the properties of different types of wood. I love the idea of using children’s books and I will be on the look out for books I can use and how to use them in my class.
Blackerby, A.W. and Linn A. Forrest. Tale of an Alaska Whale. Portland. Binford &Mort. 1955.