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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Shopping for Porcupine  >  Discussion Questions
Hanging with the Hang-Out Kings

Essay Summary:  Kantner puts in a trail on thin ice for a Kotzebue elder. He takes a side trip to shoot photos of the musk oxen. He ties the impressive history of the musk oxen and their ability to survive with our current climate crisis and how we as humans could learn a thing or two from both the musk oxen and the caribou.

Discussion Questions:

Why does Kantner focus so much on the details of the ice and snow?

Points to consider:

  • In order to travel on the ice, he has to notice and reflect on each detail to avoid falling through.

Why do you think he's "restless" to get away from town and get out on the tundra? (p. 143)

Points to consider:

  • City travel has him missing the world he knows and understands.
  • Perhaps he also misses the open and vast tundra, in relation to the confines of city travel.

Why does Kantner think we should learn something about leadership from caribou? (p. 146)

Points to consider:

  • He suggests that we could learn from caribou and let the females lead. Perhaps we wouldn't have some the troubles we do if we weren't always led by men?

What do you think Kantner believes has altered the caribou migration?

Points to consider:

  • His note that they are experiencing warmer and later falls suggests the climate change might be playing a role in the delayed migration.

How does Kantner view the musk oxen?

Points to consider:

  • He sees them as a canary in the coal mine of sorts. They were able to survive previous climate change and voracious predators, and if they don't survive the current changes to the climate and their world, it won't be a "good sign."

Musk oxen "live dangerously close to the environmental margin," according to Kantner.  What do you think he means?

Points to consider:

  • Their simple nature and refusal to flee from predators could be their downfall, as well as their sensitivity to environmental disturbances.

Why do you think Kantner parked his machine a mile from the herd?

Points to consider:

  • Perhaps out of respect for the herd, he chose not to disturb them with the machine, and this approach would also probably allow for better photo taking.

Final Questions:

How might our world be different if we studied and learned from animals like the musk oxen?

Look at the list of admirable traits the musk oxen possess. Discuss how we might practice some of these as humans in terms of raising our family.

How are the musk oxen representative of other animals (and even people) living off the land?

How is the "approach" to life of musk oxen different from ours?

How might the success of the musk oxen transplants also be a harbinger of the warming arctic?

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