“What is Alaska?”
That was the theme of English class with teacher Jeff Rennicke this afternoon as Jeff introduced the upcoming unit on the book Into the Wild, which tells the story of a young man who walked into the Alaskan wilderness alone and unprepared. To set the mood, Jeff shared a story of an encounter with a grizzly bear from his own time in Alaska and led students through several activities to demonstrate just how vast the state is. Four lucky students even won their own copies of the book in a game called “Big Numbers.” When students finally got their hands on the book, though, they didn’t dive right into the reading – instead, Jeff encouraged them to do something everyone tells them not to and judge the book by its cover. Students analyzed the images and text on the cover, the maps in the front of the book, the author’s note, and other information to draw conclusions about how credible author Jon Krakauer may or may not be. Finally, the last half hour of class was devoted to silent reading, the class’s members sprawling on the couches and chairs in the sunny gathering space to read the book’s first three chapters. Over the next few weeks, students will both read the book and watch the movie adaptation, and the unit will culminate in an assignment to analyze one of the songs in the film’s award-winning soundtrack.